I spent a lot of mental energy yesterday thinking about what is happening right now on our Mexican border. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I couldn’t figure out how to process it or articulate my feelings about it. Anxiety, helplessness, outrage, sadness all culminating in a paltry donation to an immigrant rights organization — A small band aid I tried to place on a gaping hole in my chest.
Then I decided to meditate. Maybe give my brain some relief from the flood of emotions. That didn’t really help. My meditation turned first into a prayer for all the children suffering. Then, as I pictured my own 2-year-old daughter standing in a strange place, around strange people, thumb in mouth, crying for me, it slowly morphed into more outrage, helplessness and hopelessness. Back where I started.
Then, and this is totally true and may give you an embarrassing insight into my personality, I decided to take a break, lie down on the couch and turn on the Harry Potter series. (Full disclosure: I’m also 36 weeks pregnant so I do a lot of lying around these days.) That’s right, though, Harry Potter. My annual (or sometimes even bi-annual) escapist kryptonite. Whenever I need to shut my mind off, that magical world where plucky wizards and witches battle with evil usually does the trick. Only this time, the kids using magic to defend themselves made me think of the real kids that sit completely defenseless just south of my home. Outrage again. And then, suddenly, the concept of evil manifested itself to me.
Evil is not something I typically blame when it comes to bad things happening in the world. Generally, I don’t believe evil exists. I find it’s too simplistic. Ultimately, too religious to be applicable to most situations. Even awful situations. I tend to cite desperation, mental illness, drugs, poverty, lack of education, lack of resources, too many guns, greed, etc. before I will just flat out attribute something to evil.
This is different.
I’m betting that anyone who lived through the holocaust or was interned in a Japanese camp or was sequestered to live on a designated reservation. I’m betting they could talk about evil. I didn’t live through any of that. Almost 37-years-old, I haven’t really experienced much by way of blatant human rights violations. At least, not in this country. Not during my lifetime.
It’s the dehumanization that really bothers me. That’s what feels evil. To take away a person’s humanity. To assign them a category like “illegal alien” or “criminal immigrant” in order to justify treating them inhumanely…That seems, quite simply, evil to me. None of my other rationales can explain this. Not this. None of the arguments given absolve this. Not this. Not when I can painfully imagine my own daughter’s terror if she was alone and afraid in a detention center. I suppose though, that if instead of a funny, smart, two-year-old, all you saw was an “illegal alien,” you wouldn’t ever consider her feelings at all. That’s evil.
I understand now. Evil is not a human act. It is an inhuman act. When we leave humanity behind, deny humanity, willfully ignore humanity. When we rationalize it away. When we excuse an act that violates the very essence of person. That’s evil. It’s not the violating, it’s the excusing. In other words, any attempt to condone the dehumanization of a child is evil. I don’t say this lightly. I am deeply saddened to say it, and to see it happening.
There’s so much more I could write about this. So much more that I feel about it. Feelings that I didn’t know I could have, truth be told. The dictionary defines evil as “profoundly immoral and malevolent.” At this time, that is the only way I can comprehend what is happening. The only way I can articulate it. It is an evil thing to deny a child the right to be with their parents. It is an evil thing to round up and detain innocent children. Taking away their humanity, rationalizing it, minimizing it, excusing it– that doesn’t change the fact that it can only be described with one word. Evil.