There are concentration camps on the southern border between the US and Mexico, and around the country. *
When I really give myself space to be with the fact that this is true, I feel enraged, heartbroken, desperately sad and my mind quickly turns to feeling helpless. What could Ipossibly do to stop this horror? I live in Brooklyn, far from most of the camps and nothing that I can think of to do, calling my legislators, donating money, etc. feels like enough...
This combination of being overwhelmed by the pain and devastated by not being able to stop it has led me over the last few weeks to turn away, avoid the news, and shove down my emotional response. This response is not something that I’m proud of, but it is a very normal response that my human brain is having to something painful. It’s also a great way to avoid taking action.
Have you ever noticed your brain leading you to avoid taking action when looking at something that breaks your heart?
Something that I’m learning as I look at my own reaction is that I cannot act without first honoring the depth of my pain (rage, despair, confusion, all of it…). A week ago, I lost my temper and started a fight with my conservative dad about his support of Trump. I'm not proud of this, but I was overcome with anger because as I see it, to support the President is to support his inhumane policies, including the camps. Afterward, I sat outside sobbing and said to my aunt “My heart is broken. I feel like I can’t do anything to stop this from happening.” Her response surprised me. She said, “Let’s sit together and be heartbroken then. If your heart is broken, maybe you need to be here before you can do anything about it.” So we cried together. Eventually, the tears gave way to a remarkable conversation about the courageous and challenging journey of loving people who hold political perspectives that are in stark opposition to mine (there’s so much to say about this, but that’s for another newsletter).
Through being with the pain of it all (the reality of the camps, the fight with my dad, my own sense of helplessness) I came out on the other side with the valuable insights that:
1. I have a new skill to develop in how to stay present, clear-minded, and curious when I’m faced with circumstances of the world that I wish weren’t true (for myself, and so that I don't take it out on people in an unproductive way).
2. I’m no longer willing to let my overwhelm keep me from doing what I can do.
3. It’s important to grieve my pain for the world, and it makes all the difference to do so in community (my post-fight heartbreak was so much more bearable because of my aunt’s support).
So here’s what I’m doing: I’m working with the rest of the RSC team to create a solidarity fund in which we’ll donate 1% of our income as an organization to organizations supporting people on the frontlines of migrant justice in the US. I’m also inviting my family to have conversations with me about “the fight” so that we can truly hear each other’s viewpoints.
To tell you the truth, none of this feels “big enough,” but they are steps that I’m taking with an open heart and I’m trusting that these steps will show me how to continue to stay in action. I’m writing this vulnerable email to you, to invite you to be compassionate with your own pain, so that you can take steps toward the changes that you want to see in the world.
If you’re looking to take action to support migrant justice in the US, here are some ways to do so:
1. Contact your congress people and tell them to stop the ICE raids.
2. Donate to advocacy groups working on the frontlines.
3. ICE raids are happening everywhere and will continue to increase in the coming weeks. Get involved with migrant justice organizations in your community, know your rights, and learn what to do if you see an ICE raid happening.
You might be reading this and thinking “RSC, I thought climate change was your thing, what does all of this have to do with climate?”. We believe that immigration policy is a climate issue. The people who are incarcerated in the camps are fleeing many different conditions in pursuit of safety and there is a connection between climate change and the social conflict and economic conditions that lead people to flee their homes, especially in places close to the equator. The world is only going to have more refugees who have been displaced by heat, natural disaster, and drought driven conflict in the coming century and we hope to see climate activists continue to make the connection between migration and climate change.
* We know that using the term "concentration camps" is controversial. This Code Switch episode ultimately informed our decision to use the term, and we highly recommend giving it a listen.
This blog post was originally published as a part of the July 2019 RSC newsletter! If you want to get posts like this in your inbox, sign up here to get on our (low traffic) mailing list.