As I am preparing for a rally in Madison, Wisconsin, on June 30th 2018, to protest the Immigration policies of the US government and the separation of children from their families, I am thinking about privilege. The privilege to move from one county to another, and in my case, choosing the passport that is most convenient for me. Do I want to be seen as a United States citizen? Up we go with the US passport. Can I avoid entry fees with my Dutch passport? There you have it. There is no visa I cannot apply for, there is no country I am banned or deported from. I do not have to think about dangers to flee from, or barriers to move. I just go. And if necessary my family goes with me. That is not an issue I even think about. I am privileged.
But here we are in 2018 and all around the world people flee their countries, their homes, their cultures not because they want to leave, not because they want to take “our” jobs, houses, lives, not because they want to “abuse the system,” be illegal, get rich (ever seen one of the immigrant families you met make it big time rich?). They leave because they want to have a decent life for themselves and their families, out of danger, with decent jobs, health care if possible, a roof over their head, and food to eat.
When I hear a mother at a rally with three young children telling us in a broken voice that her husband has been jailed two weeks ago because he came as child of 13 but was denied residency since and now faces deportation more than 20 years later, I am ashamed. I cannot believe that this is possible or reasonable in any way, shape, or form. So what can I do?
We have little power but together we are strong. We have to let our voices be heard. And we have to use what we are good at.
As members of ASSITEJ, the thing we are good at is the arts. We make theatre for children and youth, also for those who are at the bottom—the most neglected, the littlest, the least powerful, the ones that are separated from those they trust and love. How can we make sure our art is reaching them and give them something that engages their emotions, that gives them an aesthetic experience, that, if even for a moment, distracts them from the pain they face?
I have not found the answer on how to do this. But I hope to find it and invite you all around the world to join me in that quest.
Rally at the Capitol in Madison Wisconsin June 30, 2018.