Actress Kristen Bell on how local parents can help reunite families separated at the border
“We pledge allegiance to a flag that stands for liberty and justice for all, and yet we are currently engaging in a profound and undeniable injustice. We are better than this. It is inhuman and unacceptable to let children become collateral damage for adult political discourse,” actress Kristen Bell told those who gathered Saturday at the West L.A. Federal Building.
A mother of two and board member for Citizens of the World Charter Schools, Bell elaborated backstage that the separation of families at the border has had a profound emotional impact on her and that taking public action was an antidote for feelings of despair.
“Do not underestimate the mom community and how much we cluck at one another,” she said. “A lot of things have happened recently, but I truly believe this will be the one that will bind us together.”
ON TAKING PERSONAL ACTION:
“I let my heart guide my feet. That’s why I’m out here today. … Look to the people who you think are doing it right. I look to people like Brené Brown and Glennon Doyle. And do not underestimate how powerful calling your congressman or congresswoman is. Do not underestimate how powerful showing up to something like this is, letting the world see our numbers and our commitment.
“Currently, I’m coming from a place where donations are key. … I’m under contract to work in Los Angeles and I can’t move down to Texas to work on this, but I can absolutely put food on the table of someone who can. I donated $50,000 between RAICES and what Glennon Doyle runs, which is Together Rising. Anyone should be hesitant about giving away their hard earned money – that’s a character trait I love and would only encourage — but there are people out there vetting organizations and making sure this money is being used for what we want it to be used for.
“The simplest thing I think people can do is don’t stop looking, don’t go numb. It is a natural reaction to shut down when we face traumatic stress, even of an emotional kind. We cannot let that happen. If we let that happen we lose. So keep talking about it. Keep writing about it. Keep posting about it. Until it changes. … Each and every one of those children need to be accounted for. Before we do anything on immigration policy, we need to clean up our side of the street.”
ON DEALING WITH PUSHBACK:
“I listen first. Radiolab taught me that your brain cannot take in new information if you’re angry, so I listen first, whether it’s on social media or face-to-face. Then I conduct myself with grace, and attempt to state why I believe what I believe. … When I post about this the comments on my Instagram can sometimes get very nasty and heartbreaking. But it’s a trick, because I know those are bots. It’s one person sitting in their basement creating 300 accounts with a picture of a Midwestern mom and posting nasty comments. So what I do if I post something that, with all due respect, I don’t really care if you agree with, is I turn off the commenting and no longer give them a platform. If you are suffering from outrage addiction and you are coming at me really hard, you’re not someone I’m willing to converse with.”
ON THE NEED FOR EMPATHY:
“For people who don’t understand why someone from another country breaks the law to get there, I know the quote that ‘parents do not put their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.’ I give people the benefit of the doubt that I have not walked in their shoes, and I do not know what they’re dealing with. I know as a parent you’d never want anything but the best for your child, and it’s heartbreaking that this is the way we’re handling ourselves as America right now.”
— As told to Joe Piasecki