Death on the Border

— Glenn Redus/The Shinbone Star

Like many Americans, I don’t know a lot about Guatemala. Of course there’s this fine cup of coffee I’m sipping, freshly ground beans from Guatemala that had less trouble crossing the border than some 7-year-old girl who had to die to get my attention.

Fact is, I don’t know a lot about Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica nor any other spot in Central America that most of us north of the Rio Grande couldn’t correctly label on a geography quiz.

I’m pretty sure Donald Trump and his disciples have labeled them all “shithole countries,” but beyond that, I don’t have much knowledge other than the apparent need for a big, beautiful wall to keep people like Jakelin Caal and her “irresponsible,” father out.

A couple of days ago on one of the Sunday morning news shows, I watched as White House Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller told his audience that Jakelin’s death while in the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol was tragic, but was really the fault of Democrats who balked at handing the president up to $25 billion to build a wall so high that she and her dad would have just given up hope for a better life.

Yes, it was hope that killed her; without it, she might still be alive, Miller opined.

Depressing, that.

Even before the satanic Miller took center stage with the administration spin, it was Republican operative Jason Chaffetz doing the honors. As one media outlet put it, Chaffetz was “celebrating” Jakelin’s death by saying he hoped it “sent a message” to other migrants:

“The sad reality is we have a 7-year-old girl who has died, and she should have never, ever made that journey. And that should be the message, ‘don’t make this journey, it will kill you,’ and that should be the message.”

Yes, Jason, by all means make that the message. If Jakelin’s death discourages other people from trying to cross the desert with their 7-year-old daughters in tow, how can that not be a good thing? It sorta makes me wonder, though, just how bad things must be at home for people like Jakelin’s dad to even make the attempt. But maybe that’s just me.

Playing the blame game is our new American pastime. And I’ll be first to admit that it often feels good even though it usually gets us nowhere.

Look, I don’t believe for a minute that the Border Patrol wanted that child to die. I’m equally sure doctors and nurses at the hospital where Jakelin was airlifted did everything they could to save her. Hell, in my softer moments, I even think a lot of Republicans not named Chaffetz, Miller or Trump were saddened to see her young life snuffed out.

If you take the time to think about it, it’s understandable that nobody wants to be left holding the zipper on Jakelin’s body bag. Putting the right spin on immigration is important for all of us, including Democrats like me who beat our chests in righteous indignation, but don’t really have any answers either.

But what is clear is that something fundamental has changed in this country: the wherewithal to even attempt to do the right thing. Instead of pitching in to help poor people, who, after all, hail from a place that shares our name — America — half of us elected a guy who would earmark billions for a boondoggle that’s meant to help us keep “ours” while denying “them” any chance at getting theirs. MAGA indeed!

And the other half of the country, folks like me who call ourselves liberals and take the moral high ground?

Sorry, Jakelin, we’ll get back to you on that. But first we’re gonna finish our coffee.

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6 thoughts on “Death on the Border

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