• September 19th, 2021
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Holy Infant So Tender and Mild


Abby Zimet

 

The body of seven-year-old Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin has been returned to Guatemala, but her horrific death at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol has left behind a tsunami of grief, rage and haunting questions. The little girl whose large family lived in a dirt-floor shack on $5 a day and who got her first pair of shoes for the tough journey had been excited she might soon get her first toy or learn to read and write,  relatives said. Instead, she became a victim of Trump’s calamitous, cruelty-first approach to immigration, the outcome of equally abusive decades of U.S. policy, that it now turns out has led to a host of other atrocities.

There are the wholly ill-equipped border agents who treated Jakelin on a table, the little girl who suffered cardiac arrest but survived, the child with pneumonia from ice-box-like cells where kids are stacked together, the hiding of those egregious conditions, the harsh treatment of politicians, activists and media who seek to expose them, the multiple allegations of sexual assaults of migrant kids still in shelters and, perhaps most monstrously, a mendacious, contemptuous Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, who has blamed “illegal aliens” – aka victims – who “chose to cross illegally,” empathized with border agents who abuse them, insisted on a fictional border “crisis,” and persistently declined to accept any responsibility for the ensuing carnage.

“If you have disregard for a 7-year old who expires from dehydration, I’m not sure ‘Let every heart, prepare him room,’ should burst forth from your lips…What I’m saying, Christian friend, is that if you aren’t capable of manufacturing the slightest bit of compassion for the hurting and the hungry and the terrified and the desperate right now—what on earth are you singing for?”

Many others, thankfully, do. There have been calls for investigations and/or a halt to the madness from the U.N., from Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, as well as moves for a new notification policy so we’ll know more promptly the next time they kill someone. The faith community, suitably horrified, has protested with civil disobedience actions, months-long services to protect asylum seekers, and, in Boston, Indiana and elsewhere, nativity scenes in cages representing an angry “mirror image of where we are at today” and asking, “Is this what peace on earth looks like?” Still, notes progressive minister John Pavlovitz, in this season of ostensibly celebrating a holy child born in poverty, a deep sense of dissonance remains.

Pavlovitz writes of seeking to reconcile the outward displays of reverent religion around him – “I see your house, carefully strewn with glowing lights, fragrant boughs of holly decking your photo-covered hallways. I see your ceiling-scraping tree, limbs weighed down with the carefully curated collection of fragile keepsakes” – with a common refusal to see what’s going on. “If you’re going to rejoice over the refusal of refugee families at our borders, you probably shouldn’t be sweetly singing about a baby with ‘no crib for a bed,’ he suggests. “If you have disregard for a 7-year old who expires from dehydration, I’m not sure ‘Let every heart, prepare him room,’ should burst forth from your lips…What I’m saying, Christian friend, is that if you aren’t capable of manufacturing the slightest bit of compassion for the hurting and the hungry and the terrified and the desperate right now—what on earth are you singing for?” He hopes “a new compassion and mercy and generosity are birthed in you,” and “your heart is broken and altered by the need around you.” In the end, he offers, choose love.

 

Abby Zimet is a Staff Writer at CommonDreams.

 

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