On Sunday, July 7, Chuck Todd, host of Meet the Press, showed several drawings by children who were separated from their parents and were being held captive in a detention camp on our southern border with Mexico.
The drawings showed sad-faced stick figures of children climbing on or crouched behind a cross-hatched grid. The grid depicts the chain-link fences of the cages of their captivity. The sad little faces indicate their crushed morale and their sense of hopelessness. The slumping, hunched postures of the figures reveal their sense of devaluation and diminishment. Their sense of human worth has been trampled.
These images are not mere products of childish play or creations of leisurely pastime. The renderings represent the children’s outcries beyond their verbal skills, but they overcome all language barriers. They are evidence of the magnitude of their anguish and the depth of the wounds inflicted on their mental and emotional well-being. Such drawings should become tools of art therapy in the children’s PTSD treatment.
On Sunday, July 7, Martha Raddatz on This Week, grilled acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan about the children’s treatment in the detention camps and their separation from their parents. He responded by quoting President Trump: “The camps are clean, beautifully run, and the children are well cared for.” His statement was not only a lie. It also flew in the face of what any TV viewer had seen on weekly news reports. It challenged our common sense and was an insult to the intelligence of the viewing audience.
Ms. Raddatz challenged the cleanliness of the children’s confines. She revealed that visitors of the locations have told her that the pungent odor of the environment had permeated their clothes after brief visits. The stench lingered for hours. The visitors had to shower and change clothes to deodorize themselves.
The New York Times revealed that there are about 13,000 migrant children held in detention centers across the country. Most of them are in the foster care program. Some children remain separated from their families, not knowing their parents had been deported, and that the heart-breaking truth is they cannot be located.
On Aug. 16, PBS News Hour reported on widespread child abuse in the “foster care” program. The range of children’s mistreatment is wide, and include, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.
There is a myth that children outgrow and forget their suffering. I did not outgrow mine, and I did not forget the trauma of the Russian occupation of my native Lithuania in 1940. I could not forget my fear of potential harm to my parents. I did not outgrow my anxiety and fear of deportation to the Siberian Gulag. I recall my panicked awakening to the sound of machine-gun fire in the spring of 1941. The sound was Germans slaughtering Jews. I feared we would be next.
Now in my old age, I still wake up in the night startled, trembling with fright. I empathize with the caged children and the ones abused in “foster care.”
I wonder what dreams will come to them in their slumber.