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Vourvoulias writes: "This is a story about bodies. A body of water. A river running through mountain, bosque, desert and city; along two pueblos, between two states and separating two countries."

'You cannot step into the same river twice, but you can step into the same story again and again and again. A story of desperate need and desperate hope that drives people to risk everything in uncertain and unfamiliar waters.' (photo: Julia Le Duc/AP)
'You cannot step into the same river twice, but you can step into the same story again and again and again. A story of desperate need and desperate hope that drives people to risk everything in uncertain and unfamiliar waters.' (photo: Julia Le Duc/AP)


This Photo Is About Bodies - Migrant Bodies, and Our Body Politic. Don't Look Away

By Sabrina Vourvoulias, Guardian UK

26 June 19


Monday’s image of a drowned two-year-old and her father will haunt us. I hope it changes us, too

his is a story about bodies.

A body of water. A river running through mountain, bosque, desert and city; along two pueblos, between two states and separating two countries.

I lived beside a running body of water for a time – this is what I learned: it is impossible to ignore its power. It whispers its summons: cross here. Ford the still points. Wade. Float. Swim. Drown.

Once, many years ago, I heard that after a prolonged torrential rainfall the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo del Norte, to Mexicans) had reached unprecedented levels. Its floodwaters swept through a riverfront church, pulled a large wooden cross from the wall and carried it on its current. A woman who had camped out on the Mexican side of the river with her two children, waiting to cross into the US, saw the dark shape in the water. Before it surged past her, she pushed her children into the river, toward it. “Hold on,” she said. “Hold on to it until you reach the other side.”

Maybe she believed they would be borne above the waters by faith. Maybe she so despaired of their survival on her side of the river she was willing to chance it. Maybe someday she might stop replaying the exact moment when she let go of their hands in the water.

You cannot step into the same river twice, but you can step into the same story again and again and again. A story of desperate need and desperate hope that drives people to risk everything in uncertain and unfamiliar waters.

On Monday, Valeria Martínez, a two-year-old Salvadoran child, was found drowned in the shallows of the Rio Grande; her father, Óscar Alberto Martínez, 26, by her side. The photo that circulated is as haunting, in its way, as the 2015 photograph of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian child whose image – tiny, lifeless, lying face down in the surf in Greece – moved European leaders to re-examine their policies toward migrants.

In this photo, Valeria wears little black sneakers and her red pants show the padded bottom that indicates a diaper beneath. Martínez, face down in the water, has tucked his daughter under his shirt so she won’t be torn away from him in the river. And then there’s this: she clung to him – as I remember my own daughter at that age, clinging to me when I carried her into a hospital, and we were both terrified to death but together, together – because Valeria’s arm is still flung around his neck when they are found.

This is a story about bodies – but not just Valeria’s body, and Martínez’s.

It is a story about the body politic. About how we, the people of this nation, react to a photo that illuminates the lethal consequences of the manipulation and damage that has been done to the asylum process.

By some accounts Valeria’s family had spent months in Mexico waiting to get on a list that might – no guarantees – enable them to lodge their asylum request at a port of entry. The “metering” and “remain in Mexico” policies that Donald Trump has instituted during his tenure have forced some asylum-seeking families – displaced by the climate crisis or grinding poverty or devastating violence – to try and find another way to have their asylum claim heard in the US, even if it is a risky way, even if it means battling a body of water.

Likewise, the administration’s use of the border patrol – and even active-duty military troops – to physically prevent asylum seekers from reaching ports of entry has had a chilling effect on established asylum processes.

Organizations like Human Rights First have proposed a “genuine humanitarian response” to the asylum crisis the administration has created: deploying Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to ports of entry to assist in asylum processing, appointing more immigration judges and interpreters, along with making immigration courts independent, among other solutions. Other NGOs and agencies used to dealing with refugee and asylee needs from a trauma-informed and humanitarian perspective probably have suggestions and potential solutions, too. And from these we may be able to establish a roadmap that is less oppressive than the one proposed by this administration.

Years ago, when I was envisioning the immigration dystopia that would become my novel Ink, I needed to create a “catalyst” moment, when the public at large became aware of what was happening in the novel’s universe in the same sort of way my protagonists were experiencing it. After a lot of dithering, I finally settled on a photograph of a child as that catalyst, and as it was shared and reshared by news sites and individuals alike, it became a proof and test of my proxy world’s humanity.

I have thought about that a lot in the past two years, as I’ve seen people stirred to action by the photographs of immigrant children separated from their parents by CBP and ICE. And now too, with this photo of Valeria and her dad.

What will the body politic do with the evidence before it?

I hope the answer is that we, as the recently coined hashtag says, will not look away. Because if we do, we will be haunted by more than just a photograph.

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+26 # mngreer 2019-06-26 13:40
And the beat goes on with the so called Repubs continuing to support and vote for this male occupying the Oval Office, no matter how horrific, horrendous or heartless, etc.
 
 
+19 # ddd-rrr 2019-06-26 14:38
I sat down in front of the TV to eat lunch today, just before a photograph appeared
on the screen that abruptly ended my lunch: the sickening photo of a drowned
father and his daughter, who unnecessarily died while trying to enter
our country in a desperate effort to escape the terrible
circumstances currently existing in
their own country.

