"Let them eat cake" is the traditional translation of the French phrase "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche", supposedly spoken by "a great princess" upon learning that the peasants had no bread.-- from Wikipedia.
A lot has been said over the past few days about the people seeking asylum in the US, the countries they come from and why they are coming here. A lot has been said about people who don't speak English immediately. I am not an expert on geo political dynamics. I have traveled the world extensively including to Central America and South America. and I am a mother who has met, worked with and listened to people in these countries about the plight of their people.
I have visited Belize, Guatemala, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico and Colombia all in the last 10 years. I have taken my children to these countries and have seen it thru my eyes as well as theirs. I have seen my children gain perspective about their own lives by seeing the lives of others. This has been the greatest gift of my life. Perspective.
Sometimes I have gone as a tourist, sometimes I have gone on a medical mission with Operation Smile which brings you to places well off the beaten tourist path. I have see people living in poverty -- in their homes which are cleaner than most American homes by the way, I have seen shoeless children not more than 3 feet high carry luggage twice their weight to make a few pennies. I have met and seen beautiful families working three jobs to provide for their families. Some travel 14 hours to be considered for a surgery, I have accepted a gracious thank you letter from a 7 year old child who lives in a house without a door for helping his family.
Finally, I have listened. Listened intently to locals in countries such as Colombia or Belize, that have seen extreme violence and turned it around with a lot of work and commitment. In all of these instances, I have seen people who love their countries, love their families and are proud of their culture. I have never met anyone who thinks -- I wish I could break into America and get arrested. It's just ridiculous. I have seen the well educated helping the impoverished without judgement, something that is truly humbling when you experience it. Kindness, true kindness is giving without judgement, with grace, with respect for human life.
Here's a newsflash -- the criminals aren't trying to come to America, they want to stay right where they are. It is the good people, it is the hardworking people, it is the MOST DESPERATE OF PEOPLE who seek asylum. It is people who have NO CHOICE that seek asylum. When they leave, they know they can't go back. When they leave, they know they may never see their extended families again, when they leave, they leave with the clothes on their back, in the cloak of night. Do 'bad' people also try to get into America? Of course, but the hallmark of many of these cultures are violent gangs which is marked by specific tattoos. The reason why many families with young children flee is because as a young boy reaches 10 years old he is marked for a gang, if he does not join and have a tattoo to show it, he and his family will be killed. It is as simple and brutal as that. Murdered. What would you do? Would you stay? If you flee and have the tattoo here in America, you think your peers will accept you?
In America,we are blessed with many benefits -- natural resources, a stable government, freedom of speech and of course, economic opportunity. To think that these freedoms are available to all peoples, in all countries is of course ,to be willfully ignorant about the world. It has been said over the past few days that the families running from violence -- the small country of Honduras has consistently led the world in murders -- led the world -- deserve to have their children taken away from them. Some of the logic is that they are criminals breaking into our country -- despite the fact that many of these people came thru approved checkpoints seeking asylum. Some just don't want these families 'infesting' our country with their poverty because they are not the best of their country -- despite the fact, that they are fleeing the country because they are good people, good people trying to protect their families from murder, gangs and war.
Isn't it easier for us to demonize all of these people, belittle them, strip them of their humanity and simplify their plight by calling them criminals and tell them to just go home. Go home to be slaughtered. But here's the thing, if you are running away from a lion and your choice is to run into the closest shelter or stay and be mauled to death, especially to protect your child, you will always, always seek shelter.
I recently visited Bogota, Colombia and met Colombians who are over the moon with happiness because after decades of being terrorized by crime, kidnapping and drug cartels, they are thriving and poised for the future. In Colombia, I listened as our guide, a young man in his 20s, a college graduate, described how every family, rich or poor, had family members kidnapped and killed. Every single family, let that sink in. In Colombia, there isn't inherent disdain for the poor -- only for criminals, only for anyone who tries to hurt other people. The poor, he explained are no different, they work hard and live honorably. In fact, the rich were the criminals for so many years benefiting from the drug cartel money.
The new Colombia did not happen by a miracle, it happened through a variety of economic, political and humanitarian interventions. The same is true for Belize, formerly British Honduras, the same is true for Panama -- which are far from perfect but they are on their way to economic stability. Deep inside the rest of Central America and South America, there are people right now desperate for change, desperate for stability. None of these countries now experiencing stability has solved poverty, it is 100 percent about breaking the choke hold of crime, gangs, cartels and corrupt governments.
I don't have the answers for how to destroy the gangs, the drug cartels running most of these countries, but without a world plan of countries offering trade agreements, supporting democraticly elected governments to help the good people in these countries turn this around, people will keep coming here in droves.
Torturing human beings by stripping their children from them, throwing them in jail is the ultimate human rights violation. Surely, we are better than this. Surely we can create a humane system to vet immigrants, to treat them with dignity. Not everyone can come here, we all know that, we cannot absorb all of the world's poor but we are a nation of immigrants. Families have always come here to flee oppression and poverty, always.
Please, please don't support thinking that says it is their fault they are poor or deserve to be mistreated. No one deserves to have bad things happen to them or their children. I am the mother of three children born with disabilities and I know a little bit about the randomness of life and unfairness. I know a little bit about being treated with disdain by people more fortunate than me. I know a little bit about wondering why God had let this happen to us. I know what it is like to be told God only gives us what we can handle by earnest people. It turns out it had nothing to do with God, it has everything to do with the randomness of life. We are not in control of where or how we are born. We are not.
The world is full of critics. Be an encourager. Be part of a solution. What does any of this have to do with fashion, art and food? Provenance is cultural. Provenance is heritage. Provenance at it's essence is our humanity.
Have a nice weekend. Lisa