Really, there are times in my life when I know better than to go on Facebook. Lately I’ve been having to bite my lip and quickly scroll past angry screeds about the recent immigration crisis, followed by the usual pictures of aborted fetuses and cheery Right-to-Life posts that say things like “everyone deserves to have a birthday! Vote for life!”
And I find my patience quickly dwindling down to nothing. Let me tell you a story: 5 years ago now, I was the site supervisor for a homeless shelter. One of our families had a child who had a birthday while they were still our guests. Her parents, feeling horrible about the fact that she couldn’t really have friends over for a sleepover like other young girls, went all out. They used their electronic benefits to buy cake and cookies and balloons and presents, and they treated her like a princess. I was telling someone about this, thinking it was a touching story of finding hope in the midst of hopelessness, and that person responded:
“If they had money, why didn’t they use it to get out of there?”
Well, there are a few responses to that. One is that the amount of money spent on that party, which couldn’t have amounted to much more than what I have in a coin jar on my dresser on any given day, wouldn’t have been enough to pay for an apartment. The other, more important response, is: doesn’t every child have a right to have some pleasant memories in their life? Do you really want to give a child the memory of no party, no desert, no presents, simply because their parent was poor? Do you want a child to have the memory of crying themselves to sleep in a homeless shelter? Is that really what we want?
Every child deserves to celebrate a birthday, huh?
So this immigration crisis, or refugee crisis, or what have you. These 50,000 young children here in America, parentless, because their countries are awash in crime and poverty and chaos- do they deserve birthdays? Or are they, like the child of the homeless couple, doomed to be judge as worthy of experiencing pain because it is a just punishment for the wrongs of their forefathers?
Truly, I do not understand the overwhelming attitude of intolerance and rage that is being expressed by people who are otherwise caring individuals. I do get the sentiment that every child deserves a birthday. People imagine a sort of dream life that aborted babies are missing out on- a life that involves loving parents, birthday parties, being wanted and needed and celebrated. To have that potential extinguished is certainly a painful conceit. So I do understand, I do. I find it hard to comprehend how such tender-hearted people cannot concieve of the fact that such potential was surely lost from the time the proverbial pee stick turned blue, as this child was neither wanted nor celebrated from the start, and simply being born is no guarantee of that sad fact changing.
Take the refugee children, for example. Are they celebrated? Wanted? Needed? Their parents loved them enough to face the fact that they may never again see them, but to at least risk the possibility of a secure future elsewhere, far away from their now empty arms. But what future is that?
Given the fact that they are being deported back to homes which may now be empty as a result of the drug wars, it’s not a future of birthdays.
Now, back to the homeless girl’s birthday: I’m sure that no one really wanted her to cry herself to sleep. What anyone whom I asked said was that her parents should be more responsible. “I want her to have the kind of parents who get her out of that life!” Ah, yes, of course. If only we could take the generations of poverty, distress, maltreatment, lack of education and societal disregard that landed her there in the first place, she’d have a proper birthday! The sentiment, once picked apart, is that her birthday shouldn’t come at taxpayer expense. Someone *else* needs to be responsible, am I right?
There’s a fundamental injustice, though. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t say, “every child deserves a life of being wanted and celebrated” and then say, “but if the people in their life are not providing that it’s not MY fault.”
If we truly believe that there is a baseline, a basic life of pleasure and comforts that every child should have, don’t we have a responsibility to secure that? Even if it hurts our pocketbooks?
When I hear people saying that it is the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico that are to blame for the plight of children and THOSE people should be responsible for securing the children’s futures, I burn.
I am consumed.
If there is a moral imperative of which WE are conscious which OTHERS ignore, guess whose responsibility it is to secure it? Ours. That is like watching an old lady walk into traffic blind, then pointing at the other onlookers and saying, “YOU should have known to give her your hand.”
NO. NO. NO.
If you believe every child deserves to be loved, every child deserves a future, every child deserves a birthday cake- don’t point your fingers elsewhere and say that it can’t be our responsibility to open our borders and our homes. It has to be.
It just has to be.
If you want every child to have a birthday, you’d better start learning Spanish well enough to sing “Las Mañanitas” and get to baking cakes.