I've been on the road showing our new documentary Children of Bal Ashram. Travels have taken me west to Denver, Tucson (for the Arizona International Film Festival) then home via Houston. At every airport I noticed a quiet but determined flight of people of color headed north, east or to the far west.
Every terminal was filled with Latino mothers, babies in arms and families with grandparents and dads. On my plane from Houston to Boston there was an old couple – they could have easily been 90 years old – who were alone and looked as if they had been around a rural campfire hours before. They wore clothing that reminded me of the years I spent filming in Mexican villages and in the mountains on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. They were dressed in homespun bright colors, she had a scarf over her head, they were ancient and confused.
I met a young mother with her three-year-old who was struggling against the tide of money (seats cost $29-129 dollars at the gate) to have her child sit with her on his first flight ever. I literally watched as the gate employee punched into the computer and came up empty on seating for them. The wide eyed-child clung to his mom and she stood her ground saying she'd hold him on her lap for 6 hours if need be. He was terrified.
Every corner of every flight North and East seemed filled with people fleeing . They were not on vacation, they were leaving while they still could to escape arrest, detention, family separation. They carried a handful of personal items sometimes just thrown into a carry-on, as if they'd had little time to prepare for the trip.
I've been on hundreds of flights all over the world. I know what this looks like. I thought of the generations of Americans whose families had fled persecution and came to America for safety for their children, for their families, for their own lives, families that left on the last boat, plane, or fled on foot to get to freedom and safety. America was their "shining city on the hill" as Ronald Reagan put it.
When we arrived in Boston, the old couple were lost and confused. I saw them at the baggage claim. They had huge bags they couldn't handle. A young college student spoke to them and called their "friend" who was supposed to meet them, but hadn't. She stayed with them until their ride arrived, even as everybody around her met their friends and families and emptied the terminal.
In the background, I could hear the voice of Boston's Mayor in a pre-recorded announcement welcoming all visitors to Boston and proudly describing our city as an international, diverse and democratic place. Massachusetts is one of the oldest representative democracies functioning in the world today. It was here that Americans rose up against tyranny.
My heart filled as the old couple disappeared with the college girl on her cell escorting them as an act of kindness. They were safe for now, protected by our democratic institutions, welcomed instead of hunted.
America is a country of the many from every corner of the world. How sad that we are forcing our own citizens to flee their own government, to leave their homes and schools and friends behind to protect their children and their freedom.
A President and government that puts children behind razor wire and treats families like vermin deserves the judgment of history.
" The arc of the moral universe is long but bends toward justice"