The last few decades we have seen a political divide grow across this country. Right Wing, Left Wing, Republican, Democrat, Liberal and Conservative, Progressive and Moderate, they go by many names. But the recent implementation of the Trump Administration policy of taking children, many of them babies and toddlers, from their parents at the border fleeing from violence has exposed that this country is not only going through a political divide but has now exposed that we are facing a crisis of morality.
Many of these people tried to do it as allowed by law. They reported to a port of entry and asked for asylum. They are fleeing the gangs and drug cartels that take their children and use them as drug runners or sell them into sex-trafficking. They fled their homes trying to save their children because the price of refusal to give up their children is death, not only for themselves but many times for their children also. We have gone from a nation of immigrants to a nation of selfishness and a morally deficient society. We used to be a country that was looked upon as a symbol of freedom, where people could live free without fear of the government. But this is no more. We are now closed to all who wish a better life for their children, trying to protect them and in many, many cases save their lives.
The recent images and sounds coming from the border should bring us to tears. And for many of us it does. Pictures of children being ripped away from their parents, the sounds of babies crying breathlessly for their mommies and daddies. The knowledge that these most vulnerable young children are taken away and put in cages with no idea when or if they would ever see their families again.
Last night I was watching the news and they were showing pictures of these children being confined to chain link cages and the sound of children crying. My 8-year-old granddaughter came into the room and was watching with me. She asked what was going on there. I explained to her that these were children who tried to come here with their moms and dads and were taken away from them by our government. Just then they showed a picture of young boys confined within these cages and she said, “Oh, My God! They aren’t animals! Why are they treating them like that!?” And I had no answer for her other than I agree, they shouldn’t be treated this way. It is a sad commentary on what we have become when an 8-year-old child has more empathy for these children than the adults in our government.
The administration is trying to spin this as their hands are tied, it is the law, and we must do this. But that is a lie. It is the policy of Donald Trump’s administration to do this. It could end with his signature on a piece of paper ordering the end of this inhumane policy. His supporters defend him with the same lie. His supporters mock these parents who are just trying to give their children a better life. They quote the Bible to explain their stance. But as they have done this their own religious leaders have spoken out against this policy. They have used their own Bible verses to refute the cherry picked and corrupted verses the Republicans like Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders blather on television. One thing I always believed about the Radical Christian Right is they are neither Christian or Right.
We do have a problem with illegal immigration. There are more people who want to come here than we can accommodate. But the solution is not based upon cruelty and derision for these struggling people. Trump speaks of these people as though they were vermin. It was reported that yesterday in his meeting with the Republicans that he said that we have to stop illegals from “infesting” our country. And we all remember his famous down the escalator moment when he spoke of Mexicans as rapists and murderers while speaking later of how many White Nationalists are “very fine people.” And we have now escalated this rhetoric to point where we now are arresting and throwing in jail people who are doing what they are supposed to do by reporting and asking for amnesty. We are ripping crying children from the arms of their mothers and putting them in cages and their parents in prison. We are building camps that to me resemble the internment camps that we so shamefully constructed during World War II to intern American citizens just because they were of Japanese heritage.
We separated Native American children from their families years ago so we could teach them to be “more American” and tried to destroy their culture and heritage. And now we are locking up children in cages like we lock up our dogs. Congress needs to stop just throwing up their hands and surrendering to a man that they fear just because of his venomous attacks upon them when they disagree. They need to stop putting party over country and start representing the people who they are supposed to be working for, the American citizen, not the wealthy lobbyists who throw money at them to get what they want, not what we need. They need to work together in a bipartisan manner and solve these problems. But bipartisan has become a word that is now considered vulgar. So I expect no solution.
There is the famous quote on the Statue of Liberty that everyone knows. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This quote comes from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, “New Colossus.” It expresses the hope and dreams for a better life for all that come here. I expect any day now an executive order replacing that famous uplifting quote to signs that read “No Trespassing, Keep Out, Violators will be prosecuted.” Has America lost its soul?
Steve Creed is a local resident and the Community Action Commission of Fayette County self-help housing director.