By Tom Cardella
I understand that we live in a time when every issue is likely to divide us into two tribes — one for President Donald Trump, the other against him. I don’t like it, but I am doing my best to live with that reality. On one issue, though, the question remains, have we finally reached a moral breaking point in America? When it comes to this Administration separating children from their parents and placing them in chain-link cages, are there enough of us to cry out, “no more!”? If we can finally put aside our partisan bickering just this once, we can redeem our country from the shame that is enveloping us. Do we have the guts to stand together and force the White House to end its heinous policy?
We have reached moral breaking points before in this country. We became convinced that the price for winning the war in Vietnam was not worth it after seeing a photo of a child racing down a street in flames from one of our napalm bombs. And we said, “Enough!”
During the civil rights movement, we saw Alabama Sheriff Bull Connor use fire hoses and dogs on protesters that included women and children. And we said, “Enough!”
We saw photos of tortured and abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib. And we said, “Enough!”
Last week, while members of the Trump Administration and the president himself uttered lies defending the current separation of children from their families at the U.S.-Mexican border, we saw and heard the evidence of those lies. We heard the cries of the children being taken from the arms of their mothers. We heard the voices of border guards joking about “the orchestra” of their screams. And, in ever greater numbers, we are saying to Mr. Trump, “Enough is enough!”
This is a president who famously said during the presidential campaign in 2016, that he could shoot someone in broad daylight on 5th Avenue and not lose voter support. But this time it we must tell Trump, “You’ve overreached!” The President and some members of his administration, and yes, his network of choice, FOX NEWS, have tried hard to either justify the cruel, heartless child-separation practice or deny that it is going on, in the face of evidence to the contrary.
Laura Ingraham, a commentator on FOX, compared the detainment of kids in cages to “summer camp.” During a cable news discussion of a Down syndrome child being taken away, Trump spokesperson Corey Lewandowski sarcastically said, “Whomp, whomp!” In scurrying for cover, Trump and members of his administration have contradicted themselves over and over again, sometimes in the same sentence. Trump denies the practice exists, but then blames the Democrats and Obama for causing it. He falsely claims that Congress must act to change a law even though such a law does not exist. There is NO law that forces the President’s Department of Justice to separate children from their families. Mr. Trump, who likes to brag endlessly about his power to change things, need only pick up the phone to stop his heinous activity. Do it on FOX NEWS in prime time if it makes you feel better, Mr. President, but for God’s sake, do it!
These are families legally seeking asylum, not criminals “infesting” (the President’s word) our country. As a people, we wouldn’t stand for the Government forcibly taking pets from their owners, let alone taking babies and young children from their mothers. Our president rants that the U.S. won’t be turned into a “migrant camp.” His Attorney General invokes the Bible to justify this policy. In response, the Pope and major Christian groups have expressed outrage. Incredibly, the White House has NO specific plan for reuniting these children with their families.
The images and sounds haunt the nightly news. The outrage grows. The President remains defiant. According to recent polls, 62 percent of Republicans support the border policy. However, there are some hopeful signs. All five living First Ladies of both parties, including Melania, have pleaded for the White House to stop separating children from their families at the border. The United Nations has demanded that we immediately cease and desist. Republicans in Congress are trying to distance themselves from Trump on this issue. They have responded with two separate bills to deal with the problem. However, both bills hold the children hostage to spending billions on the wall to pacify the President, while also cutting legal immigration. Mr. Trump hasn’t indicated that he’d sign either one.
There is no justification for letting the Administration get away with trying to make this a partisan issue. This isn’t about gun laws. It isn’t about a fair minimum wage. It isn’t about whether government should cut or raise taxes. This isn’t about pro-life or pro-choice. This isn’t about liberals versus conservatives. This is about our collective humanity. Our higher angels. Americans have always acknowledged our past sins and tried to correct them. Anguished over the moral issues of our time. Agonized over our failure to live up to our ideals.
As a child, did you ever think you lost your mother in a crowd? Remember the terror you felt? The trauma until you were reunited with her? That’s what thousands of helpless children are feeling right now at the border.
Leverage. In the name of leverage, Trump has turned kids into bargaining chips. Pawns in their game.
(Note: On June 20, President Trump signed an executive order that ends his policy of splitting up families at the border. There are still practical and legal obstacles to ending these separations. His order doesn’t address those who’ve already been separated.)