Orphans

Steve Russell
4 min readAug 8, 2019
Don’t Cry — They’re Brown Public Domain Photo From Pixabay

This Country Needs a More Adequate Mirror

When Mr. Cancer came calling a couple of years ago, it lit a fire under my intent to write about how an American Indian dropout becomes a professor. I set out in what I perceived to be a race with my own mortality to get it done, only to smack into the most difficult writing task I ever encountered in a lifetime of writing. I won the race, only to run into the most difficult publishing task I ever encountered after managing to survive two jobs under the dictum “publish or perish.”

What the hell — the story’s done and publishing it will be my family’s problem if I don’t get it done. They could help with that while nobody but me could write it.

The writing was hard because the story was painful and I had stuffed much of the pain down the memory hole. The simple fact of growing up without a father or a mother became less simple and my gratitude to my maternal grandparents grew larger, as did the guilt over my failure to express it adequately when I had the chance.

The word “orphan” had a different ring, though I was not orphaned in the biological sense. It’s that ring demanding that I raise my voice against my government’s policy of creating orphans on our southern border for the stated purpose of scaring away other families also fleeing from the drug cartel turf wars. If the U.S. is not scary enough, they will think we are a refuge from violent harm or something — can’t have that, don’t you know?

The cartels are often better armed than the governments that sometimes try to contain them when not accepting retainers to look the other way. I, too, would flee.

If you live in an urban barrio and you have a boy child, he is destined to be first recruited and, if that fails, conscripted by the cartels. If you have a girl child, she will find providing sexual services for the combatants to be the most attractive of dismal choices and, if she fails to see that, girls can sometimes be conscripted as well.

I, too, would flee.

If your children are orphaned by the U.S. government when you are sent back to take your chances, they will be left in a social safety net that offers the promise of survival and a chance at education. If they avoid deportation with the help of people on this side who care. What…

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Steve Russell

Enrolled Cherokee, 9th grade dropout, retired judge, associate professor emeritus, and (so far) cancer survivor. Memoir: Lighting the Fire (Miniver Press 2020)