By Ellie Davis
Reprinted from Having It All, 2018
At the beginning of September I got a pretty clear view of how much I actually do have.
I have an amazing husband who loves me no matter how many times I ramble the world solo, extremely good health, and a disposition that tricks people about how long I’ve been on the planet; and an extra passport that Sweden gave me just in case my country of origin really does go whole hog fascist. I used to have the freedom to be nonchalant about my freedom.
On my trip to McAllen, Texas, (in September) to see if the stories about the asylum seekers at the US/Mexico border are hyperbole or straight up fake news, that nonchalance came to an end.
I saw firsthand what happens when politics are not politics at all, but rationalized cruelty. For many decades, our policies in the US have destabilized Central America to the point that those governments are powerless in the face of the gangs controlling the countries.
I met people who couldn’t pay the monthly “protection fee” the gangs demand of business owners. No pay, no play, and typically, a violent and painful end of life.
I met people who fled their homes on a moment’s notice to protect their prepubescent daughters from being kidnapped and sold into sex slavery.
I know of an 18-year-old boy who fled El Salvador after watching his mother hacked to death because her ex-boyfriend, a gang member and the father of his two-year-old brother, didn’t want to pay child support anymore.
You know what every one of these people has in common, aside from daring to want safety for themselves and their families? They all got thrown into privately owned US detention centers where they were treated worse than they would have been in jail, simply for the crime of needing safety.
On this trip to the border, I added significantly to my plethora of gifts. I saw unequivocally what despair looks like and how compassion (not pity!) changes that. I met people who are giving in ways incomprehensible to any politician and the love that shines from them, the givers. I have the grace of the knowledge of my freedom.
In a few days, we the people have the power to make a more perfect union. We can secure the blessings of liberty for all, not just the ones who can pay. We have the option of researching the candidates and discovering who is backing policies that ruin innocent peoples’ lives, and who is backing policies which intelligently include better lives for all.
My advice? Don’t take your liberty for granted and don’t be fooled into thinking that helping those in need will diminish your liberty. Use your eyes, ears, and heart to vote. Fucking vote like lives depend on it, because they do.
Ellie Davis may have a mailing address in Sweden, but she can’t stay away from her heart’s home in Carbondale. She would also like you to know that you CAN help in this refugee crisis by voting, yes, and also consider giving time and money to organizations helping people in a desperate situation. Go to www.refugeeresources.com, which is a hub site for many giving assistance to asylum seekers. And, please, visit this site and consider how you might help this organization in any way: http://sacredheartchurch-mcallen.org/immigrant-assistance/ general-information/