A Child Does NOT Cry in Spanish or English. A Child Simply Cries, and We Respond – Oscar Cásares | The Washington Post

A Child Does NOT Cry in Spanish or English. A Child Simply Cries, and We Respond.

Oscar Cásares | The Washington Post

They were NOT my children. So why on earth would I want to listen to seven minutes of an audio recording of small children crying for their mommies and daddies?

Children from Mexico and Guatemala and Honduras and El Salvador, children separated from their families at the U.S.A. border, children who weren’t from here. But everyone around me kept listening to the recording and asking:

Did you hear it? And each time I nodded, not because I’d heard it but because it was sad, all of it, and I didn’t need to listen to a recording to know this. Still, it made me wonder if it would help me understand the sadness in a different way. I told myself I’d listen only once, but once turned into twice, and after the third time, I couldn’t stop listening. I listened until the back of my head rang with the grating clarity of their little voices.

I wanted to believe there was something within all that crying I couldn’t hear, not at first. Whatever it was might have nothing to do with a “zero tolerance” immigration policy or finger pointing, nothing to do with being right or wrong, nothing to do with red or blue states, nothing to do with anything but what I was listening to and still couldn’t hear. There was a message in there somewhere, hidden, coded in a way that, with all the noise, went unnoticed. I wanted to hear what couldn’t be heard. Therefore, I listened.

The first time through, the recording was nothing but a lot of crying; heartbreaking, yes, but I expected this. The second and third time, I paid more attention to the background chatter, the sound of the Border Patrol agent joking in Spanish that the distraught children sounded like an orchestra in need of a conductor, and then later trying to hush a crying child by saying “Don’t cry, don’t cry,” which was about as effective as shouting at someone to stop shouting.

Later he asks one little kid where he’s from (El Salvador) and then another weepy one (Guatemala). Then there’s a consular lady trying to console a little girl, without much luck. It wasn’t until the fourth time that I knew what I was listening for, what it was about their crying I was trying to understand. Maybe it was the novelist in me, but I needed to know what language they were crying in.

There were snippets, in Spanish, of one child asking to call her aunt and another pleading for his father, but those were just words, and in the instant case, the words didn’t hold the truth I was searching for; the words were part of the noise.

It was the crying — the heaving of their little chests, the gasping for air between their sobs — that I was listening for. It wasn’t Spanish, it wasn’t some remote dialect, it wasn’t the echo of an indigenous language. It was just crying, plain and simple.

The same crying I heard when my two kids were that age, the same crying you may have in your house later tonight, the same crying that could be happening with a colicky baby in Lincoln, Neb., or a child’s first day of school in Lexington, Ky., or kids somewhere entirely removed from here, waking up in the middle of the night in Germany or Kenya. It was crying; we all know what that sounds like.

Anyone who’s ever cared for a small child, sick or hurt or scared, knows that when the child cries, all else pretty much ceases to exist. You hold the crying child, you calm them, you soothe them, you let them know it’s going to be all right, that they are NOT alone, the world isn’t as scary as they first thought.

It is only later that you get back to the now-cold dinner you set aside, to the sleep that was interrupted for the third night in a row, to the bathroom trip that an hour ago felt so urgent. You pick up the baby first. You always pick up the baby first.

There is a reason why we have to be reminded every time we fly that in the event of an emergency, we must start by securing the oxygen mask over our own mouth and nose, and only then over the child’s. There is a reason slamming the brakes automatically makes us reach an arm out for our son or daughter in the passenger seat. We are wired to take care of those more vulnerable. This is what we do as adult humans.

There is a reason we took a collective gasp when we saw the photo of the bloodied and ash-covered face of a 5-year-old Syrian boy after an airstrike hit his family’s home in Aleppo, or the image of a 3-year-old Syrian boy whose drowned body had washed up on a Turkish beach, or even further back, the iconic photo of a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl, naked and terrified after her village was scorched with napalm. That wasn’t a Republican or Democratic or independent gasp — it was just a GASP, proof of our shared humanity.

That shared humanity – like it or not – does NOT end at our southern border, NOR any border. It is the same humanity that understands there is a risk in entering another country illegally — possible consequences, some severe and difficult to bear, though none as unbearable as knowing that your child and family are in certain danger with gang violence at your doorstep, in many cases because a father or mother or child has already been killed. You are faced with respecting the laws of another country or disrespecting your nature as a parent. So, you pick up the child and you head north, toward safety, toward the land of the free.

Years from now, if we listen closely to those voices, maybe we will be able to remember when the children were crying and know that they were NOT crying in some foreign tongue — that the only thing foreign was how some of us reacted.

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Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On June 23, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    The Voice of a Supreme Being in the Cry of a Child:

    “It is only later that you get back to the now-cold dinner you set aside, to the sleep that was interrupted for the third night in a row, to the bathroom trip that an hour ago felt so urgent. You pick up the baby first. You always pick up the baby first.

    Years from now, if we listen closely to those voices, maybe we will be able to remember when the children were crying and know that they were NOT crying in some foreign tongue — that the only thing foreign was how some of us reacted.”

