Tears of Shame

There are at least a few episodes in the history of the United States of which we are, or at least should be, deeply ashamed.  Slavery, our treatment of Native Americans, Jim Crow, Japanese internment camps, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, My Lai, and others.  One of those moments occurred eighty years ago today, when the United States government refused to allow the S.S. St. Louis, carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees from Germany, to dock on its shores. St-Louis.jpgSome passengers attempted to cable President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking for refuge, but he never responded. A State Department telegram stated that the asylum-seekers must “await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States.”

The ship turned to Canada, but with no luck there either was ultimately forced to turn back to Europe.  Ultimately, 254 of the more than 900 passengers would fall victim to the Nazi Holocaust because of the arrogance of the United States and Canadian governments.

Eighty years later … what did we learn from our perfidy in 1939?  Not much, apparently, if one only looks toward the southern border of the United States, a border shared with one of our two closest (geographically) allies.  Turning away the S.S. St. Louis was cruel, but what is happening on our border is even more so, for we are separating children from their parents, locking them up in cages, treating them as animals, and thus far six of those children have died in U.S. custody.  And our government does not bat an eye.kids-in-cagesLast Monday, Carlos Hernandez Vásquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan became the sixth child to die in Customs and Border Protection custody since the Trump administration began the fiasco at the border.  Felipe Gomez Alonso, an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy, died in a New Mexico hospital on December 24th, Christmas Eve 2018.  Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl, died last December 7thJuan de Leon Gutiérrez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died on April 30th.  An unnamed Guatemalan boy age two-and-a-half died on May 14th.

DarlynAnd then there was Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle — a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador with heart defects who died in HHS custody last fall.  Her death was kept secret until just last week.  Acting Director of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, testified before Congress in December, but did not notify lawmakers that Darlyn had died in Border Patrol custody three days before.  How many more have died that we don’t even know about?

What is being done?  Investigations and inquiries.  Well, folks, we’ve seen how well those go, haven’t we?  Does anybody trust the Department of Homeland Security to be forthcoming, especially after they covered up one child’s death for five months?  Does anybody trust Trump & Co to do anything to stop the madness? More to the point, how long until the next child dies?  And how many people are literally starving to death on our southern border because our government sees them as being somehow less than human?  Don Trump claims that there is a crisis at our southern border … there is a crisis, but it is not the one he pretends it is … it is a humanitarian crisis.  This nation is not the victim, but rather the persecutor.

Just as in 1939 when the U.S. government turned away nearly a thousand people fleeing for their lives, today we are turning away people … families, children … fleeing for their lives.  The difference is that today we are turning away, or imprisoning nearly 100,000 every month.  Do not ever make the mistake of thinking that the United States is a country of compassion, of humanity, for it is not.  It is rapidly becoming a nation of white supremacists, of arrogance, of somehow believing that the only lives worth saving are those of white Christians.  We have the blood of these six children on our hands, and who knows how many more to come.  Think about it.

Clockwise from upper left:  Juan de Leon Gutiérrez, Jakelin Caal Maquin, Carlos Hernandez Vásquez, and Felipe Gomez Alonso

52 thoughts on “Tears of Shame

  1. I’ve said this before and it bears repeating over and over again. With the exceptions of some aboriginal peoples who had enough trouble with their environments there is not one nation; one people on this Planet who has a clean and clear past. Hypocrisy, Ignorance and the ‘rinsing’ out of the more inconvenient parts of a cultural history are rife. This is why I have a very jaundiced view of many a ‘sad’ tale of European peoples.
    But here is the chilling part which I feel obliged to mention as the subject moved onto the Pacific War between the USA (and allies) and Japan from 1941-1945.
    I can sit here folk in all calm logic and explain to you just how and why the Atom Bomb came into being. I can rationalise for you the strategic and operational reasons for its deployment. I can sit here in all cold, and analytical confidence and tell you why this action was brought about by the mindset of the military, and can take you back into the Japanese 19th century to argue how and why this came about. I can give you without any judgement the reasoning for the impetuous within the American industrial approach to war. I can ask some questions of what you or I would do, I could ask you if you would care to think what reaction of the Chinese or Filipino peasants would have been to the news that A-bombs had been dropped on the Japanese?
    And therein lies the lesson above all lessons…..War not only destroys it draws you in to its fearful logic.
    To bring this home….consider also this question folks.
    General Sherman marched through Georgia to bring the lessons of war home to the natives of a rebellious and slave-owning state. Was that correct and justifiable?
    To repeat and conclude War has its own fearful logic, and brings its own dread retribution upon those who play fast and loose with it.
    And there is a special part of Hell for those who dodge military service then thump the war drums in later years.
    OK I’m done……for the moment.

