Thursday, November 19, 2015

Huddled Masses

"Uncertainty is the refuge of hope."

Child abuse.
No one likes these calls. Even the best of them involve that most disturbing of human suffering - a child who has been the target of abuse at the hands of someone they trust. I went to the call because I was close, we were busy and they are often complex calls. I had no idea.
A toddler no older than two was wandering aimlessly in the courtyard of an apartment complex. Mom and dad were no where to be found. Diaper dragging, a treat someone gave him in his hands...on them, and his face, too. Bewildered, he tagged along with several of the other children as they lead the "search" for relatives. 

Kids are like that. They have no real fear of the police. They understand authority figures, accept them far more easily than jaded adults. When an officer says "Do you know where...?" the neighborhood child posse forms spontaneously, everyone talking at once. They assured us they would find someone for us to talk to. In the meantime, the wayward two year old stood, deep brown eyes calm but wary. "What was all the fuss?" his expression said.

By and by the parents returned from their shopping trip. We questioned them fruitlessly, because they spoke zero English.

They were refugees from Ethiopia.

Never fear, our kiddo cops were on it. One of the delightful young ladies - dishwater blonde hair streaming down her back - spoke not just English, but Spanish, too. One of her playmates, dark skin, black hair and deep brown eyes,  spoke Spanish, and whatever dialect the parents did. Through this pre-teen daisy chain the story emerged.

The parents had seen adults out on their porches, mingling with the kids. The appeared to be undertaking some kind of oversight role. As was customary, they would just keep an eye on their son while they ran to the store. Wouldn't they? We patiently explained that, in the US, the parents must have a more definitive plan for the care of their children. Although they had technically broken Colorado law, we discussed their obligations in the new, confusing country in which they found themselves. With humble respect and gratitude they begged our pardon, agreed to abide by our laws and we left.

What does this have to do with today? I don't know. I'm on the side of those suggesting caution, as this new wave of refugees arrive from war-torn countries. There is little doubt that our enemies will take advantage of our generosity and sprinkle the huddled masses with war fighters intent on doing us Paris-style harm. We should be wary, cautious and have a plan for all of the contingencies this new and unique group presents. I'm with the men and women who don't trust - that's why one verifies.

Somewhere, there is a seventeen year old Ethiopian kid about to finish high school. Maybe he's a great kid. Maybe he's an asshole. But, because the United States took him and his family in he had the best chance to be who he wanted to be.

Just like my great grandfather Dave, from Donegal, Ireland. He told my dad, in the early 1930s, "Here, a man can keep what he earns, can make something of himself. Over there, the government gets half, and the church gets the other half." He was a laborer. His son became a machinist, his son an engineer and his son a lawyer.

Things are not so different eighty years later.

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