A friend from high school – not a close friend, but someone I knew – just posted a beautiful eulogy for her father who died after a long life that began in the state of Georgia, threaded through years in the Navy, and settled for decades in Brooklyn, New York. He was not wealthy, but close enough – a highly-paid professional, a museum-goer, a kind spirit, a loving father. A man with a political conscience, leaning left.
In remembering him his children have sketched out a life of decency and thoughtful awareness of others. He passed just a month after his wife, earlier, had gone. His two children were especially thankful, they said, for having had the privilege of dropping everything, traveling to the old home and spending ten days, final days, dedicated to close companionship as he reached the end. The word privilege leaps out and is fully accurate. This reflective, cultured American family knows that they are lucky to have their blue passports, lucky to have been on the richer sides of most of the divides of privilege in this country, at this time. As they mourn, they keep that awareness and I don’t know whether it crowds out or complicates even a bit of their feelings about their father’s life but I suspect it does.
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What to do with this consciousness of unfairness, of privilege, of the cruelty of one’s nation? Their father marched, donated, spoke up. They do the same. These are good answers, though certainly never enough. What to do? March. Give. Witness. Yes.
What more? Especially when we ourselves suffer – when our fathers and mothers after long and well-lived lives, pass; when a plague rages and takes our neighbors, our friends not far from us, too soon; as we worry about paying the rent and ask, perhaps, for help – what, when we are on the other side of things, should we be feeling and doing about those families at the border, in the camps, pushing their small children to make the march, alone, across the border-bridge walkway to armed agents on the other side that they might live, though terrified, in a safer place?
Meanwhile, the volunteers of Team Brownsville keep working, some now resident in Matamoros to support the migrants stuck there waiting for hearing dates in the US. Well more than a thousand migrants today live on the hard concrete at the Mexican side of the border, most with small children. Some volunteers still cross the border when and as they can, but many fewer than in pre-pandemic days. They still offer food, counsel, companionship, and education to these families. For Mother’s Day, they set out to find 1,000 cupcakes for mothers and children. And they found them.