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  2. The Trail Of Tears, WWII Japanese Interment Camps, Los Alamos Atomic Bomb Factories and the Old Penitentiary in Boise , Idaho as seen on our current road trip provide plenty of additional historic evidence for the inhumanity inflicted on mankind by misguided, American governmental directive.

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  3. War is hell, and totally unnecessary, I don’t care what anyone says. The standing American army is not a peacekeeper, but a constant threat to any nation that wants to piss America off, and there are plenty of those. The biggest use of your armed forces is funnelling hard-earned tax dollars into the coffers of the manufacturers of the tools of the war machine. Believe me when I say, no one outside of America wants you to be defending the free world, that is something you have taken upon yourselves. And you are the ones who should be paying for it, since you shoved it down everyone else’s throats. But protection rackets are a long part of America’s history, we are not surprised that you demand payment for protection no one else wants.
    I am not saying Canada is blameless in any of these things, but most of our leaders are afraid to stand up to you, so when your leaders say jump ours ask how high?

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    • The U.S. is the prime example of arrogance, believing that it knows what is best for all nations and being willing to “help” those nations do what we have decided is best for them, even if it requires that we use force. There are those of us, however, who don’t believe this way, don’t support U.S. efforts to ‘mold’ other countries or to determine what they should be or how they should act. Sadly, the world judges an entire nation on the actions of a few. Sigh.

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      • That is a sad truth about anything, one Trump would do well to learn. But the boy is a racist, and can only see as far as the colour of one’s skin, while his sins remain hidden underneath that orang heart of his.
        I do apologize to all the nice and loving people of America, I know you are there.

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  4. Did anyone ask the citizens of either city if they preferred to get blown apart atom from atom, or were they willing to give up? Of course nobody asked them, and I’m pretty sure Roosevelt and other “leaders” knew theoretically at least what would happen if those bombs went off, if not exactly what they would do in reality.
    Sorry, David, but I don’t think there is any way to ameliorate the hatred contained in either Little Boy or Fat Man. They were examples of pure vengeance for Pearl Harbour.

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    • The heck of it is that with a madman sitting in the Oval Office, it is only a matter of time before it happens again. Nuclear weapons should never … NEVER … have been invented. Sigh.

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      • Once invented, there wad no reason to ever make more. But crazy men must have their toys, and the crazier they are the more destructive they get.
        But the real problem shows up at an early age. Our mothers, mostly, give us these little square things so we can learn how to build things, or stack things. We build, and we stack, but then we destroy and laugh maniacally when we look at the mess. Any male child who displays this tendency should be euthanized on the spot, for the larger he grows the bigger the messes get.

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  5. What’s to add? Well, I could say to myself, is there something I could do now, after reading this, that I’ve been holding back on? Yes, as a matter of fact, there is: I must become more compassionate in every encounter with others. Less judgment, more compassion, right here, right now. That’s what your article is telling me to do. Thank you Jill.

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    • Thank YOU, Sha’Tara! And you’re right … we can all do that. I tend to let impatience override compassion sometimes. None of us are perfect, but we can still strive to care a little more.

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    • Remember the song by PPM, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” There is a line that is repeated multiple times, “When will they ever learn?” Apparently the answer to that question is: Never.

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  6. You talk of things that there is much shame for in your country. Believe me there are few of us who don’t have that in our past, or even in the here and now for certain countries for which democracy is just a prayer. What puzzles me though is your mention of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Europe and America were at war with a foe who regarded surrender as a National disgrace and foreign prisoners were not well treated. POW’s were treated badly and frequently killed. I’m not 100% sure just how many knew what the results of those bombs would be, and believe me I have great sorrow for the innocent civilians killed by them, but their use did bring about the end of the war with Japan much more speedily than it would otherwise have happened saving the lives of many allied forces. A complete surrender from a foe that did not surrender and the saving of so many other lives must surely count for something?
    Cwtch

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    • we Americans found out years later that the Japanese sent a letter of surrender to the President, who TURNED them DOWN so he could bomb two cities..Nagasaki being an entirely civilian city. The Americans wanted unconditional surrender…to punish the Japanese. There was widespread hatred of the race at the time. It was NOT necessary to bomb them.

