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MARTHA SEZ: Politicians at the top of the food chain

June 29, 2018
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

The other day, two little children came charging into the store where I work, followed by parents and grandparents.

"Hi!" I said to the children, a little boy and girl who looked to be about the same ages as my own grandchildren, who live in faraway California. It was sort of a long, high-pitched "Hiiiiieee!" because I was glad to see them. I really enjoy children.

These two, however, did not answer, but passed right by me with nary a backwards glance, fixated as they were on an out-sized taxidermied black bear. Wide-eyed with excitement, they hurried from one display to another as parents and grandparents followed, less energetically.

I heard the little girl bargaining with her grandmother about what she could buy from the store. It could have been a conversation from any generation. Children don't change much over the years. Children are children.

When they were ready to go, they carefully placed the treasures they had chosen on the counter: tiny snow globes, pieces of rock crystal, a little glass box.

"We said you could choose two things. That's three things," the grandmother told the little girl.

"No, you said " the girl tried to talk her grandmother around as her little brother, still too young for such negotiations, looked on.

"I'm going to be an archeologist," the little girl told me as I wrapped the treasures in tissue paper.

"Maybe she should study business," I remarked to her grandmother.

"Or be a lawyer," her grandmother said.

"Or a politician," I said.

At this her grandfather put his hand over his eyes.

"No, no, don't talk about that," he protested, only half joking, I thought.

It turned out he is a state legislator from a southern state. I don't have to tell you how divisive politics are these days.

"I don't think of politician as a bad word," I said quickly. "Most people run for office to serve the public."

"I like to think that's why I went into politics," he said ruefully. It is a fraught subject.

Lucinda, one of my childhood friends, recently obtained a cellphone and has taken to texting me about various aspects of her life. We have been out of touch for years, but it's almost as if we were never apart. It's like that with some people; you just pick up where you left off.

The other day I was so disheartened by what I was seeing and hearing on the news, I mentioned my feelings to Lucinda. For years I have been worrying about the migrant children at our southern border. The worry began for me during Barack Obama's presidency, when thousands of children, unaccompanied by parents, massed at the border. What happened to them? Were they sent to orphanages? Deported? Were they cared for and protected? It was difficult to get information.

Now it's worse. The separation of migrant children of all ages from their parents as they enter the United States is so cruel, so unjust, it breaks my heart. Reporters and senators who try to inspect the places where these children are being housed are turned away. Some of the children may never be reunited with their families.

When I mentioned this to Lucinda, she seemed unfazed by it all.

"I never cared that much about children," she texted back. "I guess you do because you had a child."

I told her I would have felt the same way, regardless, but Lucinda was on to other things.

She loves her yard and the trees, plants and animals who live and visit there. She particularly loves butterflies, and she grows specific flowering plants for their benefit.

"I saw a goldfinch at the bird feeder," she texted happily. Then, "I Googled goldfinch to find out what they eat, and caterpillars are a large part of their diet. Sigh."

At first I was riled by this. I wanted to tell her, OK, you express some compassion for the hundreds of migrant children who are separated from their parents and for the asylum seekers who have traveled so far trying to find refuge, and I will work up some sympathy for the caterpillars who are threatened by your goldfinch.

But what good would that do? It would just drive a wedge between us and we would be out of touch again. I will have to figure out what I can do to help the children without spreading more hostility.

Politics. It isn't easy.

Have a good week.



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