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Do We See the Faces of the Children at Our Borders? (A Litany)

LOOK WITH YOUR COMPASSIONATE HEART squarely into the faces of these boys and girls snatched from their parents and siblings. Give your undistracted concentration to their terrified, disbelieving gazes.

Bear witness to their utter humiliation as they are handcuffed by strangers in armed uniforms and secreted off in unmarked vehicles to undisclosed locations.

Pause yet again, giving your rapt attention to the emotional torture they suffer while watching their parents being booked as criminals and hauled away to prison.

Observe with deepest empathy their tender youth—some barely of age beyond toddlers and infants—incarcerated behind locked doors, barricaded within overcrowded warehouse walls sealed shut with blackened windows, crammed into wire cages, off-limits to public and parental inspection.

Approach them, not from the president’s, the attorney general’s, or ICE’s totalitarian point of view, which is demonstrably antithetical to their personal wellbeing. Rather, let your benevolent mind’s eye see them from their own simple, delicate, fragile perspectives. Let your earnest glances grace them as kindly as you would the faces of your very own children.

Imagine yourself as though you were the one to be confined to their palpable predicament. If by good fortune you are a parent, grandparent, or guardian, then for heaven’s sake, for a single clear-eyed minute’s sake, for the children’s sake, please! paint the faces of these latch-cage kids into your own children’s and grandchildren’s faces.

Do you grasp the foreboding and fear in the torrents of tears streaming down their cheeks?

Do you catch their feverish eyes searching frantically for familiar faces, just one familiar face, within their cold, concrete, unfamiliar spaces?

Do you notice their arms, hands, fingers—entire bodies—desperately longing to be held within their mothers’ and fathers’ warm, comforting embraces?

Are you seeing them now?

Are you hearing what their ears are straining to hear?  Will you reach out to let them cup your ears with their hands?

Will you do so, lest any remaining deafness to their plight fail to reach beyond the clamor of the clanking steel encasements to which their universe is abruptly crashing in?

Are you listening to them now?

Oh? you say—

Isn’t it better to be temporarily boxed-in a converted Walmart Super Store than facing the mortal dangers of those pitiless desert trails their feet have trod, only to reach the end from which they began and to which they’re deathly afraid they’ll be forced to return again?

Are you seeing them now? Are you moving yet?

Are you seized by their frenzied screams, their panicked sobs, their sunless morning groans, their midnight whimpers? Do you feel the knots gnawing at their stomachs, the tremors wracking their bones?

Are you listening to them now? Are you moving yet?

From where they lie flat, bivouacked upon cement-hardened floors where once stood shelves of teddy bears and little girls’ fancy dolls and little boys’ play plastic pistols, is there anyone from afar who can be trusted to know exactly where they are?

Speaking no English, with no one around to translate what’s impossible to understand without taking hold of Mommy’s or Daddy’s consoling hand, they have no earthly idea either where they are, or possibly or likely what shall become of them.

Are you seeing them now? Are you moving yet?

Migrants inside a makeshift detention center in Texas. (photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

Caught like a fish flailing in the Orwellian night-troller’s dragnet, how shall they escape the captor’s merciless grip?

Is there an interlocutor of sure and certain voice, of undeterred demeanor, refusing to take no for an answer, standing erect before the oppressor, demanding release, demanding justice where there is no mercy, and mercy where there is no justice?

Are you listening now? Are you moving yet?

Ah! Surely someone shall move, someone shall speak!

In a crisis of such colossal proportion, indubitably the courtiers of power and captains of commerce would attune their ears, would they not, and not only to the routine reciprocities and perquisites they grant one another?

Might they even go so far as to align themselves with the prophet’s call to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted?

Indeed, moved of conscience by the poor Lazaruses of the world begging at their doors, hammering at their souls, asking but for a tiny morsel of the opulence that pledges the liberty of the CEO, the senator, the congressman to fly over mountainous terrains and scorching desert borders to land upon sea-island paradises, where to be famished is to be without scruples, docked in a 90-foot yacht, drinking the last twilight martini until breakfast is served.

The fact is—the ancient prophet Isaiah has more yet to say today by way of deliverance of the captives, of the migrants crawling across the margins of our beneficence, than all the king’s men lumped together, prostrating themselves, bodies and souls, before the king’s tower and before the king’s power.

Are you listening now? Are you moving yet?

“Can the prey be taken from the mighty, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?” asks the prophet Isaiah.

“Surely, thus says the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children” (Isaiah 49:25).

Are you listening now? Are you moving yet?

Let your eyes shine light upon those distraught, downcast, delirious mothers and fathers of lost progeny. Curry the favor of your understanding of the meaning of their furrowed brows buried in hands whose palms and fingers are bled raw of grief from grasping at dreams as elusive as mirages in the Chihuahuan desert sands.

Observe their dry lungs heaving with the unquenchable thirst of lament. Place your ears against their pounding hearts gripped by the paralyzing thought that they may never, ever again see their very own flesh and blood.

Are you listening now? Are you moving yet?

Will those of us, free as we are, situated in relative security where we are, sit idly by as though we are spectators of a Fox News gladiatorial media event in a postmodern Roman coliseum?

Or, for that matter, bystanders along the route of an imperial military parade marching down Constitution Avenue in tribute to a postmodern Caesar?

Is this how the great white whale promises to make America great again?

Are you listening now? Are you moving yet?

Will we lift our voices opposite to silencing them, to declare that as a people of faith worthy of being called faithful to those among us treated unfaithfully, we shall rise to address this appalling nightmare and mobilize ourselves forthrightly?

If this matter be entirely too thorny, or complex, or fearful in which to imagine yourself, then permit yourself to imagine this.

Imagine it is your cry for refuge from pestilence and persecution that is summarily cast behind iron prison bars.

Imagine it is your dream for freedom-at-last dressed up in orange penal garb.

Imagine it is your God-given dignity that is standing naked before judges who are obliged, not first of all to honor and serve your sacred humanity but rather to enforce repressive laws devised by the privileged and powerful to trammel upon your very existence, because they see themselves to be superior to you, and you inferior to them.

Are you listening now? Are you moving yet?

Are we, descendants of those who once sailed by ship and sea as stranger and alien into the ports and passageways of the soil we inhabit in order to cross these borders, willing to envision the plight of the strangers and aliens among us now, not only as their plight but ours as well?

If so, it is we then who are being summoned to move.

It is we who shall go to our pastors, priests, rabbis, and imams to support them as the voices of prophets speaking truth to power.

It is we who shall camp at the doorsteps of legislators until they relinquish the yokes of burden they have meted out upon the necks of the powerless and the backs of the poor.

It is we who shall summon the chiefs of police and insist that they extend the right hand of earnest friendship, without carrying left-handed judicial orders, for building reparative relationships with communities of immigrants who are terrified by squad cars, uniforms, badges, billy clubs, stun guns, and arrest warrants.

It is we who shall show up at ICE raids, bearing witness to official deeds of darkness upon which the light of justice must be shed in order to prevent victims of gross injustices from becoming skeletons of the deported and the dead.

It is we who shall intervene on behalf of those whom the principalities and powers have brought low, herding them into detention centers and prisoners’ dens by the shove of the oppressor’s hand and stroke of the oppressor’s pen.

It is we who shall rely on the strength and power of God’s saving hand, with which the oppressor assuredly will contend, gathering ourselves to pray for the courage to be sustained and the resolve to uplift by freeing, reuniting, and protecting them in God’s holy name.

For as we rise together in acts of mercy and loving kindness, on behalf of these precious ones whom the Beatitudes call blesséd, we look unto The One who redeems the oppressed in every near and distant place, in whose hearing we now call out—

“Here am I, Lord. Send me.” 


From “A Summons to a Nationwide Citizens’ Mobilization to Free and Unite Migrant Children and Families” Published in Vox Populi on June 19, 2018
The author grants permission to faith communities, religious and civil rights organizations, broadcast networks, newspapers, print and online magazines and journals to re-publish this piece in full and unedited form. Abbreviated versions must first have written approval of the author, although quotations, appropriately attributed, are allowed as part of larger works. The author requests to be informed of the essay’s re-publication. Credit should be given to Vox Populi as having first published it. Vox Populi has first-rights but not exclusive rights. Social media postings linked from Vox Populi or from this website are encouraged and require no permission.

Charles Daivdson

Charles Davidson is a member of Western North Carolina Faith Communities Organizing for Sanctuary. A retired Presbyterian Church (USA) minister, psychotherapist, and professor of pastoral theology, care, and counseling, he is the author of Bone Dead, and Rising: Vincent van Gogh and the Self Before God (Cascade Books, Wipf and Stock Publishers).