WHAT has become of US?! WE are almost entirely the descendants of IMMIGRANTS!

We should be WELCOMING these people, not just because they leave their homes
and come here in desperation, but because THEY ARE WHO WE WERE!
READ AGAIN what is written on the Statue of Liberty,
and FOLLOW ITS DICTUM:

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless,
tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

We can be, and we need to be, better than we have been under the "trumpites".

It is time to be rid of this evil in our midst!.
 
 
0 # randrjwr 2019-06-29 10:36
Perhaps we should drape an enormous tarpaulin over the Statue of Liberty and not uncover it again until we can honor to its message with our actions.
 
 
+12 # Carol R 2019-06-26 16:00
I imagine this is what went through this poor man's mind:

I know that you are saddened by what happened to me while I was trying to cross over the Rio Grande River with my beautiful daughter. She was the love of my life and was only 23 months old. She is now with me in this gorgeous place but this is NOT the life I envisioned for either her or myself.

I was struggling to survive in a country that is tormenting people. Gangs were everywhere and my crops wouldn't grow. My daughter was slowly starving and I didn't have anyway to provide food for her. I thought that going to the United States would be a better life. I was desperate to survive and didn't know the journey would be so difficult.

I felt that there was no alternative to walking thousands of miles. My feet were hurting because I didn't have any shoes. My daughter couldn't walk that far and I had to carry her most of the trip.

I don't know how we managed to get to this beautiful river but it occurred, just one step at a time that seemed to go on forever and forever and forever. We were told by guides that this was a good place to cross. I could see the other side of the river and looked at it as the freedom that I'd never lived under.

My body went under the water and I was struggling, really struggling to get up once again. That never happened.
 
 
+3 # MikeAF48 2019-06-26 17:57
They just wanted to be free.
 
 
+6 # lfeuille 2019-06-26 19:59
Depends on how you define freedom. They want to escape the violence and poverty in their own countries that is often caused directly by US or other 1st world power action in support of multi-national corporations who take whatever they want and don't care about the consequences to the locals.
 
 
+11 # DongiC 2019-06-26 18:25
Words fail to describe the painful image and do not mitigate the awful feeling that this is just the beginning. When oceans rise due to global warming, there may be scores of pictures like this as desperate people take desperate measures to survive. We better hammer out some logical policies on allowing immigrants to seek asylum in these United States or we may be unindated by waves of frantic families. Ignoring the problem of environmental change will just make the solution much more difficult or the collective suffering greater if there is, in fact, no solution left.
 
 
+3 # ourconstitution.info 2019-06-26 23:35
This is such a sad, horrid photo and story... we know there are many more. The US is so wealthy and powerful, along with some other countries. Can't we positively incentivize the people in poorer nations with education and work, and work that is for the benefit of their people -- fund local healthy and productive revenue generating projects, and encourage those causing bloodshed and strife, i.e. dealing drugs, working in human trafficking, etc. to switch for the sake of their neighborhoods and families? We should all want that ... How horrid.
 
 
+9 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-06-27 06:28
I hate to say this but this story is just idiotic. This is not about bodies. This story is about El Salvador where this father and daughter came from. It is also about US policies with regard to refugees.

1. This many and his daughter were from El Salvador, where the US has kept a violent right wing dictatorship in power since the 1980s. The people of El Salvador want political change. They organize. They vote for FMLN candidates, but money and military assistance from the US keeps the police state in power. People flee the nation in fear of their lieves.

2. All people on earth have a right to seek refuge in other countries when their own countries are besieged with violence. This is international law. The US makes it as difficult as possible. This man stood in line for months waiting to submit an application for refugee states. The US has a very small office for receiving the flood of refugees coming from the nations it destroys.


This is not about bodies. It is about US policy in Latin America and at its own borders.
 
 
+3 # randrjwr 2019-06-28 09:57
Quoting Rodion Raskolnikov:
I hate to say this but this story is just idiotic. This is not about bodies. This story is about El Salvador where this father and daughter came from. It is also about US policies with regard to refugees.

1. This many and his daughter were from El Salvador, where the US has kept a violent right wing dictatorship in power since the 1980s. The people of El Salvador want political change. They organize. They vote for FMLN candidates, but money and military assistance from the US keeps the police state in power. People flee the nation in fear of their lieves.

2. All people on earth have a right to seek refuge in other countries when their own countries are besieged with violence. This is international law. The US makes it as difficult as possible. This man stood in line for months waiting to submit an application for refugee states. The US has a very small office for receiving the flood of refugees coming from the nations it destroys.


This is not about bodies. It is about US policy in Latin America and at its own borders.


All very true, and true of Guatemala and Honduras, as well. It is sad and disturbing how few Americans seem to realize or care about this horrible reality. Read "Whose Heaven, Whose Earth" for some details about Guatemala and the damage wrought by United Fruit supported by US policy and money.
 
 
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-06-29 06:26
Rand -- yes, and Americans take for heroes people like David Patraeus who got his start in the dirty war in El Salvador. He was running death squads in El Salvador in the 1980s. Why are people like Patraeus not in prison?

US crimes against the peoples of all Latin America are worse than Nazi Germany.

I'd suggest reading Eduardo Galeano's "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent." All US citizens should be required to read this book.
 

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