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‘So hard to give them back’

There is so much to write about. I stare at the blank screen and wonder where to begin and find much of what comes to mind is dispiriting, OMG-provoking, or elicits an abiding sadness for our country. I can only hope that all of us are paying attention, for there is a lot to absorb, weigh and resist.

Is it hyperbole to write that Trump is taking a wrecking ball to our decades-long western alliances, meaning Europe, NATO and the G7? Ditto our nation’s institutions such as the press, FBI, DOJ and our intelligence agencies — more specifically the Mueller investigation, which is the equivalent of a 911 call after a flagrant assault aimed directly at a cornerstone of our democracy, our elections. Consider the scorched-earth environmental policy, carried out at the EPA, no matter that Scott Pruitt is finally gone.

At times it feels like our nation is being governed (if we can call it that) by a cartel that is prepared to exploit every avenue for its own enrichment, while in stark violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

And there is, week after week, Trump’s shameless reveal of his dysfunctional insecurities: ad hominem attacks,.scandalous behavior, a perpetual animus leavened by manufactured chaos, and the drama — always the drama. When he was ensconced in Trump Tower, the manner in which he conducted his conspiratorial/money-driven life concerned only those who chose to remain in his orbit. But now he has transferred his erratic, incoherent, narcissistic style to the White House and it has become clear that our nation is struggling to sustain its equilibrium and its promise.

But there is one overriding question that continues to haunt me and from which I cannot disengage: Where are the migrant children? How is it possible that we do not know where they are, instantly? How is it possible that our government can shrug and say that, indeed, some may never be returned? How can we, ourselves, do battle with the temptation to move on, knowing they are out there, and that for their mothers it is more than they can bear? While we acknowledge that outrage is a difficult emotion to sustain.

Who conceived “zero tolerance”? And how is it possible that there are scores of enablers — start with the heads of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security — who have not resigned rather than carry out a policy that is indefensible? Think of it: small children, babes in arms, taken from their mothers who were legally seeking asylum and are now told that if they drop their request their children will be returned. I confess that I have often thought of the “Sophie’s Choice” meme where a mother, standing in a concentration camp line with her two children, is told by a sadistic German officer to select one, just one, while the other is taken away. I shudder. Yes, I know it sounds a bit extreme, perhaps a false equivalency, but there is a truth in that image, that moment, that resonates.

Where are the children?

Medical organizations, including psychology, psychiatry and pediatrics, have protested that the children separated from their parent(s) are at risk of lifelong damage: PTSD, depression, ADD and anxiety. The loss of a caregiver/parent can affect a child’s mental health and physical well-being for life. Lengthy deprivation can result in a crippling attachment disorder, for children long for love, interaction, comfort and support. They need the sounds of interactive language, they crave being held, reassured, all necessary for full cognitive development. What our government is doing is profoundly inhumane and reprehensible and defies understanding.

A migrant mother who tearfully begged for the return of her children asked, “Why was it so easy for them to take our children and so hard for them to give them back?”

Just before departing for Europe and the NATO summit, and after a weekend of golf, Trump was asked by a reporter, ”What about the children?” He responded by saying, “Tell them not to come here.”

Chris Honoré is a Daily Tidings columnist.