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    • Well, there are two schools of thought on this. One is that it ended the war almost immediately, and an extended war would have seen many more casualties. I understand that one, but I think of the Machiavellian quote: “The end justifies the means”, and in this case, I just cannot think that the horrific deaths of nearly 300,000 innocent people, not only at the moment, but for years to come, justifies ending a war that was almost certain to end soon anyway. Most of the generals who fought in WWII said that the atomic bomb was not necessary, that the Japanese were already fairly close to being defeated. Of course, we’ll never know how long the war might have lasted without the bomb, but … to me, killing more than a quarter million, mostly women, children and elderly people, cannot be justified.
      Cwtch

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      • Having just heard something from Suze that shocked me I’d be inclined to agree. But, not having known that, I would still have to wonder how many more on the allied side or how many civilians in the conquered countries owe their lives to the fact that unconditional surrender followed the bombings. Of course I’m not happy that those who died were mainly women, children and the elderly. I’m not happy when anyone dies of violence, leastwise not the innocent but I assume that a certain amount of revenge must have been there for Pearl Harbor where civilians would also have died.
        Cwtch

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        • Let me shrink this down to a more manageable example. A father has a wife and five children. He is a bully, goes to bars on weekends, gets drunk and starts fights. He has put a few people in the hospital. He also beats his wife and children. Do you want to set fire to his house in order to rid the world of him, thereby killing the already-abused wife and kids, or is there perhaps a better way to take him out? Just a thought.

          Cwtch Mawr

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            • That’s Jill’s point,David. Go after the war criminals, not innocent victims -but war does not make such distinctions, in fact modern warfare is increasingly fought against civilians – particularly in parts of Africa, the Middle East – Yemen, Syria, Palestine…

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              • Thank you Sha’Tara. It seems that all those wars where a Western country has become involved and where you would expect some kind of care as to targets and weapons deployed have been disappointing as things have gone on pretty much as before. Some countries don’t care about the civilian death toll either from weapons or from starving/freezing as refugees.
                Hugs

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                • Rule of thumb on planet Earth: imperial or national leadership (lump in banking and corporate business) could care less about the conditions of ‘the people’. The more production becomes possible using high-end technology and artificial intelligence, the less people will matter.

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            • Okay … that works. Well, sort of, but the wife and children now have no home. Sigh. Sadly there are never simple solutions to these things, but I still stand by my view that the U.S. was guilty of nearly a quarter of a million murders. I fear the madman at the helm today might make a similar decision. Sigh.
              Cwtch

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        • I’d like to know the sources of that information. I never heard it and I’m 77 years old. I’m not saying it’s false but where is the proof. However, even though it saved allied lives those bombs were cruel and killed too many innocents. I read the book that came out about it and it was horrendous. I’m horrified countries still think those bombs are the solution to anything. If we used those we wouldn’t have to worry about global warming. There’d be nothing left to worry about. 🙂 — Suzanne

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  7. As they say Jill, history repeats itself. It’s always two steps forward, and three steps back for our country it seems. And now we have a man who really wants to take us back to a place I never thought we’d go again. So much for that naive thinking……

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    • So it would seem. We are beginning to remind me of a dyslexic child who sees things backward sometimes. Like you, I never thought we would return to such a level of hate in this nation … people I thought I knew, I thought were good people … how could I have been so blind? Sigh.

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      • I will be visiting family in the great state of Ohio in August. I will be biting my tongue on more than a few occasions I’m sure. There are only a few MAGA’s, so it won’t be too bad. Still, makes for uncomfortable get togethers. Oh well, I must be strong! Won’t be easy…..

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        • If I were you, I wouldn’t set foot in this state! I am ashamed to even live here, but my daughters job is here, and the only two choices we have within commuting distance, Indiana & Kentucky, are even worse! Perhaps by August your MAGA family members will have wakened? Hang in, my friend! You got this!

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          • Well, I sure don’t regret leaving 15 years ago. I’ve learned how to handle those MAGA’s. I just don’t talk politics with them. However, if they do bring it up and say something ridiculous, I will gladly explain how and why they are wrong…in measured tones of course. LOL

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          • I was born and raised in Ohio. That was before the MAGA’s but there was anti-Catholic feeling in the school where I went out in the county and some KKK activity. The Grand Wizard at one time was from Ohio. I remember our school nurse and her undertaker husband, a nice black couple, were buying a house near where I taught and it was firebombed. Catholics were resigned to those problems. My parents were second-generation Ohioans and I was third. My dad’s neighbor forgot who he was talking to one time and told me how the Pope would take over the U.S. It was funny to see his expression change when he remembered I was Catholic. —- Suzanne

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            • Indeed, racism and religious bigotry are alive and well here, although perhaps not quite as much as a few decades ago. There was a KKK rally planned for Memorial Day just up the road in Dayton, but only 9 people showed up! That’s still 9 too many, but better than hundreds. Love the story of your dad’s neighbor! I can only imagine his embarrassment!

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