After the Farm Worker’s Reality Tour led by Dr. Ann Lopez, I sat across the table from Meteor Blades and asked him if he is a writer. I got a lot of flack for that question, but I wanted to know where he was from, how his ideas were formed and what he would bring to the table from his perspective because I honestly didn’t know. He might have had the same question for me when he bantered with my husband about Occupy, Obama and Other topics political junkies can’t get enough of. But I am not a political junkie, and this was obvious. When Meteor Blades asked me what I thought about Obama, I stammered, because honestly, I don’t think about Obama that much… and one of my greatest fears was coming true… in that moment, sitting across the table from Meteor Blades (navajo is on my right and Glen the Plumber on my left), I had no coherent thoughts in my head! Now I would like to tell Meteor Blades and the Daily Kos community what is on my mind when Obama is not. Join me below the fold.
I work for a county contracted mental health agency specializing in children and families. We treat children with emotional and behavioral disorders who meet medical necessity as specified by MediCal. Our agency is located in a small town about 15 miles from where we were on The Farm Worker’s Reality Tour. These families are impacted by poverty, by the trauma of their immigration, by grief and the loss of loved ones back home, or the loss of those who did not survive the journey north. They are impacted by the American government who does not recognize them or welcome them, by NAFTA, by language barriers, by limited access to medical care, by No Child Left Behind, by the Norteno and Soreno gangs on the streets who drive by their homes to recruit their children to sell crystal meth. They are intergenerationally impacted by substance abuse and dependence; by family violence, by homelessness, by exploitation of their landlords and employers, by isolation from their indigenous culture; by racism, by not having warm clothes in winter or a warm blanket at night. I sit with them and hold the pain of their children and the hand of the parent while they hold the courage of their people and the dream that brought them here.
It is the day following ‘The Farm Worker’s Reality Tour’ and I am repeatedly visited by the images of the families… the parents who were grateful for their jobs, the children who offered us fruit, and the puppies who played indiscriminately. I feel a connection to one woman in particular, “Esperance,” who greeted me with tired and pained eyes. She sighed as she hugged Dr. Ann, looked over her shoulder and scanned her environment. This is a sign she is hypervigilent, or over aware of her surroundings in an attempt to protect herself in the face of imminent danger, whether it exists or not. “Esperance” is traumatized; you can see it in her eyes.
Earlier, Dr. Ann collected money and clothing from us to give to her, grateful for the pile of $20.00 bills we - Glen The Plumber, navajo, Meteor Blades, Norm, catilinus, citisven, and BentLiberal put in her hands that would have taken roughly half a week for her to earn by working in the fields picking berries.
“Esperance” does not speak English; she has two sons and a daughter who were born here, attend public school and speak English fluently. She is 6 months pregnant and the victim of Domestic Violence (DV). I wondered if “Esperance” would give the money to her husband or keep it for an emergency get away bag. Dr. Ann did not know. “Esperance” struggles with problems of existence, she doesn’t have time or empowerment to leave her abuser. She doesn’t have access to local resources that can assist her with forming an escape plan for her and her children to a women’s shelter and future Domestic Violence housing. At 6 months pregnant she is at her most vulnerable to protect the health of her baby at a time when DV typically increases. When her baby is born she might not have access to First Five California because of decreased funding, but her baby might suffer medical and developmental problems due to exposure to harmful pesticides and DV.
As the Cycle of DV continues, her children may be affected physically and emotionally and remain at risk of experiencing physical abuse and neglect, of developing emotional and behavioral problems, and of entering the foster care system. I might see their referral on my desk and I will know that if the Cycle of DV is not interrupted, her children will be at greater risk of further perpetuating the Cycle as they grow older. The effects of trauma, witnessed visually or auditorally, whether experienced directly through their body or not, will affect brain development. The effects of trauma do not discriminate between being born and being in utero.
Dr. Ann had explained to us earlier that “Esperance” lives in a house owned by a landlord who knowingly violates the rights of his tenants. She pays $1400.00 a month rent but has no heat. Once inside she brought us chairs from the other rooms to gather around in and twisted in a light bulb so we could see. The house was dark and felt empty, surely “Esperance” had projected her uncertainty of what was in that house onto us. Her older children smiled and greeted us, bringing with them a ray of light. I wondered if it was typical for them to have a room full of adults asking their mother questions through a translator. I wondered what they would take away from what they saw and heard of us; if the discussion left them feeling anxious, confused or exploited.
The little girl with the poetic name had bright eyes and welcomed a short conversation with me about school and becoming a big sister again. Her younger brother showed me his toy car he made into an airplane with clothespins. But “Esperance” doesn’t exist in America… her children do and it is through them some viable services may be available to her; services that can interrupt the cycle of violence, poverty and victimization; that can empower her and provide a safety net. Services that provide education and life skills to decrease victimization inside her home, community, and employment—If but one of her children have MediCal, and “Esperance” can make it to that first appointment, the process can begin.
I called the Women’s Crisis Support Defensa de Mujeras in Watsonville. All “Esperance” need do is get there. I emailed Dr. Ann and am waiting her response. I hope she finds a way to get there and to keep going there.
So, how does The Farm Worker’s Reality Tour influence what I think about Obama? Obama has probably never visited the people living along the Pajaro River or “Esperance’s” house. He most likely has not toured the grower’s fields. But, we know he influences their living and working conditions. He probably isn’t thinking about a pregnant woman with no papers who is exposed to harmful pesticides, at risk of homelessness, exploited within her family, her community and employment. He hasn’t torn down the millions of dollars in walls Bush constructed to protect us from the evils of
“illegal aliens” binational families infiltrating our communities, jobs and schools.
Legislation needs to be filtered through the lens of human rights issues so no matter what ethnicity, education level, socio economic status or race, America can provide a safe and humane environment with decreased risk of exploitation, illness or death. It isn’t about courting the corporations so they get the Democratic word out, bailing out banks, or corporatizing. It is about providing a safe environment, health care, resources, and education so we can be free to work on the rest - to innovate and rebuild the dream. If we focus on human rights issues all of this will fall into place.
“Esperance’s” family is part of the 99% and I will raise my voice for them.
If you would like to improve the conditions of Binational families, please read The Farmworker's Journey by Dr. Ann Lopez. And donate to The Center For Farm Worker Families, a non-profit organization.
Previous diaries in this series catilinus's diary series. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 BentLiberal's excellent diary with video.
"It takes a community to put an end to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault." Please donate to Women's Crisis Support Defensa de Majura or a DV shelter in your area.