Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pity the Children; Pity the "Patriots"

It’s hard to stomach some of the reactions I am seeing to the 50,000 or more children appearing at our borders since October and seeking help from the US.  The question we should be asking over and over in this is, “what is the right thing to do with these children?”  If the answer is not to show compassion and humanity to them, then we have truly lost our way as a nation.

Unfortunately, the way Washington and much of the rest of the country wants to deal with this follows a familiar pattern.  They are most concerned with these questions: “Who is to blame for this?” and “How can I make the most political points out of this and hurt my political opponent?”  The children then become merely yet another political pawn in part of our never ending game for advantage.

This is truly a humanitarian crisis for the children and when I see some of our reactions here, I realize it is also a crisis of our own humanity in the US.  We are in danger of losing our souls, our own humanity, over our lack of compassion in the situation. 

First, let’s consider what this situation is not.

1.  It is not a failure of border security.  I see some analysts do a pretty good job of looking at the reasons the children are coming, and then conclude that the solution is more troops, guns, drones, etc. on the border.  These children are not sliding through the border undetected.  Our border security has had massive increases in personnel, tools, and spending over the past several years. 

These children are looking for officers and presenting themselves to them to be taken into custody.  They are seeking refuge.  If the answer is more border security, then does that mean they think the kids should be shot or repelled as they approach the border? 

2.  This is not an invasion.  Yes, they are appearing at our border.  They are not here to destroy Twin Towers, or anything else in the U.S.  They are not here to bring disease – one Congressman is even repeating the demonstrably false claim that they may be bringing ebola, a virus found only in Africa.

 They are seeking refuge.  Interviews have taken place with large numbers of the children, and the message that appears over and over is that they came to escape gang recruitment, drug wars, and extensive violence in their countries. 

In 1939, 937 German Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany sailed on the MS St. Louis and were denied refuge in Cuba, the U.S. and Canada before sailing back to Europe.  It is estimated that about one quarter of the Jews aboard later died in German concentration camps.  No one thinks that this was a proud moment of U.S. morality in their rejection of these refugees.  And now we have the specter of flag waiving pseudo “patriots” trying to block busloads of children from getting to facilities to care for them.

There is a very real possibility that many of these children would be killed if returned to their home countries.  The law currently in place (signed by Pres. George W. Bush) requires that unaccompanied children entering the US (and not from contiguous countries – sorry, Mexico) should not be summarily returned, but should first be turned over to Dept. of Health and Human Services for a determination of whether they are victims of trafficking, have asylum claims, etc.  This is the law that many of those legislators who originally voted for the law, are now trying to repeal so that we can expeditiously deport children. 

So does this mean compassion and due process are only relevant concerns when applied to small numbers of children coming to the U.S., but not large?  If it was moral in in 2008 for us to give special consideration to children arriving at our border, why do we sacrifice that now in the name of expediency?

3.  This is not an undue burden on our resources.  I’m tired of the people that argue we can spend trillions on weapons systems and to support unnecessary and unjust wars, even beyond what our own military request, and corporate welfare, but can’t afford to take care of children, or the poor, widows, or orphans.  We could easily absorb into this country ten times that many children and not strain our resources (and we would be a lot better off in our national character for it), and I can pretty much guarantee that there are plenty of Americans willing to take responsibility for the great majority of these children if our legal system will permit it. 

But there is an increasing mentality in our country that “not one dime of my money should be spent for anything unless it benefits me personally.”  And then they waive flags and tell us how patriotic they are.

This is not patriotism.  Nativism is not patriotism.  The people waving flags and terrorizing busloads of children are not being patriotic.  They are being pathetic in their narcissism.  And please don’t suppose that our constitution endorses this.  Remember the opening lines of the Constitution?  “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  Oppressing refugee children that show up on our doorsteps certainly fits no biblical definition of establishing justice.

Yes, this is a humanitarian crisis in more ways than one.  The children need protection from the violence in their countries and our political intervention should aim at solutions for that – not just shutting our doors and pretending the problem doesn’t exist because we somehow kept it out of our country.  But there is also a humanity crisis in our own hearts when we despise children in need.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister [or child] in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”  I John 3.17

We should have pity on these children and find solutions that go beyond merely keeping them out of our backyards and returning them to lives of death and destruction.  That decision would also certainly come back one day to haunt us.  But I also have pity on those who think this is some kind of solution.