It was a typical Saturday in Annapolis, and I was busy running errands.
But as I pulled up to the stoplight at the intersection where Route 2 meets West Street, I saw demonstrators on both sides of the highway. They were waving American flags, carrying large signs and shouting at drivers to honk if they agreed.
They were demonstrating against the Central American children crossing the Mexican border into the United States. The signs said the children were criminals and should be sent back where they came from. They called the kids "future Democrats." And those were the nice signs.
I was so stunned I almost drove into the highway median. The hateful reaction I was seeing on television in towns in Texas, Arizona and California was playing out right in front of me. In my town. In Annapolis.
Certainly Annapolis is host to demonstrations of every stripe. I invite you to visit during the legislative session every winter.
This was part of a two-day, nationwide protest organized by a group called "Make Them Listen," whose purpose is to bring conservative causes to the attention of those in Congress.
This demonstration was against "all forms of amnesty, comprehensive immigration reform and the government's failure to enforce immigration laws and secure our borders."
The organizers might have added "and other people's children."
Hundreds of protests were scheduled for last weekend in state capitals, on street corners and on overpasses in every state, including Alaska and Hawaii.
There were 43 sites scheduled for California, 35 in Texas and 20 in Florida, for example. Only two sites were listed in Maryland — an overpass at Washington Boulevard and I-695, and at that intersection in Annapolis.
I don't know what made me think I lived in some kind of humanitarian bubble in Annapolis — or at least a civilized bubble. I just didn't think it was the kind of town where people would stand on street corners shouting hateful things about other people's children.
I thought they just did that in states where it got too hot for people to think clearly. States where they are already angry about so many things — same-sex marriage, birth control, guns — that it is easy for them to add "little kids who are not ours" to the list.
Since October, a reported 57,000 unaccompanied minors have crossed into the United States, fleeing gang violence and extreme poverty in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Their parents aren't sending them off to secure a picnic table in a crowded park. These parents are sending their children across Mexico, rippling with its own drug violence, to an uncertain future — alone.
Compare this to the 2.6 million refugees who have fled Afghanistan or the 1.6 million refugees living in Pakistan. In many cases, these refugees will spend the rest of their lives in hastily established camps, with no hope of returning to their homes and no chance to be assimilated by the host country.
The United Nations reports that Jordan, for example, has taken in 600,000 refugees from the Syrian civil war. That's equal to 7.5 percent of the country's population of 8 million.
We are a country of more than 300 million. If every state in the union were to find places for 1,200 of these children, we might not even notice they are here. They aren't going to take up that much space on a playground, let alone burden our education and health care systems and take jobs away from our children.
But instead, we have Texas landowners saying the children should be shot as soon as they cross the border as a deterrent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is sending troops. Vile demonstrations await them wherever they land. Ignorant politicians take the microphone to say the children carry the deadly Ebola virus, that we are importing gang members who will sell drugs and rape our daughters.
Good God. I thought America was better than this. I thought Annapolis was better than this.
As for growing up to be Democrats? If these children remember this response to their desperation when they are old enough to vote, that might do it.
Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @SusanReimer on Twitter.com.To respond to this commentary, send an email to email@example.com. Please include your name and contact information.