In an article by Hannah Dreir in this morning’s New York Times answered a question that’s been on my mind for a while. Namely, what has been happening to all the refugee children whom Trump tore away from their parents or who crossed the border alone in some other manner? I’ve read about their being “relocated” or “placed” in some manner. But located from where to whence and placed with whom and for how long and under what conditions? Answers seem vague.
Those answers, it seems, are more horrendous than I imagined. Think Oliver Twist. Think David Copperfield. Think workhouse. Think starvation. Think exploitation of the worst kind. Think Fagin on steroids and multiplied by the thousands, and you begin to get the picture.
Merciful volunteers agree to shelter, clothe and house the waifs, arrange for them to enroll in school, serve as parents/guardians to, let us say, Jose and Ah Lam. For a nominal fee, of course. You wouldn’t expect them to bear all that expense and trouble for nothing, would you? After all, they have responsibilities of their own. And we have an already-existing foster care system to model on. Job done.
Fast forward to a year. There’s a good chance Jose and Ah Lam are indeed enrolled in school. There’s also a good chance they seldom attend. Or, if they do, they are too exhausted to learn. Why? because they’ve been loading food, shingling roofs, cleaning houses, packing hot dogs for 8-12 hours. And often being billed for the privilege. After all, someone had to pay to transport them all the way here from wherever. And they aren’t being asked to do all this work for nothing. That would be slavery. Now they have an income so can legitimately be asked to contribute to their own support to repay the benevolent sponsors. Suppose, at the age of 12, you already “owe your soul to the company store?”
There are, of course, child labor laws in this country to guard against these conditions. Our department of Health and Human Services will surely make sure the laws are applied. But regulations on paper are right there–on paper. If there are few or no inspections, inspectors, or penalties, the world rolls on. So beneficent are the so-called caretakers, that we often assign multiple children/victims/employees/students to their responsibility. According to Dreir, about two-thirds of these migrant children end up working full time, often to support folks back home.
These kinds of conditions we thought we’d taken care of over a century ago. As it turns out, if we set Charley D. down in 2023, he might find things pretty similar in many respects to his good old 1870’s. Wish it weren’t so, but shake my hand, Charles. Let’s sit down at our keyboards and get to work.
The first family reunion since the last family reunion is now actually in full production here in all-inclusive color and sound. Last reunion was in October–an annual affair featuring a hayride in the vicinity of Sally and Bill’s farm in Floyd Knobbs Indiana. This one–fast forward to January–is in honor of Sally’s 70th birthday.
Probably most of you have had at least one experience at an all-inclusive resort. You pay big money up front, then everything else you eat, drink, and get merry over is “free.” That’s what we’re doing here at the Hyatt Ziva. We had a pretty decent flight down–4.5 hours non-stop. A bit of drama at the beginning with some health issues that were taken care of with a minimum of fuss and bother.
SATURDAY–On arrival, sat down immediately to one of those “free” dinners. Quite delicious, actually. Decent wine, even though certain of our party disagreed, thought we should be imbibing the $60.00/bottle variety instead of the (thumbs down) house edition.
SUNAY–This morning we were able to catalogue the items left behind. Nothing fatal, except maybe the sunglasses. I purchased a pedestrian pair for an exorbitant price because I didn’t feel like bartering. But I got them. Highlight of the day so far was the dolphin show. Our room looks out on the dolphin pool, and quite a number of the party–various ages–got to swim with the mammals, who were rewarded with fish.
Debits so far–incessant bass beat and yelling uncomprehendables over a SHUT UP, ASSHOLE, p.a. system. Had a pretty good walk. Only a little lost. One needs that. That was Saturday.
TODAY Sunday (yesterday, I keep reminding myself. Things tend to slurry together.) was rather different. Slept late–for us, being 8:45. Mixing and mingling and reacquainting. Getting some acquaintance with newest whom we’d not had a chance to interact with much in October.
MONDAY–This is the day of the signature event of the event–the “surprise” banquet at day’s end. Lots of conversation and organization around all that. Myself, I started this blog. Sally’s birthday blog by me, which has more than a tinge of sadness around it because of circumstances surrounding my own sister Sally who shares a birthdate with Susanne’s younger sister (also Sally) on January 24. Sally (my younger sister, now called Samantha) also has a January 24 birthday.
But but let the sad thoughts pass and let the good times roll. We eat drink and be merry, all (how many? 17?) of us. We went to bed relatively early and happy and what was that dark rim around the moon? Did you see it? Not I
Son-in-law Randy loves to seek out new projects and explore new frontiers. One of his current enterprises is scuba diving. I have a bit of resentment stored up about this. Not because of him, but because of me. I had the notion that in my retirement I would take up diving. My first crack at that came shortly after I joined the ranks of the unemployable and, coincidentally enough, ended up here in Cancun for my first try at it. I went to a booth for beginner lessons. Warning sign. “No asthmatics.” Certain female family members of the group thought that should apply to me. I didn’t agree, so I did the deceptive thing–appeared to agree, then sneaked behind their backs to start my Jacques Costeau career. We began–logically enough–in a swimming pool. I donned my rented gear, followed all instructions, and couldn’t breath. Kind of a basic requirement flunked right there. So, now, while Randy is out there doing deep dives and night dives and god knows what else I’m stuck with the occasional snorkel.
