How Many More Ways Will America Fail Children?

Pashminacover-450x635In this Nib cartoon strip, graphic novelist and cartoon artist Nidhi Chanani shows us what it’s like to parent her mixed race child.

In Pashmina, Chanani fictionalized her own experience growing up in America with freshness, humor, and intensity. Her Nib reflection on life, language, and identity choices will feel familiar to many who are trying to raise children in an inclusive society.

Is that a vain hope? Because I think America was learning to be an inclusive society once, not so long ago, in an eight-year era that some apparently saw as less “hopey changey” than might be imagined. Maybe that whole hope change thing was delusional. Or maybe it’s just that democracy can be rigged and hijacked as much as any other system can and we’re watching a crook-in-chief do just that.

Still, I was moved by this New Yorker article by Dave Egger about a church in Connecticut that has decided to open its doors to immigrants seeking sanctuary. Moved for so many reasons. Here were fellow South Asians from Pakistan, whose troubles had all started with caste barriers in their homeland. Caste, I should add, is the identifier that makes me weep for my own people. Its horrific taboos have migrated from their source traditions into converts’ communities in South Asia, even when their adopted religions are supposed to abhor such differences. Moved as well because in the land where I arrived in 1979, immigrants were seen as welcome additions to society, not infestations to be removed.

The article quotes the Bible:

Here’s how Americans can do the right thing: first, more churches that, like the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, want to embody the words in the Bible—“Welcome any alien into your land, for you were once an alien in the land of Egypt”—can consider their roles in protecting families who have committed no crime other than wanting a safe place to live.

But the churches can’t fix the rigged and broken system. Voting might help but only if enough people with intelligence and honesty run for office, and tell me where the incentive is for that?

Finally where, I wonder, does all this leave the child in the church who just wants to play and go to school and be a child? Or Nidhi Chanani’s daughter, whose parents are trying to expand her linguistic world in the passionate belief that this will help her make sense of the real one?  What about the loosening of regulations that will put children’s health at risk? And how come a public shrugging of the shoulders has become the last word on those other children separated so recently from their parents at the border?

How many more ways will America fail children before something shifts?

 

A Hedge? A Customs Hedge?

So Trump wants his beautiful wall, right, and at once time he said he wanted to make Mexico pay for it?

IMG_2382.JPGAs with so many follies of history, it turns out that particular strategy’s been tried before. The Brits built a wall of sorts in India, back in the days of the East India Company. And they intended to make the Indians pay for it.

It wasn’t exactly a wall, all the way. It was a hedge–well, sort of.

A Customs line was established which stretched across the whole of India, which in 1869 extended from the Indus to the Mahanadi in Madras, a distance of 2300 miles; and it was guarded by nearly 12,000 men… It would have stretched from London to Constantinople… it consisted principally of an immense impenetrable hedge of thorny trees and bushes.

A hedge? A Customs hedge? Turns out this was all about the infamous Salt Tax. On a whim, writer Roy Moxham, stumbling upon a reference to the hedge, decided to go look for it in India.

Now needles and haystacks are as nothing compared to the task of finding anything at all in India. The country of my birth, if I say so myself, specializes in obfuscation, delays, disappearing mirages, bureaucratic stumbling blocks, and other kinds of phenomena in the nearly-there-but-oh-no-look-out! category.

The Great Hedge of India combines Moxham’s historical quest with his journey on the ground. It’s full of marvelous information like the history of the tax on salt, which the East India Company quietly appropriated from local royal traditions and began to impose, in defiance of orders from London. The amount of salt used by an Indian family, it seems, was the subject of fierce argument, as was the question of whether Indian cattle or sheep needed salt. It’s an improbable story, well told, with little digressions into such things as the body’s need for salt and what is likely to have happened to people who were deprived of it.

The hedge itself was abandoned in 1879. If finding it on the ground seems an impossible task, consider also that Moxham had never used a map or a compass to go on a really long walk before. India is not the most salubrious setting to exercise such beginning skills. Moxham’s book alternately amuses and enlightens. The quixotic travel chapters detail the hospitality and kindness of friends and strangers alike, painting a heartwarming picture of rural India.

If Trump had any sense at all, he’d see the futility of this wall project. Unfortunately, he is no better equipped with either common sense or compassion than were the greedy and ruthless in the Company’s higher ranks, or their poorly paid, corrupt subordinates.

 

Fred Korematsu and Another Infamous Executive Order

628dd2bfb56cd1d0122408860ee65943Fred Korematsu Speaks Up is a new children’s book co-written by VCFA graduate Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi. When Laura first talked to me about this project I was excited. It seemed a vitally important story to tell. A story that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Today, the signing of executive orders is carrying a kind of crazed trigger-happiness that threatens to turn the clock back upon civil rights. Today, Fred’s story begins to carry a tragic new urgency.

I’ll be talking to Laura some more about her book. Meanwhile, here’s a snippet from the web site of the ACLU of Northern California:

Monday, Jan. 30, 2017 is Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, established by the California legislature in 2010 to commemorate the ACLU of Northern California’s client who was interned during World War II.

Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017 is the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, which began Japanese Internment.

It would be a shame to let that February 17th anniversary go by without taking some action, whatever we can, each of us who cares. Action to stop the erosion of civil rights and liberties in the land that was supposed to be the cradle of both.

In Trumpistan

trumpWhen I last posted about A Child’s First Book of Trump, it was a joke. A funny, smart, insightful joke. A joke that was a little bit pleased with itself.

Now Americus Trumpus, a creature who “thrives in the most contentious conditions,” is in charge. No joke.

Only in America, it seems, is it possible to rage against the establishment by voting into power a man with inherited (that is to say unearned) wealth who doesn’t pay his taxes. Who mocks minorities of all sorts, denies climate change, and gets the support of the Ku Klux Klan. If this is a wake-up call, then we’re all reeling from the giant bucket of ice-water thrown in our faces. It’s like Reconstruction all over again or as if the entire Civil Rights movement has been ripped up and thrown away.

Meanwhile, in Trumpistan, the children’s literature community tries to pick up the pieces.