OPINION – Where has the nation’s heart gone?
Why has our capacity to love, shelter, and protect disappeared?
We have witnessed racial and cultural intolerance since the very beginning of the nation, but nothing as inhumane as the current mistreatment of displaced children who are simply looking for a way to survive.
The United States has seen a tremendous influx of Central American refugee children crossing the borders as they flee the growing dangers of unchecked violence in countries where military coups have disrupted any sense of normalcy.
Some, literally, are babies, others in their teens, trying desperately to escape the madness, the violence, the poverty of a region gone haywire under dictators who have run afoul of the laws of decency but remain unopposed – and are even sanctioned – by world powers, including the United States.
These children come here scared, hungry, tired, and hoping to find something lost in their native lands: peace.
They come here alone, trekking north from Central America, through Mexico, and across the border, detached from loving families willing to sacrifice nearness for the safety and well-being of their children.
But the door remains locked tight, deaf to their knock, their pleas for help ignored. When they arrive here, they are kept in uncomfortable, harsh conditions only for as long as it takes to herd them onto airplanes and ship them home.
Central America is neck deep in its most violent time.
Poverty and the subsequent crime that follows, has shaken the region. Gangs took over in the shadow of revolutionary turns of events that displaced democracies and calm. Corruption in the governments, in the police forces, in the marketplace have left many on the street with no jobs, no home, no future. There is virtual anarchy and the children who are not starving to death are being sexually abused by these roving thugs, or cold-bloodedly murdered at ever-increasing, horrifying rates. So the parents of these children, these targets for violence and abuse, are opting to send them far away for refuge, something this nation once promised.
Still, we turn these children of the world homeward despite the threats against them. Why? I really don’t know why other than the heartless words of those in power who say “They are not our problem.”
I guess it’s more important, at least superficially, to pick our fights and stand up to Russia with sanctions and threats instead of feeding hungry children; to ensure that Israel is heavily armed in its continuing regional conflicts instead of providing medical aid to these children; to continue to foster hate and discontent on people of color and empty pockets looking for a way to simply survive.
But, these are children, right? We care and love the children of the world, right? We have shipped food and medical aid to the far corners of the Earth for decades upon decades to feed them, clothe them, heal them, in the past, right?
Then why the line in the sand now? Why are these kids less than others? What has changed?
Even George Will, long the voice of the deep right, questions this atrocity, this loss of heart.
“We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America, you’re going to go to school, and get a job, and become Americans,’” he told Fox News Sunday. “We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 (children) per county. The idea that we can’t assimilate these 8-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous.”
This was once called The Promised Land, a place where the oppressed could land for a fresh start. The people who came to these shores built our cities, farmed our fields, contributed to our culture.
We shun them, we defile them, we try everything in our power to deny them access to the possibility of a good life, or, at the very least, a better life.
We have so isolated ourselves from the real problems of the world, supplanting them with the shallow importance of grandstanding on issues far removed from the gritty reality, that we lost our soul somewhere, lost our capacity for understanding, lost our compassion, and it is tragic.
We talk a good game about freedom and world leadership, but our actions tell a different, shameful story as we load up planes with children who have brown skin ad little future and condemn them to unspeakable horrors.
We have become a nation obsessed with the politics of rage. We tear each other apart because of our political persuasions, we rip each other open because of our cultural differences, we exercise our deeply rooted bigotry by ignoring the needs of innocent children.
We claim to be a nation of Christian principles, values, morals, yet are the actions of those who pack these children up and send them home in line with Christian doctrine? Is the “not our problem” justification for doing nothing in line with Christian philosophy? Simply going to church and filling a seat every Sunday does not a Christian make. It’s in the deeds, the fullness of heart, the willingness to support your fellow man.
Can you imagine the anguish a mother must suffer as she ponders sending her children to a strange, foreign place to escape almost certain death? How must that feel? How difficult must that decision be to willingly separate from your child, knowing you may never see him or her again?
Under the blanket of the Convention Against Torture, upheld by international and U.S. law, if a person is in danger of being harmed in this way by people who either are government officials or who are acting without the local governments being able or willing to protect the population, these people are refugees and cannot be lawfully sent back. Because they are children, however, they are not given the opportunity to explain why they have landed here, to make the simple statement: “I am asking for political asylum. I am in danger of persecution or abuse at the hands of the drug lords and the gangs,” which would require border agents to take them in.
But, these children have no voice.
These children have no power.
And, tragically, these children have no hope.
There is no time for discussion, gutless compromise, senseless debate. Lives – very young lives – are at stake.
It’s time to open our hearts and open the doors.
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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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