American Curios: Little Angels

“The little angel has died/ And I would like not to cry. …”

Jakelin Caal Maquin was 7 years old when she died, while she, her father and dozens of other migrants were in the custody of border protection authorities. We did not find out until last Thursday − because some journalists from The Washington Post asked − though she died almost a week before and no one said anything. Even now the exact causes are not known; the preliminary report said that she was dehydrated and had not eaten in days, something that is now disputed by her family. But the fact is that she died in the hands of the Donald Trump regime.

The authorities washed their hands of it and hurled the blame onto her family and onto all of the migrants. The secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, declared, “This is just a very sad example of the dangers of this journey. This family chose to cross illegally.”

Meanwhile, approximately 14,700 minors who migrated unaccompanied to this country continue to be detained in the web of more than 100 housing facilities administered by the United States government. Among them, at least 100 (and maybe double) remain from the thousands who were separated from their parents and caged for more than a year under Trump’s orders. “It is a child prison camp,” denounced Sen. Jeff Merkley this weekend when he tried to visit a provisional detention center in Tornillo, Texas.

At the end of November, close to Tijuana, children − some in diapers − were asphyxiated with tear gas that was thrown by U.S. border agents to the Mexican side.

On the other side of the world, in Yemen, it is estimated that more than 85 million children under 5 years old have died of starvation in the worst humanitarian disaster in the modern world, without counting the more than 1,200 children that have died from bombs made in the USA and bullets from a war headed by Saudi Arabia with the support of Washington.

At the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic, another minor, the Swedish Greta Thunberg, 15 years old, took the microphone before representatives of almost 200 countries at the world conference on climate change in Poland − including those from the United States, which has officially rejected the scientific consensus on climate change and promotes high production of fossil fuels − and declared, “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes,” by not doing what is necessary to stop climate change. “They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again,” she predicted. And she concluded that the world leaders gathered there only repeat “the same bad ideas that got us into this mess” and stated accusingly, “You are not mature enough to tell it like it is.”

Who is to blame, who is responsible for Jakelin, for tolerating seeing children in cages, for the unnamed children in Yemen, for the children that every day receive news that perhaps the end of the world is nearing because of the lack of response from adults to a documented ecological crisis?

A great Syrian musician, the clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, who works with Yo-Yo Ma on their project Silk Road, commented in the beautiful documentary “Music for Foreigners” that at times it seemed absurd to make music, since that could not stop the bullets and bombs that have destroyed his country, nor resolve the refugee crisis. Likewise, some journalists whose turn it is to report about all this, or write a column like this one, ask the same, “For what?” now that the words, the photographs and the analyses don’t save a little Guatemalan girl, her friends in cages instead of classrooms, those who dreamed of becoming doctors or poets dead from a bomb in Yemen or almost all of the children to whom we have announced that they will perhaps be witnesses to the end of the world.

But silence is not an option.

“Now that this little angel has left us/ Maybe how many more will leave? … Now that the little angel has died/ And I would like not to cry. …” (“El Angelito,” Oscar Chavez version).

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