I went to sleep last night listening to the midnight news and was suddenly very, electrically awake as a tiny news item announced violence in Calais as guns find their way into clashes between Eritrean and Afghani young men. Three different fights have broken out, 13 injured from iron bars and five in hospital with gun shot wounds.
What fresh hell is this.
But it's not fresh. Or at least, there is one new element for me because my daughter is there working to provide food and the fights broke out where food is distributed; I'm much too far away to even hug her, much less stand in front of a damn gun and try and protect her with a damn soup ladle, which any parent would do. I can't do anything. And I sit up in bed and am frozen as I listen, understanding she is in a now suddenly much more dangerous place than the tear gas and trench foot and systemic despair she has been tackling up to now; and at the same time I know we witness a barbarity we knew we knew we knew would happen had to happen as we stretch the tolerance of young men loosened both from the moderating effects of family and social structures and alone, unanchored, and far so far from home, *and* subjected to conditions which can only be described as physically and psychologically inhumane. What did we think would happen? We have every single ingredient you could possibly want if you want to make a toxic stew of violence: deracination, rejection, exhaustion, hunger, cold, desperation, adolesence, betrayal, loneliness, death, fear, illness, stress, confusion. We can only be astonished it has not happened yet. A fertile breeding ground for the contamination of minds, seasoned with those who would further destroy what remains of good intent amongst vulnerable young men by staining the ground with crime and greed, snaking the poisonous sinewy arms of trafficking, guns, and violence through splintered groups of exhausted minds. Of course they fought each other. Of course they did.
So I cry at midnight in bed and I cry at breakfast and I cry as I say goodbye on my last day in my last five minutes of the lesson to my class of confused students who are 24 and seventeen and fifteen and-kids-for-God's-sake as I ask them to please not to try to get to England; not to go to Calais; not to use their fists but to use their minds to craft and build their lives ahead of them and to work together and together as they do in a miniscule hopelessly lit no-windowed room of 20 students from 6 nations, because they deserve a *good* life, and because my country is letting people down catastrophically at our very borders, and because they are impossibly resilient fantastic young people with already too much experience of the world who deserve more, because we know the trauma of last night's Calais will be turned against her most vulnerable and twisted into a justification for further police brutality (and let us not dress it as as anything else) and to know that they have the *right* to create a fine happy life and I just bloody wish it wasn't so unlikely.