June 26th, 2018
Thinking for Ourselves
The Cries of Children
Many of us hold a vision of a world without borders. We do this in the face of a reality where everything we call sacred is defiled. Only money and military might move freely. People and ideas are controlled and confined. Our lives are distorted and disrupted by the effects of corporate money. People and places we love are desecrated and destroyed by bombs and guns.
This past week the brutality of these efforts to control people has been made vividly clear. The Trump administration policy to separate children from their parents has been carried on the cries of children, for all to hear. There is no evading this reality. But it is a great mistake to think this is only Trump, or his Attorney General, or his vice president, or his close advisors. These cries have been echoing through the centuries. Only now they cannot be ignored.
They are the cries of the children wrapped in poison blankets by parents trying to protect them from the cold; of children stripped from their parents to be sold into slavery; of children watching parents go off to war, many never to return; of children learning their fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters have been killed by guns in the hands of police and guns in the hands of friends and lovers in moments of uncontrolled rage. These are the cries our culture has accepted as the price we are willing to pay to protect power, privilege, property, and the wealth of the few.
And these are the cries that some of us accept as part of our job. Of all of the recordings to come out during this past week, it is the conversation of the guards that is the most chilling. Moving through the cries of children, two men joke. “Quite the orchestra.” “Missing the conductor.” These casual comments in the face of the anguish of children reveal the deepest malady in the American soul. They reveal the bargain our culture struck long ago to place economic development above human and political progress.
Time and again some of us have handed out the blankets. Some of us have held the whip, pulled the switch, picked up the gun and pulled the trigger. In every era, confronted with the choices between keeping our jobs or protecting life, some of us have chosen our jobs. So now we have developed people no longer capable of hearing the cries of children.
These are the people we need to find ways to reach. They, not Donald Trump, are the most dangerous among us, for they, not Donald Trump, are the ones who power the death machines in our culture.
The great humanizing movements of the 20th century remind us that we are all capable of transformation. We are capable of looking at our history and choosing a more life affirming path. But these choices do not emerge spontaneously. They emerge as those of us still able to hear the cries of children organize to disrupt business as usual, to demand that everyone look at what we are doing and to consciously decide, what kind of people will we become? This is a defining moment.
When Milwaukee becomes the Holy City of the Sweet Water Seas,
Perhaps only a generation or two from now,
Irish German Polish Italian American families
Will bike from the western suburbs through Washington Park,
Past the great bandshell, lagoon, and Urban Ecology outpost,
To the Juneteenth Day Celebration on MLK,
Some stopping on the way at the Highland Park Pies and Cafe,
Others at the wetland beneath the Wisconsin Ave. bridge,
For a picnic, to enjoy the ducks and wildflowers, and
A visit to the Humane Society’s precious kittens and puppies.
At the Amaranth Bakery and Cafe, near St. Michaels,
They will meet up with Hmong African Arab Indian American families,
For a feast of soups from the kitchens of the world,
With ingredients picked that morning in the Growing Power city farm across the street,
Where now stands an empty lot.
As they bike across Lisbon and Walnut
The sidewalks will be filled with families in their Sunday best
Walking a mile or two toward the festival,
Past family businesses and artist/artisan workshops that pay the bills.
At the LGBT Center the west and northwest throng
Will join some south and east side Mexican Cuban Jewish Bohemian American families
For last minute practice to prepare for the folk song, dance, and theatrical offerings
In honor of the day when freedom grew stronger, on Juneteenth Day,
Preparing the way for that great moment, when it dawned upon the people, that Milwaukee had made itself
The Holy City of the Sweet Water Seas.
And I, or my descendants, will not be judged chauvinistic for hoping that the dance choreographed
By the Kho Thi with the Trinity Dancers wins first prize! – Olde