An Inside Photo of Americans and Central American Kids

Celebrate America by Paul Counelis

Celebrate America by Paul Counelis

I can’t get over the images caught by cameras over the Fourth of July weekend. The photo-drone flying through fireworks in Florida captured angles that ground-based photographers can only dream of snagging into their cameras’ mirrored maze.

But the photos that stained my eyes’ retinas were the steaming faces of about 200-300 protestors in Murrieta, CA, awaiting the arrival of Homeland Security buses filled with women and children running from Central America’s violence. They were inflamed faces of…of…(do I dare say it?) hatred.

Maybe there is a better word for it. But, presently, that word escapes me.

Social media broadcasted the first photos captured by Joe-citizen from the side of the road. It was July 1, a few days before America’s great holiday. My immigrant bloodline has roots in this day of Independence, so I paid attention.

As the professional photo journalists entered the scene, they exposed jugular veins pressing against white skin, faces as red as the oncoming fireworks, pro vs. anti-immigration activists, and signs that ranged from the WTF (“Goatz 4 Merca”); to Elvis songs (“Return to Sender”); historical reference (”You Are on Stolen Native American and Mexican Land”); and the obligatory “Impeach Obama.”

Meanwhile, enraged, screaming and threatening Americans stalled three busloads of mostly Central American women and children  just outside of Murrieta, “The future of Southern California.”

South of the border immigrants are a fact of American life. The illegal crossing of our borders has a long history. This current border crossing by tens of thousands of children is a whole other genus of hot pepper. And now America’s polarized politicos have turned this saga into a dozen different chili stews. Regardless of one’s need to heed which ever conspiracy theory essential to feed one’s world vision, the fact remains that we have children escaping Central America’s nightmare violence. Slogans and cardboard signs don’t address why these people fled to America.

What breaks my heart is how easily fellow citizens speak of these children as if they were stray dogs worthy of nothing more than a kick in the ass all the way back to their homeland. Bad kids. “Mexican” hoodlums. (I use the word Mexican from some of the misinformation used in the Murrieta fiasco.)

When I watched my fellow citizens torment the three stalled buses on a two-lane road, my maternal instincts questioned, “Don’t they know that there are children in those buses?”

The answer came from social media posts with comments like “Ship them to all the vacant government buildings…” So I’m seeing cattle cars packed with kids on their way to DC—or abandoned military bases (that are apparently not going to be FEMA camps after all!) while the swollen jugular vein crowd cheers them away and out of sight. Poof!

I’m trying to understand what’s going on with this mindset of shoving other humans about, as if their souls mean little. It’s not just Americans vs. Central American kids, it’s the predictable cultures assaulting their next door neighbors as well.

Fortunately, other persons roam our planet who see this tribalism as nonsensical in the bigger picture. They brave themselves against the protest lines, against the weapons, against the poverty, and against the fear.

mapcentralamericaBut back to the root of this explosive migration to cross USA’s borders—Central American violence. Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are considered three of the most violent countries in the world fueled by unstable governments, drug cartels, and poverty.

From today’s Catholic News Service report: “Central American deportees describe desperation in their daily lives, in which violence is reaching intolerable levels and increasingly impacting children, who can be killed for coming from the wrong gang-controlled neighborhood, or forced into lives of crime as gangsters.”

“The violent situation here has reached such levels that no measures will stop them from emigrating, no matter the dangers they face,” said Jeannette Aguilar, the head of the University Institute of Public Opinion, which conducts surveys in El Salvador, in a recent Christian Science Monitor report.
That same report notes that gangs throughout these three countries now rival their very governments and flaunt their power in middle and working class neighborhoods. “(The gangs) like how everyone is afraid of them,” said a mother from a middle-class neighborhood near El Salvador’s capital.

And so, we greet these fleeing youngsters  with shouting and anger?

Before my twelve birthday, I ran away  from home into the night and the cold windy desert. The violence and dysfunction were more than I could bear. Whatever I had to face on my way to a safer haven, could be no worse than what I would have to face the next day within my own home. Fortunately, when I showed up, uninvited, at another door in the middle of the night, I was greeted with kindness.

This is one of the many reasons my empathy goes out to these children. Their bravery, will to live a better life, and hope ring a bell of personal remembrance. The compassion shown to me impacted how I operate today.

Still, our society has somehow developed a sector of philosophies where compassion and empathy are forces of evil, wicked political agendas that will force a Stalinist government upon the weakened souls filled with liberalism and other such emotional ideologies. And perhaps that is why the folks in Murrieta raised their temperatures to the point of becoming a self-imploded fireworks. Or perhaps not.

Regardless, the yelling and the abuse of the American flag in this newer influx of border-crossing children is not the answer to the cause, nor the effect.

It would seem to me that rational behavior would deem it more important to care for the children, and look within as to why (warning: here comes that word again) hate and rage fills those who demand that we pack ‘em up and shove ‘em back out the door.

There really isn’t any political side to be had here. There is a huge challenge, that from my perspective, will become the true photo of America with or without the aid of a drone flying through the fireworks.



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