The privilege of normalcy

I can’t even think about how it must feel. I can understand, but no one who hasn’t been there can know how hellish it must be for parents to send their kids alone into and across Mexico in the hope that they can make it to the U.S. border. In the Honduran neighbourhood of La Pradera, where seven children were killed in April, one mother said: “The first thing that comes to mind is sending our kids to the U.S. The plan is to leave.” I can’t even imagine.

When I read about how desperate these parents were, I felt mostly grateful. I’m so happy to live where I do, where my family and I feel safe and where I don’t have to make hard choices like the parents in La Pradera do. I know that their decisions lead to policy debates, and that’s usually what I would have thought about when I read and thought about something in the news. But I can’t get past the emotional part for some reason.

Maybe it’s the hopelessness I’ve been feeling because really bad people have been killing young Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, and then there has been more violence in general. Maybe it’s the suicide bombings and other murders motivated by hate that happen all over the world, from Nigeria and Kenya to Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I do know that the violence caused by war around the world has gone down a lot in the last few years compared to the terrible violence of the 20th century and earlier centuries as well. Even though there have been horrible mass killings in this country, the overall crime and murder rates have dropped sharply since 1990. The numbers, or at least the way they are going, do show that things are getting better. But I don’t know why, this week I just couldn’t stand hearing about kids being hurt for no reason.

These stories reminded me of how I felt after September 11, 2001. I live in Manhattan, you see. Not only was my country attacked, but also my island. I felt lucky to be alive after that. I also wondered and feared that there would be more attacks. Would my house turn into a battleground? Thankfully (yes, I’m crossing my fingers as I write this), that hasn’t happened. But there was a time when I thought that was much more likely. Should I leave? Where am I going?

I was able to do it. It would have caused me a lot of trouble, been a logistical nightmare, cost me a lot of money, and really messed up the life I had built. I could have done it, though. In and of itself, that is something I’m thankful for. But (again, fingers crossed) it hasn’t turned out to be necessary. I’m happy living here and raising my family here, in the place I chose to live because it has so much to offer me.

I didn’t really understand how important it was to have that choice until 9/11. Even now, most of the time I don’t think much about having that choice. Having that kind of normalcy is an honour. It shouldn’t be, though. Every parent should be able to do it. But it is not in too many parts of the world. It’s not in La Pradera for sure. Not for the parents who said goodbye to their boys and girls because they thought it was less safe to keep them at home than to send them on a dangerous trip north.
When the kids from La Pradera and other parts of Central America got to the border, almost all of them were taken in by the federal government. Buses carrying them were met with ugly protests in the Southern California town of Murrieta. In one case, a protester spat in the face of a person who supported immigrants. It’s important to note that Murrieta also saw a lot of support, including a well-attended vigil for immigrants.


I wonder if any of the people protesting knew what the people on the buses were trying to get away from. I wonder. I know that there have to be limits and that we can’t just let everyone in who wants to come. Of course, almost no one in the debate about immigration says that we should. I also know that we need to follow the laws we already have. Most of the kids on those buses, if not all of them, will go back to where they came from. I’m not sure if the protesters got that. I do know that if they aren’t sent back to their homes, more children will come and more will die along the way if they aren’t sent back. They are also dying back home, of course. There is no simple answer to this.

In this world, there are many different kinds of privilege. The most basic one is that of safety and normalcy. I love my kids and would do anything to make sure they are safe. The parents of La Pradera do, too. So, they sent their children away. I can’t even imagine.

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