That Ain’t Trauma

I don’t want to slam The Atlantic magazine, but I’m about to.

The May issue of The Atlantic included a long article about how we will (supposedly) remember the pandemic.

People oohed and aahed.

But pardon me, The Atlantic, I’ve lived through and seen far worse traumas than not being able to go to restaurants or fly to see the grandkid in California.

I know: 3 million deaths are nothing to sneeze at. It’s been terrible.

But please: Most North Americans, including the author of that article and most everyone who works at or subscribes to The Atlantic, have homes to stay in. We hunkered down, ordered pizzas delivered and watched TV.

Trauma? As a former legal worker in U.S. immigration prisons, I could tell you about trauma. But trust me on this, you don’t want to hear it. Though you’re about to.

I’m not talking about the trauma that Nature deals all of us, but the trauma that humans willfully inflict upon one another.

A lovely young university student who was raped and tortured so badly she bled from her eyes.

A guy who showed an immigration judge razor scars all over his back, and the judge said he didn’t believe he had been tortured at all — though we presented a snapshot of him in cammies, carrying a machine gun, in front of a Guatemalan Army barracks.

A lovely young woman whose entire village had been burned down with our napalm — burning to crisps her parents and husband and children in Salvador — in immigration prison in Texas, with no chance of bonding out or gaining asylum, and when I asked if there was anything I could do for her besides apply for asylum and lose, she said, “Well, yes. I’d like a cookie.”

How about Coca-Cola workers in Guatemala going to work every morning by passing through a gate with their union leaders’ recently decapitated heads on spikes?

How about me in our prisons interviewing people, and going back to the office and saying, “Hey, Clare, I got another torture victim for you,” and she says, “Great.”

How about having 6,000 clients like this before even one of them was granted political asylum, under the Reagan regime.

How about mothers in immigration prisons having their babies taken away from them — in many cases, apparently, forever — under Trump.

How about trying to find common cause with neighbors who call you a communist for trying to help these people? Today.

Anyone who gives a damn knows these stories.

But very few people in our country give enough of a damn to try to do anything about it. Oh, excuse me. Here, unless I misread the newspapers, is our country’s most common response: It’s to bitch about these real human beings whose problems our country helped to create, and has fostered, for more than a century.

We all have to deal with Nature. But it’s another degree of trauma that man inflicts upon man — or, mainly, women.

I am tired of hearing Americans — even well-intentioned ones, who read and write for The Atlantic — wail about how hard it is to stay home and order Chinese food while they watch TV: forced to “quarantine at home” with the spouse they promised to love forever.

That ain’t trauma. That’s a year off at home, on reduced pay.

I know … Pardon me for survivor’s guilt …

Final comment: The Atlantic story ended happily.

Pardon me again.

%d bloggers like this: