What’s in a Number?


Lady Gaga’s crowd at Stad du France, 2012

I suck at math. Ask anyone who’s known me for more than a few days and they’ll universally agree, that I just don’t do numbers. Which is why it’s nearly impossible for me to wrap my head around anything like algebra, compound interest, angstroms and estimating crowd size.

What does this have to do with anything?

Last week there was a report that in the PAST year alone the United States has separated almost 70,000 children ranging from infants to teenagers, from their parents at the southern border. To get some context, I thought about the largest concert I’ve ever attended, which was Lady Gaga’s Born This Way tour at the Stade de France outside of Paris. 70,000 little monsters were rocking to Telephone and Just Dance and I was not only caught up in the energy, happiness and wave of humanity but also in the fact that the audience was massive.

Now I want you to think of that number of people, all under the age of 18; some dirty, most scared and all traumatized and ask what in the hell are we doing? More importantly, what is being done in our name? You may not agree with Trump’s policies, but as American’s our assent is stamped into this barbarous policy. I want to be very clear. According to the UN, this is genocide. While we may have a long history of parent child separation, and many believe that we didn’t know better back in 1700 or 1800, our past does not excuse our present.  The government, administrators and landed class certainly knew what they were doing when they were ripping babies from their moms on the auction block and forcing children off the reservation onto government-run schools where they cut the children off from everything, their families, their language and even their braids. What is happening now is essentially the same thing.

The question is what are you going to do about it?

Rather than wallow in hopelessness and anger, which is where I often find myself when I think about this, there are things we can do.


There are organizations fighting this policy. Raices. ACLU, The Flores Project , The American Immigration Lawyer Association just to mention a few, are trying to stop this in the courts as well as on the ground.


I know that we’re rightly distracted by the impeachment hearings. Trump’s actions have  been an affront to democracy, but your senators and representatives need to hear that you find this particular policy disgusting and demand not only the resignation of Stephen Miller, the architect of this program, but that Congress quit appropriating money to support it. There are people, including former Chief of Staff John Kelly who are making money from these prisons.


Lawyers, Spanish speakers and organizers are all needed. Churches may have ways to help provide asylum for immigrants and even fund raisers have excellent skills that can raise money to support those on the front lines. One case that has especial resonance is that of Scott Warren who provided humanitarian aid to migrants and was prosecuted by the Trump Administration. His original trial ended in a hung jury and the government went after him again, which resulted in an acquittal.


The wave of asylum seekers is not going to abide. Not with climate change predicted to displace millions. And it’s not going to only affect areas that we deride as the third world. Think of the fires in California, the floods in the Midwest and the massive storms along the East Coast. The United States is not immune to the effects of catastrophic climate change and we need to understand that we may be the people seeking refuge in other countries.

Understanding just how huge something is lies in the realm of mathematics, but even I get that when it comes to child separation, one is wrong, 100 is alarming, 12,000 (which is what the number was when I last wrote about this) is sick and 70,000. Well, that’s a deep national shame and psychic wound that will have our children (or grandchildren) asking, just what in the hell were we doing to allow this to happen?

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