Last week, after an early morning call with international colleagues, I had a moment to chat with my friend Susan from PAN Germany. She asked what in the world is going on in the U.S. these days.
It was hard to know where to begin. The constant firehose of chaos and crisis that is now our national politics is so exhausting — and the root causes so complex and deep — that describing “what’s going on” is no simple thing.
But one thing is very clear: we have work to do.
Beyond the pale
Separating young children from their parents at the border is beyond the pale of human decency. Yet until last week, when public and political outrage finally boiled over, this was official U.S. government policy. More than 2,000 children — including infants — had been taken from their parents, apparently with no plan in place to reunite them.
The impacts of the Trump Adminstration’s border policy on these migrant families are truly horrifying. According to UN officials, it also represents a “serious violation of the rights of the child” that “runs counter to human rights standards and principles.”
So this is some of what’s going on in the U.S. these days.
Of course, injustices at the border are nothing new to those who’ve been fighting for immigrant rights for decades; U.S. immigration policies have been ugly and broken for a very long time. And I’m certainly not joining the “this is not who we are” chorus — this country has a long history of outrageous human rights abuses. Clearly, we have work to do.
Standing up for justice
While public pressure resulted in an about-face from the White House on separating children from their parents at the border, the policy of indefinite family detention remains in place. This Saturday, PAN staff will join thousands across the country in denouncing the current administration’s pattern of human rights abuses, detentions, deportations and separation of families.
As I told Susan in that conversation last week, this is part of “what’s going on” these days too. People are taking action, standing up for each other, becoming more deeply (or for the first time) politically engaged — even running for office and winning elections.
She was happy to hear it. As she sees us facing escalating attacks on civil and human rights — and the free press — from our government officials, she notes that the time for what Germans call “ziviler ungehorsam” (civil disobedience) is now.
… and justice for all
Back on November 10, 2016, I wrote that I was “shaken to the core by what this presidential election means for our country’s moral center,” and urged our PAN community to “stand up for social justice and work together to protect our progress — and each other.”
Some readers responded by urging us to “stay in our lane,” and focus on blocking the health and environmental harms of pesticides. We will never abandon this work, which is core to our mission. At the same time, we know that successfully ending reliance on hazardous pesticides can only happen by creating healthy, just food and farming systems. And this means for all of us.
Clearly, we have work to do. And like the thousands across the country who are showing up for human decency and social justice, we’re on it.