Let me be plain, the child-abuser-in-chief in the White House has fomented a deliberate, large-scale and malicious reign of terror, destroying thousands of families on the border. In my opinion, besides all his alleged crimes, he should be put away for life for this crime in particular.
And while the unmitigated evil of Trump’s actions can be seen to stand alone, what he has done nevertheless lengthens and deepens the shadow over millions of ruined families that has darkened this land from its very beginnings.
The two worst examples of family destruction are perhaps the least remembered by many unless they are African American or American Indian.
From the beginning of slavery in America in 1619 to 1865, when it was abolished by the 13th Amendment, millions of slave families were torn apart and subjected to the traumatized misery of never seeing one another again.
Also, from the beginning of the colonial settlements, American Indian families and whole communities were deliberately destroyed in a protracted campaign of extermination.
Besides these horrendous campaigns of terror on millions of African Americans and American Indians, horrific acts of cruel mistreatment were perpetrated on other groups as well.
In a paroxysm of racial bigotry, 1 million Mexican nationals were deported to Mexico during the Great Depression, 60 percent of whom were U.S. citizens. (“Separating children from their families is part of America’s legacy,” David Love, CNN, June 28, 2018.)
And suffering a similar spasm of racial hysteria during World War II, 120,000 Japanese Americans, half of whom were children, were torn from their homes and thrown into internment camps.
These were discrete episodes of domestic violence fueled by racial cruelty towards certain groups. But in the last few decades, the dark shadow of family separation has convulsed into an ominous perennial cloud that threatens millions of families in this country.
Judges and prosecutors throughout the land, with a casual flick of the pen and no thought for the horror they are wreaking, incarcerate hundreds of thousands of young people in detention centers (78,000, according to Wikipedia) and foster homes (400,000, “Family separation: It’s a problem for U.S. Citizens, Too,” Shaila Dewan, New York Tines, June 22, 2018).
It is the norm.
And it is also the norm that in the U.S., more than 1.1 million men and 120,000 women in U.S. jails and prisons lose those children (“American Families Shouldn’t Be Separated Either,” Tyler Cowan, Bloomberg News, June 18, 2018.
Nobody seems to question the enormity of these figures. The plague that has settled upon American families has become systemic, endemic.
This vicious system of destroying families goes unquestioned because we all know that children from violent homes need to be protected.
While this is clearly true, it is also true that much of the child capturing by child protective services, the courts, and the state, tends to be random, based on innocuous incidents, false charges, or flimsy evidence, and affects mainly poor people.
“Even a caretaker’s authorized use of medical marijuana can be grounds for removing children. Martin Guggenheim, a law professor at N.Y.U. … said many of the cases prove unfounded, and child protection agencies disproportionately go after poor black and Latino parents.” (“Family Separation: It’s a Problem for U.S. Citizens Too,” Shaila Dewan, New York Times, Jun 22, 2018).
Here are three examples:
1) On Dec. 31st, 2010, a member of our family was falsely accused by his estranged wife of molesting his 4-year-old daughter. Before we knew it, the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) in Los Angeles had swooped in and charged the father with molesting his daughter and removed her from his custody. From then on, for four years, he and his family were treated with utter contempt by DCFS, as though we were already prison inmates.
It was a totalitarian takeover of our family.
Many of the father’s friends abandoned him and he and the family were treated as outcasts by some members of the community.
After four years of dealing with capricious and unpredictable judges and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers’ fees, much of it half of our retirement, our son was exonerated by a therapist who proved the little girl had been coached.
Do you think DCFS has ever acknowledged this exoneration?
Do you think they have ever apologized for the wreckage they caused?
Not a chance. They are impervious to feeling any moral qualms about their cruel and imperious behavior.
Their absolute power has corrupted them absolutely.
2) About a year ago, a new friend arrived from New York City to live in Meiners Oaks near our home town of Ojai. When he heard about our four-year nightmare, he told me he had gone through a similar ordeal after his former wife had falsely accused him of molesting their daughter.
He, too, was exonerated by a therapist, but the mother was now in court fighting to deny him custody and he was trying to decide whether to spend more money on a seemingly endless quest for justice.
3) In Ventura, the mother of a teenage son lost her son through her mother’s manipulation of a corrupt court system, using taxpayer money. The mother writes,
“I continue to live in isolation from my teenage son, going on 18 months, because my mom used the person I love to justify it after she fooled me into thinking she was helping me and she planned instead to keep my son for the next four years without any input from me using taxpayer funded resources and a corrupt court to keep him and cut me out.”
The massive suffocating shadow of family destruction in this country is so huge and so immovable that I believe only the irresistible force of a widespread social upheaval that transforms foster care, the child protection services, and the courts, will allow the country to finally see the light of day, the light of justice and fair play.
Clive Leeman lives in Ojai and writes about human rights issues.