Tomorrow is Columbus Day in the United States. Christopher Columbus was a sadistic, murderous slaver, and that’s all I have to say about him.
I’d like instead to talk about the women, the Grandmothers and Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and the children they searched for. A military junta ran Argentina in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and, as detailed in this NYT article, disappeared, tortured, and murdered 10-30,000 people it called “terrorists,” as defined by the junta: “One becomes a terrorist not only by killing with a weapon or setting a bomb, but also by encouraging others through ideas that go against our Western and Christian civilization.” They also made a concerted effort to kidnap the children of dissidents and give them to those loyal to the junta to raise; the junta murdered their parents, sometimes keeping the mothers alive long enough only to deliver (and with my own birth experience so fresh in my mind, I am having a visceral reaction, shaking and tearing up thinking about it, about my son taken from me). About 500 children were taken.
The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo began protesting silently, wearing white headscarves and carrying photographs of their disappeared children, marching across from the presidential residence. Within a year, hundreds of women had joined the protests, garnering international attention during a time when fear of any public opposition had silenced so many. Members of the group were abducted, tortured, murdered, but the protests continued.
The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo are a group devoted to finding the lost children and reuniting them with whomever remains of their families of origin.
It’s a horrifying, depraved series of events. And as tonight shades into tomorrow, let’s not forget the children taken from their parents and brutalized in an attempt to erase their past and their identities: I am talking, of course, about the American Indian Boarding Schools deliberately run to eradicate American Indian cultures through the 1970s. Parents were required by law to “educate” their children and coerced into sending their children away, food rations and supplies withheld until parents consented. Many children were separated from their parents and cultures throughout their entire childhoods. Parents were not allowed to remove their children from the schools. Children were abused, suffered, and died. In a 1928 report, Native Nations children were found to be dying at six and a half times the rate of other children.
Taking children has long been a tactic of torture toward poor people (parents entering the poorhouse in the nineteenth century) were separated from their children), PoC, and political dissidents. And it’s a feminist issue. The NYT article talks about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but it’s also a reproductive justice and reproductive rights issue. The ability to bear and raise children in safety and peace regardless of wealth, race, and political creed is a women’s rights issue.
By the way, the US has yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, because this country.