cake & conversation: “the camps”

Met a talented woman at a party last week. She’d made the super impressive cake for the guest of honor, a friend’s son, newly graduated from medical school. I marveled over the way the writing of his name on the coat of the cake was delicate and perfect. It really was, and the filling was delicious, too.

Later, three of us began a conversation away from the crowd, out on the orchid-filled patio by the pool. The whole environment had suddenly cooled thanks to a welcome burst of rain which, coupled with the pocket of quiet, felt like a secret to treasure together a while.

A chance to chat.

Our talk was about jobs, mostly, leading into my desire to use my paralegal skills in some way, “busy-work, something to aid lawyers working with detainment and immigration issues I hope … something I can feel good about.” Then I learned that her main gig is that of a teacher… currently working in an immigrant detention center not too far from me.

This brought a brief moment of silence between us.

One can’t fault those working inside the facilities too much, can they? That’s one of the biggest problem with bureaucracy after all: distance from responsibility. As an individual, she is, I’m absolutely sure, loving with the kids (well, teenagers) she teaches, attentive, and has their interests at heart. No one, certainly not me, would want to take that away from them, nor make their daily lives less comfortable in any way. This is why even many of those protesting the centers, continue to fund them.

Still, speaking with this young woman was an opportunity for me to hear the perspectives of someone regularly inside the center which, though she insists it’s not the case, seems to lack transparency. She expressed, with no small measure of passion, that some of the kids were living in better conditions than they ever had in their lives… well fed, wearing clothes of their own, safe places to sleep. She praised the availability of meals, classes, and structure. Some of the girls had said as much to her personally, that they were happy there, and hopeful about their futures.

Further, she was disgusted by the disruption brought about by protesters who create chaos at the gates, which causes the kids to be kept inside more than they might otherwise, “to shield them.” Some days, when the biggest protests occur and from her perspective politicians want to make scenes, it takes hours for those who work at the facility to get in and out. “People would not do that if they were really concerned about those inside.”

[In a sense though, we are all ‘inside’.]

I didn’t doubt her impressions. Her personal experience is something I place great value in and appreciate hearing. It may be that the facility she works in is better run than the ones in Texas we are finally hearing about, for one thing. OR, it may be that it is impossible to see the whole from within one part. And I think we must deal with the whole of the situation.

It was obvious a little further into our conversation, that she didn’t take issue with the premise of the facilities themselves, nor policies of this administration generally. Like so many especially where I live in South Florida, she’s been convinced of our President as a “businessman” – brash and unpolished, but not wrong in setting drastic limitations with those who “should come legally.” Yes, he is about business… but in this case I fear it is the interests of an ever-expanding private prison business. Even though I’m aware of, and in a sense ‘prepared’ for this kind of thing, it is truly beyond my capacity to fathom how well-oiled and finely targeted propaganda machines have proven to be.

Crucially, I don’t mean to say that this caring woman I spoke to, who right now is doing more for those kids than I am by writing about them on a blog read by three people, buys into the ‘others’ narratives in the ways I describe. Knowing that my views are quite drastically different, she didn’t treat me with disdain, for one thing. Rather, I’m grappling with the overall picture as a division too… that some are more aware of and tuned into historical patterns, and some into immediately tangible ones. Paralyzing one another assures status quo of continuing to operate and expand.

I do worry though, about deep pockets of ignorance. For instance, my kids received less than half the Holocaust education I did as a child. Almost all of their education originated at home. What does that mean for the populace on the whole?

So it was a good and necessary conversation we had, one that expanded my sense of doubt about having a decent grasp on the scope of it all. It gave me a clearer, more dimensional picture of the people making one-on-one connections and impacts within these situations, yet didn’t alter my overall sense of horror.

In fact, that sense of foreboding has deepened, “Ah, this how the Unthinkable actually happens, ‘how’ a world lets it happen.” Who can push back such a great and ultimately quite quiet, tide?

Especially when they feel, “Who can push back such a great and ultimately quite quiet, tide…”

What I think is an important and measured article:

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