Letters to the Newsday editorial team on Saturday, December 12, 2020
THE EDITOR: They say a “picture is worth a thousand words” and there have been two of them in the media lately. The first is a montage of lonely faces looking for a place of refuge, evicted by politicians with no conscience, only to be back on the path from where they were pushed back.
They are certainly illegal, which makes their presence a legal issue, but the law isn’t always about true justice unless administered in the spirit, which also makes their treatment philosophical.
While watching her from time to time, I tried not only to look at her from a distance with compassionate eyes, but also to penetrate into their thoughts, into their sad looking faces of hopelessness, a young mother trying to put her baby to sleep To coo, she whispers nothing about a place she can call home that may never come, and the prison bars at her back are reminiscent of the folly of such.
And the children – in these times it always seems the children:
The little one who was unable to sleep in a barely conducive environment, her eyes instead bubbling and sparkling contradictingly, unaware of her mother’s pain for her.
The little boys, barefoot, criminalized before their time, with longing eyes looking every passerby for a warm word strange in such an environment, incapable of being boys, playing a game, chatting, playing pranks, dreaming of home on the muddy football field.
And the little girl riding the new bus holding her thumbs up to curious onlookers, under the illusion that this could be a step forward without knowing that this is another ride to hell she came from were cooped up in an open boat for days in the middle of the night, surrounded by the roaring sea, the horror of which only an experienced seafarer could understand.
And then the second picture in a December 3rd newspaper that touches your heart sends a message no less painful, with a sunken face of a mother and a look of utter despair staring into nothing like the previous mother and her little girl did – again, always the kids on the receiving end – she touched her face gently as if to say, “Mom don’t cry”, she was forgetting her mother’s pain of being on the street without like the little girl upstairs.
Not even a Michelangelo, to refer to Nat Cole’s famous song Portrait of My Love, or a Goya or a Picasso could have captured the authenticity of a mixture of a mother’s pain and a daughter’s compassion. She, too, was driven out of her homeland again, again lawfully according to the letter of the law, as with the immigrants. But is it always as easy to apply the letter of the law as it was in the first instance?
The latter is certainly intended for the common good, but can the creators of the law or those who apply the law find a way to reconcile its application with the idea of human justice and the worth of every individual? It is a huge philosophical question that goes beyond the letter of the law and points to a greater humanity within us than is presently present.
DR. ERROL N BENJAMIN