  • Clyde Duncan  On June 23, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    How Separating Families Marks a Moral Low For Donald Trump

    Observer Editorial | The Guardian UK

    The president has acted abominably. Now Europe has a duty to do better in its treatment of migrants

    The really shocking thing about the spectacle of distraught children being forcibly separated from their parents at the USA-Mexico border is not the sheer inhumanity of this practice. That is beyond question.

    Nor is it the mind-numbing idiocy of a shambolic policy that shames the USA government and its agents and, as the UN suggests, is in probable breach of international human rights law.

    NO, the really shocking thing is Donald Trump’s evident inability to understand what the fuss is about. Has ever a US president displayed such a total lack of empathy, such a deficit of common human decency?

    Trump’s belated suspension of the separations offers scant relief. About 2,000 small children – nobody seems to have an exact count – remain incarcerated in “baby jails”, or what officials disingenuously call “tender age migrant shelters”.

    Their families do not know where they are. Nor have USA border guards kept matching lists of parents detained for alleged illegal entry under Trump’s zero-tolerance policy.

    Now, in another grotesque betrayal of the hard-won values of the “land of the free”, there are reported plans to create virtual concentration camps on remote military bases in the California and Arizona deserts.

    Illegal immigration is a problem facing many countries around the world. But, as Bishop Michael Curry, primate of the USA Episcopal church, writes today, that is no excuse for brutality, especially in a country that aspires to exemplary global leadership.

    “Families making treacherous and often dangerous journeys to seek refuge in the USA are desperate… You cannot deter people who are fleeing for their lives. We should be meeting these people with compassion,” Curry writes.

    Millions of Americans agree. Their reaction to what Curry calls this “moment of national shame” has provided a welcome contrast to the immoral behaviour of their president.

    This generous outpouring undercuts the ugly image of a mean, selfish and inward-looking country that has been developing under Trump’s “nasty party” tutelage.

    Most Americans, thankfully, are better than Trump. Still denying responsibility, cravenly shifting blame and lying at every turn, he epitomises the very worst side of human nature.

    Will this unfinished scandal have lasting impact on his presidency? Critics term it his “Katrina moment”, a reference to the irreparable damage done to George W Bush’s reputation in 2005 after he appeared indifferent to Hurricane Katrina’s victims.

    For some, it is the grim culmination of 18 months of clueless, feckless misrule that has undermined USA standing in the world, weakened long-standing alliances, boosted foreign dictators and polarised the American nation along racial, social and cultural lines. There is a clear line connecting Charlottesville, Virginia, to Brownsville, Texas.

    Nobody doubts the seriousness of the problem. It is the disgraceful way Trump has handled it that may yet prove a decisive turning point for him. In this respect and others, the furore could carry hidden benefits.

    It has indirectly highlighted the plight of migrant children everywhere. Marking World Refugee Day, Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said protecting such children was a “test of our shared humanity”.

    Worldwide last year, nearly 174,000 refugee and asylum-seeking children were separated from their families or forced to flee alone, he said.

    Unresolved conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Eritrea and South Sudan are producing generations of children who know nothing but war, kids traumatised, damaged and abused beyond our polite imagining.

    Add to them the countless child casualties of societal breakdowns in impoverished, disadvantaged countries such as Venezuela and throughout central America.

    Whether it’s their militarised foreign policies or their insatiable appetite for drugs, resources and cheap labour, wealthy western countries bear direct responsibility.

    It is not just Trump’s mess. We should all help clear it up.

    Even as Europeans berate the USA government for its callousness, EU leaders will meet tomorrow to try to put their own immigration house in order.

    Lest we forget, international opinion was similarly appalled in September 2015 by a photograph of the lifeless body of young toddler in the arms of a Turkish policeman, one of 12 Syrians drowned while attempting to reach the Greek island of Kos.

    The number of migrants trying to reach Europe by sea has fallen dramatically since then, so has the death toll. But the political fallout from Europe’s chronic failure, akin to that of the USA, to enunciate an agreed, humane policy has only intensified.

    There are no easy answers,
    But it is plain what governments should NOT be doing.
    They should NOT be locking up children.
    They should NOT be treating asylum seekers as criminals.

    They should stop denying the role their policies have played in creating this crisis

    And they must make clear that it is unacceptable for any politician, anywhere, to exploit the migrant issue to advance extreme xenophobic, nationalist agendas.

    That must be Theresa May’s uncompromising message to Trump when he visits the UK next month.

    If it becomes obvious he is not prepared to listen,
    TRUMP SHOULD BE TURNED BACK AT THE BORDER.

  • Clyde Duncan  On June 23, 2018 at 11:29 pm

    “Will this unfinished scandal have lasting impact on his presidency? Critics term it his “Katrina moment”, a reference to the irreparable damage done to George W Bush’s reputation in 2005 after he appeared indifferent to Hurricane Katrina’s victims.”

    LOOK: Traitor Trump already had his “Katrina Moment” – it is called Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, which left the island without power and over 4-thousand dead.

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On June 24, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    I hear children crying all over this land and across this planet.

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