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And a little child shall lead them?

9 June 2014


Children evacuating Liverpool during WWII (

The United States government, and the people of the United States, seem to go into shock when they come face to face with the effects their foreign wars have on people. The photo at the left, from World War Two, could have come from any number of European countries, where parents when faced with the known horrors of war — had to decide whether or not to evacuate their children to unknown (and possibly just as dangerous) locations. But, in World War II, where the people were part of the war effort, and the war was against outsiders, sending the children to the countryside… or abroad… was often as not a state-sponsored enterprise, and was considered at most, a temporary measure. In Britain, where there were also state-sponsored evacuations, 130,000 children were sent abroad, by parents with the financial means to do so.

While NAFTA’s devastating effects on agriculture, combined with the violence afflicted on rural communities by the development of the privatized tourism and mining industries, it wasn’t unusual for entire Mexican communities to be hollowed out, as men and teenage boys had to trek north to find enough to survive. Seeing an adult male under 60 or over 14 in a Zacatecan village was something of a rarity 12 years ago. With the addition of the “War on Drugs” and the crack-down on temporary migrants, families were faced with the aweful choice of whether or not to send a child (or several children) abroad, in the hopes that perhaps they would have a better chance of survival, and perhaps they might be able to rejoin the family at some point. Might.

Now that the U.S. has expanded it’s war on drugs (while dithering about its own attitude towards them at home) to the Central American republics, and has pushed through another “free trade” agreement… while incidentally propping up a repressive regime in Honduras… one should have expected war refugees. While some of the more astute U.S. commentators have noted that these people are refugees from a war zone, they’re thinking on of the rhetorical “war on drugs” and not the real economic warfare being visited upon those nations.

While the Mexicans believed they had a chance to maintain family ties if they migrated to the United States (and some are able to do that, despite the much less forgiving border today), they weren’t forced to travel though another country (or two) already devasted by those “wars” like Mexico.

I was asked “why didn’t the Mexican ‘do something’ about the refugees … often minors… passing though the country? The Mexican media was full of stories about this situation, and Church, state and private groups have been doing what they can. Certainly, many look away, perhaps thinking “There but for the Grace of God…” . But that the U.S. didn’t see the logical next step is not Mexico fault, nor the fault of the refugees, nor their parents.

Parents would like to see their children happy and successful. Failing that, at least safe. And, failing that, at least alive. The U.S. created the situation in which a war was visited upon these people, with their governments either in collusion with the invader, or doing nothing to prevent the “collateral damage” of that war.

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