Tag Archives: change

We Kill the Children

(the following was written a few months back, but as the US still fails at adequate, humane treatment of asylum seeking families at our southern border, I find it to still be relative)

We Kill the Children

by Joel Howard


Her name was Marilyn DeMont.

Her father was called August. Their time of notoriety, of infamy, was 1945, specifically July 23. It was on that day that Marilyns died. Her death immediately preceded her father’s, both occurring in the roiling waters of San Francisco Bay. The Golden Gate Bridge has forever served as a towering character in their story, as it was from that fabled structure that they leapt to their deaths.

Marilyn was two weeks shy of her sixth birthday. Many accounts at the time were lurid with sensationalism, yet every voice echoed both sadness and outrage.

Today, many are justifiably outraged when learning of children at our southern border being wrested from their parents’ arms, the wailing – ours and theirs – a reaction to the inhumanity perpetrated by the uniform-clad servants of our government. These current atrocities are in too many ways like Marilyn’s story, it being adults who inflict inhumanity upon a child as border patrol officers and their overlords bring terror and even death to children in their charge.

For little Marilyn, she may have felt as if she was stepping onto a cloud, or perhaps falling into the tranquility of a backyard pool. It’s a struggle to understand why she took that step from the bridge, her foot landing upon nothing but air and death. One can assume that she found a day with daddy to be an adventure, likely as unexpected as it was thrilling. Here is the man who guided her life, and in whose trusted bond did the five-year-old depend for her safety and serenity.  

Her father gave no indication of his intentions. While he had been under a doctor’s care, he seemed none the worse for the bump on his head, an injury he’d suffered on a work site. As the foreman of an elevator repair crew, and by all accounts a man of good humor, one can imagine that he may have joked that his days had their ‘ups and downs’. All seemed okay to those who knew him. Yet on that ominous day during the heady days of victory after the second world war, set high upon the Golden Gate Bridge, August committed his heinous deed.

Whether August was of sound mind can forever be debated. Such cannot be said of the men and women who perpetrate today’s cruelties upon those seeking asylum from our great and compassionate country. The issue, rather, seems to be one of indifference, a cessation of morality that has its roots in jingoistic nationalism and this country’s lingering racism. The Trump administration uses fear of “other” to bring out the very worst in us.

On that July day in 1945, when father and daughter succumbed to the relentless currents of the Pacific Ocean, the event was called out for its unfathomable brutality. As the police investigated, they found parked nearby an abandoned car. Inside lay a note, part of which read simply ‘I and my daughter have committed suicide”. Those final words, as perfunctory as they were chilling, serve as their final farewell.

As father and daughter stood on the bridge’s edge, witnesses claim there was no command, nothing spoken, from the father. The girl simply walked a few paces ahead, turned toward the railing, and made that final, hollow step. His authority as a father appeared to rule Marilyn to the end.

The story was not yet over, as we further learn from witnesses that August, having seen that his daughter was falling to the cold waters below, then took his farewell by also stepping casually from the ledge beneath him. It was, it seems, the simplest act, as if he was fulfilling a directive from some unseen commander. His action was said to be one of nonchalance, like tipping his hat to a passing friend.

Today, it is excruciatingly painful to think of young children not knowing if they will ever return to their parents’ warm embrace. Unlike father and daughter of so long ago, there is no doubt as to asylum-seeking kids’ unwillingness to participate in their own suffering. It can be seen in the deep wells of pain evident in their eyes. For those youngsters seeking asylum, their steps are orchestrated by the adults in their worlds, first as they flee with their families the violence of their native homes, and then again as they’re pushed into cages by our abusive government and its vindictive supporters. As a society, we today bear witness to our own freefall into our lesser – absolutely worst – selves.

The border children likely see the darkness of the waters below, and are justifiably scared. For our part, we should all be not just ashamed, but also outraged, as we allow our elected officials to continue pushing children into the abyss.



On Colin’s Knee


I’m always perplexed when we as a country are faced with a situation such as the Colin Kaepernick tumult. We seem to split into two distinct camps, one which applauds the man or woman (or group) involved as heroic, and another that decries the situation as a moral failing, often holding up what they deem as a ‘real’ hero in a sort of a ‘take that’ rebuttal.

There’s more than one way to be a hero. We are better as a world for having an abundance of heroes, some deemed small in stature while others tower over us as guiding lights illuminating the path to our better selves. Every one of them brings us to a more perfect place.

My question: can’t we have more than one kind of hero? More than one shining light at the same time? I sure as hell hope so, because we seem to be in a place that needs all the heroes we can get. We can hold up a man such as Kaepernick without in any measure diluting the greatness of another hero, be they a Marine who gave his life in service, or a child who manned a lemonade stand only to donate the proceeds to feed the less fortunate.

My take on this is simple: the truth is often ugly, and in such ugliness many people do not want to be forced to look at their own prejudices. When we honor Kaepernick, we are also admitting that our systems (be they legal or otherwise) are broken. There is in us  –  at least in white people  –  a persistent fight against the awful truth of our systemic racism. Shooting a teen in the back as he turns to run is unacceptable. That anyone having read the previous sentence intuitively and automatically assumes the word ‘teen’ found there means a black youth? Well, that is unforgiveable.

We can do better. We must do better.

When a racist serves as leader of any group, then racism is given a sick legitimacy. In such a situation, some people interpret such legitimacy to mean that their own racism has an acceptable place in the public sphere. From society’s dais, they see themselves and their beliefs given a broad stamp of approval, and they go about sowing the seeds of bigotry with a pent-up fervor that in quantum leaps undoes the previously hard-won gains in relation to fairness and equality.

That when we hear of a youth having been killed when brandishing a cell phone, or that an unarmed man in his own home was shot by a law officer who’d mistakenly entered the wrong apartment, and our mind goes immediately to the word ‘black’, then we are failing in our ideals as a country.

A Marine who throws himself in harm’s way and likely saves the lives of six of his comrades, yes, he undoubtedly is a hero. We rightfully and respectfully pay homage. But cannot Colin Kaepernick, in peacefully championing our need to change police policies and societal norms, be a hero in that he is saving an untold amount of lives that would otherwise be lost to unnecessary violence? Is that not worth his peaceful protest? Isn’t Nike’s corporate involvement in shining a focused light on the subject a good thing?

They’re telling us we can do better. I say we must do better.

To honor Kaepernick for putting his career on the line is not done to dishonor any single person. And let’s be clear, in today’s climate of overt racism, the man has also put his life in some jeopardy. More than a few folks view the saga of ‘taking a knee’ as treasonous, so the idea of someone attempting to physically harm Kaepernick is not outside any realm of possibility.

I’ll honor heroes in any shape or form they appear. Heroes help to guide us to a better place, providing benchmarks that both enlighten and give hope. I’ll not apologize for supporting those who choose to kneel at football games, just as I’ll not apologize for calling out racism and its purveyors wherever they appear. I’m looking at you, Mr. President, and the many enablers of your party.