This is a story for everyone -- but especially US youth -- who may not know that even as I type this post, immigrants seeking refuge in the United States of America are right now having their children ripped out of their arms as they attempt to cross the border from Mexico. Many are asylum seekers, meaning they are fleeing violence and persecution back home. They come to the US with the hope of finding a better life, pursuing the promise of Lady Liberty: safety and security, particularly for their children, in the land of immigrants. Yet on arrival, after risking life and limb to reach a safe haven, their children are snatched from them by authorities acting on behalf of the current US president and his attorney general.
To date, as many as 1,358 children have been forcibly taken from their families at the US-Mexico border, according to New York Magazine (June 11, 2018). It was reported yesterday that one infant was wrenched out of its mother's arms as it suckled her breast.
This is not the first time in history that a government with terribly misguided intentions has tried to enforce its policies by breaking up families. And, sadly, it isn't the first time this has happened in the United States: for over 100 years beginning in the 1860s, Native American children were taken from their families and adopted into white families or brought up in boarding schools with the express purpose of robbing them of the language and culture of their birthright. It's also not the first time that parents have stood up to such abuse against humanity and fought back, even at the risk of torture or death.
Meet Azucena Villaflor. Hers is a short story. But an important one.
Azucena was born in Argentina in 1924. She died in Argentina in 1977: she was killed by the military regime of Jorge Rafael Videla for protesting against human-rights abuses.
She couldn't have lived a more normal life -- for most of it. She went to work as a secretary at the age of 16. She met and married a co-worker and together they had four children. One of the children was a son named Nestor.
At the time, Argentina was ruled by Videla and a group, or junta, of generals. They were corrupt. Very. We now know just how deep their corruption ran and that as it grew and escalated, so did the vicious and pitiless actions they took against those who attempted to call them out.
Among other things, their brutality led to the popularization of a new word: to "disappear" someone -- as in to make someone disappear. Today it is thought that up to 30,000 people were disappeared by the Argentine military junta between 1976 and 1983.
In 1976, Nestor was disappeared, along with his girlfriend. During her months of fruitless inquiries among uncaring, know-nothing bureaucrats, Azucena met other mothers whose children met similar fates.
With no answers, she raised the volume on her questions. On April 30, 1977, she and 13 other mothers went to the central plaza -- Plaza de Mayo -- of Argentina's capital city, Buenos Aires. Quietly, they began to march. They marched around the plaza -- located in front of the presidential palace, the Casa Rosada -- because the police ordered them to "circulate."
And they kept marching -- every week, on Thursdays from 3 p.m -- for months. They marched to demand information on the whereabouts of their children. They marched in public defiance of state terrorism and vicious human rights atrocities. They marched to protest the government's attempts to silence all voices of opposition. They marched to grieve their losses, together. They were fearless in the face of fear, knowing full well that they, too, may be forced to pay for their actions with their lives.
On December 10, 1977, the group -- known as the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo -- published a newspaper advertisement containing the names of their "disappeared" children. That very night, The founder of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Azucena Villaflor, was kidnapped from her home and spirited away. She was never seen or heard from amongst the living again.
The marches of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo continued; the Mothers refused to be quieted. And even though the military government finally fell, in 1983, the marches -- now promoting human rights -- continue to this day.
Azucena's remains were found and identified in 2003. She had been tortured before being murdered. Her ashes were buried at the Plaza de Mayo in 2005. To the people of Argentina, the era known as the Dirty War represents families broken, lives taken, and human rights abuses perpetrated by a government whose leaders lost sight of their own moral compass as they allowed their power to run amok.
History has proven time and again that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. We call out the inhumanity and immorality of Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and their cronies as we honor Azucena Villaflor for her bravery in the face of a certain terrible fate.
Shame on you team trump.
Stop the separation of families children today!
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