When Everything Is Wrong
I am sharing some words from my friend Peggy Gannon as a guest post for this health blog.. "What's wrong?" In a word, everything. I posted a poem somewhere that moved me deeply; I saw it first as an excerpt but later found its entirety. I'll repeat it at the end of this little essay... For the past week, all I’ve seen have been fear, anger, hatred, bigotry, xenophobia, ignorance, close-mindedness and an unwillingness to be open to new information. I can't stand this negativity; it's tearing me apart. No one seems to understand that refugees are people fleeing from the horrors of war, devastation, persecution. Exactly like the settlers who came to colonial America, only worse.
Nothing but the clothes on their backsThey can't go back, ever; their homes have been destroyed, their neighborhoods are gone, their relatives left behind have been massacred. They have nothing but the clothes on their back and, with a little luck, an immediate family intact and their cell phone. They are being welcomed across Europe where they wait in temporary camps to be processed. They have no choice of what country they may eventually be settled in. All they know is that they have lost everything in the world: they are homeless in the most literal sense of the word.
Pressing the "pause" buttonYou can't "pause" the flow of refugees the way you pause a video. It takes 18 to 24 months to approve every refugee, even longer from a short list of specific countries like Iraq and Iran. How much longer do we want to burden some other country with feeding, clothing, housing them while we wait for our panic to subside? And how can we refuse all Syrians — Syrians! The victims of their own ongoing atrocity. Are we going to turn our backs on them?
I've learned a lot since the events in Paris last week
- I've learned about the lengthy bureaucratic process, five or six levels of vetting before refugees can be released to a new destination.
- I've learned that much as I want to help the homeless and impoverished right here in America, the funds for refugees are in a separate account that has no relationship to our own social structure.
- I've learned that the blame for our failure to accommodate the poorest of our poor (and did you know that we have the highest rate of child poverty in the entire world?) can't be solved by pointing a single finger. It's a multifactorial situation.
I have worked one-on-one with seriously traumatized children...
- Children who use a razor blade or an X-Acto knife to cut themselves on their arms or thighs because that pain somehow eases the psychic pain they feel in their head and their heart.
- Children who use a linoleum cutter to slash their wrists and bleed out in the shower because life is too harsh to endure any longer.