In the meantime, we thought we’d go to the French restaurant which is one of the eat drink and be merry choices. However, there is a dress code that appeared to contain directions that leave us out. Me out. Long dress pants, no tennis shoes, a couple of other things. on the way to another restaurant, we presented ourselves at the French restaurant (La Bastille) to see if we could negotiate something. Turned out what we thought would disqualify us would be fine, so we’re going to give it a shot. Doesn’t work? Hey, they’re not the only game in town.
[In the end, we got distracted by happy hour and never even tried the French restaurant. Ended up at a sort of Benihaha place instead. Entertaining and palatable if not exactly gourmet.]
HERE IS A SUMMARY PARAGRAPH ON SUNDAY THE 15TH BECAUSE I DIDN’T KEEP MY ONCE-A-DAY COMMITMENT.
After the Japanese restaurant experience/event–guess you can’t just go to an activity any more. It has to be an experience or an event–we returned to find a coupon for a massage. We’d wanted one, but the price was so outrageous we decided to pass. Now we changed our minds and booked for the next day.
BTW, found the coupons while opening the patio doors on returning to our rooms. We always had to open the doors to warm up the room. The A/C was so cold everywhere inside that only the outside air would heat things up.
Very fine massage. Gentle touches (I usually like things a bit more vigorous) and hot towels.
All that was left was a nice non-stop home. Hotel-to-airport transportation was flawless. We got escorted through every bureaucratic step right up to security, which went swimmingly. Flight on time and a bit bumpy, but nothing serious.
Then came the SFO adventure. The taxi driver suggested we take a route over san mateo bridge instead of bay bridge. We don’t go that way and rejected the offer. Two hours later the 40 minute drive from SFO to home had taken more than twice its usual. To add to the horrors, one of our people discovered a cup of pee–yes, pee–in the back seat, which spilled on herself and belongings. We assume the driver had long waits for fares and needed relief. Pretty disgusting.
Another nice–not exactly a surprise–complication was that the deluge of decades had been continuing while we were gone. Basement flooded. But that’s another tale. Thus ends the Cancun Boogie. Bet you can’t wait for more.
Well, not fading exactly, but not thriving either. Deep dark secrets here. I’m wasting time here, and at 81 years of age I don’t have time to waste, and yet, I am not meeting goals. I want to finish this damned novel, Nita, the third in the Bonita series. The world needs me to finish it, else they will never know what happened to my beloved Bonita’s daughter. And they do need to know. Action cures fear and procrastination.
So, Lord, or whoever, is in charge, At least I got me post for the day done. That’s one goal met, anyhow.
Help me to get at least three single-spaced pages typed today.
Will let you [meaning me, myself, and I] know how I do.
Okay, let’s start with this. Appropriate because I’ve been trying to bring it off for 6 months or so. It’s a homage to Aaron Davidman and his words at the Peter Foley tribute/celebration of life gathering in June. Aaron gave one of his wonderful end-of life tributes at the event (“Don’t know if it’s a welcome distinction to be noted for eulogies,” he said at one point.) He had some nice things to say about me, and our relationship over the years. It took me a long time to come up with what’s below, but I think it’s the best I’m going to be able to do, so here goes:
Words are a struggle
they pour forth
take us soaring beyond ourselves
for always they are more
than what is seen
in the mind
or even the heart
they fly away
in the soul
of whoever hears speaks reads them
and live on
Peter Foley and wife Kate Chisolm. Kate is spearheading the effort to raise funds for the “Peter Foley” project, dedicated to preserving and promoting Peter’s music. The web page s only a click away:
that David played to please the Lord”–Leonard Cohen
If there was indeed such a chord, Geraldine Brooks has gone a long way toward discovering. The breadth and depth of Brooks’ literary explorations is stunning. I have written reviews of three other of her books and am working my way through a fourth. She’s carried me from ante-bellum horse racing to the Civil War and now to Deep BCE biblical history.
David has for a long time been one of my favorite historical characters because he is such a hodge-podge of contradictions. A pious and holy man, a musician, a warrior, a hypocrite, a savage betrayer of all that is sacred, a revered ancestor of one of the most revered prophets in the history of religion. He sent to death the husband of one of his rape victims. He danced naked into Jerusalem like a shameless heathen. He is one of the mightiest of generals. And yet, he composed some of the most beautiful poetry in the history of language. Doubtless if we had access to the actual music of those hymns, the melodies would have been just as wondrous.
It is said that God often chooses the weakest among us to do his greatest work. Thus Moses needed Aaron. Martin Luther King was a plagiarizer and a womanizer. LBJ, racist and political brute brought about our greatest USA civil rights actions. Not that these are quite of David’s stature or breadth of talent. But you get the point.
In many ways, Brooks has written a biography of a towering historical figure. It is told through the eyes of the prophet Nathan, who according to legend was the only one who dared tell David the truth, who labeled him to his face a murderer in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah, among other things. Still he couldn’t keep his master on the straight and narrow. Yet brooks has composed also a portrait of a profoundly ugly human being, one capable of brutalizing and betraying family and friends for the sake of his own power. She has also dropped us into a historical period cram full of unimaginable misogyny and viciousness. The Old Testament is replete with cruelty, but in Brooks biblical world, even Nazi cruelty would have a hard time competing.
Nevertheless, in Brooks’ hands with we have the spectacle of sacred and profane existing not only side by side, but integrated into a whole human capable of a full range of every possible human greatness and depravity.
Look out for your soul. As Nathan is warning, someone is coming to get it.