When news about the crisis at the Mexican border began leaking into the media my first thoughts flew to the Children’s Crusade. This crusade fits on the timeline between the Albigensian Crusade, which started in 1208 and the 5th Crusade, which set out for the Holy Land in 1217. Some doubt exists about the reality of the Children’s Crusade, but if the story holds any water at all some 60,000 children left Europe (30,000 from France and 30,000 from Germany) in 1212. The French children headed off to fight the Muslims for control of Jerusalem. The German kids intended to win them over for Christ. It doesn’t appear that any of them ever arrived in the Promised Land.
The French contingent (greatly depleted after their arduous journey) eventually reached Marseilles where their leader Stephen of Cloyes had predicted that the seas would part to let them pass. It didn’t. Many stayed there or tried to go home, others boarded boats provided by two French noblemen, who may or may not have had their best interests at heart. It is most likely they were sold as slaves. According to the folklore nothing was heard of them for 18 years.
The German group, led by a peasant boy named Nicholas, suffered a similar fate. Eventually a few of the children returned to Germany, but most did not. Angry parents reportedly hanged Nicholas’ father for encouraging his son to go on such a fool’s errand. Some of the children seem to have been sold as slaves in Baghdad and the few literate crusaders ended up in Cairo working as scribes.
Scholars think that, like the invasion on our border, not all were children. Many were desperately poor and hoping against hope to find some small improvement in their lives. Many were scoundrels, many were prostitutes; a few in each group were young noblemen out for rebellion and renown (a la the MS13 gang guys).
As will happen with those invading our southwestern states, disaster surrounded these children from the beginning. Some tried to return home. Many died on the journey of heat exhaustion and hunger. (The Middle Ages saw some serious global warming, which, strangely, happened sans Americans and the internal combustion engine.) Many of the children were sold into slavery. (Interestingly enough, the main traders in human flesh then were Muslims, same as they are today.) Some of the 13th century children managed to survive in towns they travelled through, but most just disappeared from history.
These kids in the Middle Ages had leaders – by all accounts charismatic and inspiring, even though they were young; Stephen of Cloyes was supposed to have been only twelve.
I wonder who is leading these Central American kids. I know who’s helping them cross the border – coyotes and the drug cartels, no nicer I’m sure than the sweet men who offered the crusaders free passage to Palestine. But who set this off? No 5-year-old wakes up saying, “I think I’ll go to America today.” Certainly parents don’t just hear about the Gonzales children next door hopping the trains, and decide to send their kids, too? Really? I can’t imagine.
Where did these people get the idea that freedom and prosperity were so free, so easy to come by that their children would be guaranteed a comfortable, safe future? Are those children leaving home of their own free will? I just can’t wrap my mind around this any better than I can digest the horrors of the Children’s Crusade.
I pray the train children will find a better fate, but I am doubtful. Even if they are properly provided for, and since this is America many will be, they will be scarred for life. These are not likely to be happy, productive people. Would you be able to shake off the black remembrance of being thrown on top of a train hurtling through dark jungles, hanging on for dear life, seeing other children fall to their deaths? Surely they were hopelessly hungry and thirsty, prey to terrible men doing terrible things.
Perhaps we’ll get it together and send these kids back to their families where they belong, but evidently things were not good there either. Perhaps good people will welcome them to their homes, though no one’s making sure that those who welcome them are good, but even if such goodness happens they will, if they remain illegal, ever be slaves. Maybe Obama will do a magic pen trick and declare them all citizens, but that will result in the erasure of the United States as a free and sovereign nation and they will again be homeless and again be slaves, along with the rest of us.
History is a cruel mistress and has repeatedly ground innocent people to dust. She is filled with the dire tales of tribes who crossed great distances in order to stay alive. And history is also filled with evil men and women who think nothing of using others, yes, even children, to attain their tyrannical goals.
We may never know who set this invasion in motion, but anyone paying attention and thinking clearly can see it as the time bomb it is – perhaps a clever and subtle form of biological warfare, for disease is rampant among these kids, perhaps a way to sneak terrorists into the country, perhaps a way to overwhelm and bankrupt the systems and infrastructure that makes this country function. We don’t know.
And hanging over all the conjecture is not only the very real calamity of tens of thousands of uncared-for children dumped on our doorstep, but the likelihood of hundreds of thousands more. God does work in mysterious ways, and may well have a solution at the ready, but right now this seems no more of a win-win than the ill-fated crusade of ignorant children who thought they could save the Holy Land.