Chopping down a tree with Earl


Uncle Earl was over at the house last week helping me cut down a pine tree. We discovered that the chain saw was too dull so we had to take it down the old-fashioned way — with an axe.

In today’s modern society, we don’t often use such crude instruments as an axe.  People have been chopping down trees with axes for thousands of years but rarely is it done today. We just grab our trusty chainsaws and away we go.

Of course, the process of chopping takes time and my uncle, being an older gentleman, allows his younger nephew to take most of the whacks while he “supervises.” This allows him to entertain me with his opinions.

“Steven, have you heard about all this mess at the border with children being separated from their parents?” he started.

“I sure have, Unk. It’s pretty bad. These poor families come here to the United States expecting a better life and they get stuck in prison cells and their children placed in detention centers.  The pictures are horrific.”

Earl’s eyes narrowed. 

“And you really believe all of that claptrap on CNN? Do you think that a nation known for its generosity and civility would intentionally harm children in this way? Methinks we have another example of Trump hysteria happening.”

I gotta remember to sharpen the axe blade. It’s not really biting the way it should. 

“But Earl, we are doing this and it is undeniable.  From what I understand, there has been a change in policy at the border and we now charge border-crossers criminally instead of civilly.  This means that their children are forfeited when they are caught.”

“Very true!” he retorted.  “But, let’s think about that for a minute. Charging illegal (immigrants) with a civil penalty has amounted to nothing more than a slap on the wrist. They are released with a promise to appear but few ever do. The old system was a failure and everyone knew it. This simply encouraged more border crossings.  Criminal prosecution — first time is a misdemeanor and the second is a felony — is the only avenue left.”

Whack! Another chunk of pine went whizzing past my head. 

“You may be right, Earl.  This problem is more a symptom of an overall broken immigration system that needs a complete overhaul, if only Congress would have the guts to do it.”

He continued, “Let’s also add another point. From all I’ve heard, the children are handled just like any other child in the state of California that is remanded to protective services. Interviews need to be conducted, decisions made, with the children ultimately placed in relatives’ homes in the United States or in the foster care system. They are not ‘jailed’ for long periods of time — typically about 20 days.”

“Earl, are you about ready to spell me and take a few whacks here?” 

I was almost halfway through the tree.

“No, you are doing fine, my boy!” he grinned. “Let’s think of something else. We can’t incarcerate the children with their parents. That is the ultimate injustice. Just like law-breakers in the rest of the U.S., we don’t jail children just because their parents do something wrong.  Same rule applies here.”

I countered, “But, Earl, isn’t this an injustice as well?  Aren’t we doing something cruel to poor people who are just trying to find a better life?” 

The blister on my thumb was getting bad.

He reasoned, “In the short term, I would call this a ‘hard’ option, not cruel. Parents who are south of the border must learn that they must respect the laws of los Estados Unidos and not force their way in. If they respect our laws and process, they will eventually be accepted with open arms.  As it should be.”

I was beginning to see his reasoning. Also, the tree was beginning to crack. 

“I see what you are saying, Unk. It’s just such a bitter pill to swallow.”

“Yep. Sort of like those blisters on your hands. We didn’t prepare to take down this tree properly so we had to resort to this crude axe to get the job done. If we had made sure the chainsaw was sharp and our immigration system was reformed and fair, we wouldn’t have had these issues.”

As the last few axe falls made contact, the tree slowly tipped and fell to the ground. We both stared at it for a moment. The bitter job was done. 

Maybe we will be smarter in the future.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and really did chop down a tree recently, only it was with his nephew. Wait a minute. He can be reached at [email protected].

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