Not since Bowe Bergdahl has any issue torn at my heart like this one. It's like picking a scab to keep discussing it when I know it is hopeless to change anyone's mind but I keep worrying it, thinking, "they surely don't really mean what they are saying, they can't be that heartless." But, yes, they answer again and again....they do mean it and yes, they are that heartless.
Typical was a demonstration against a supposed busload of refugee kids heading for a temporary home in a school for at-risk boys in Oracle, Arizona. Protesters were there to meet them with screams and signs and guns. "We don't want you here! You're not welcome!"
It turned out this was not a busload of refugees but rather a YMCA bus carrying American kids to an event. Oops. When they realized what the situation was, the protesters, of course, backed off. They stopped shouting and lowered their signs to smile and wave instead. In the video, one of the protesters could be heard saying, "we're going to scare these poor kids to death."
If good old Americans kids with nothing to fear were going to be scared to death, imagine how terrified refugee kids would feel? They've often left their parents behind to make a horrendous journey from their home country, through Mexico, possibly being beaten or raped along the way, to finally make it to the U.S. only to be met by people as scary and hostile as the gang and drug cartels at home.
And that was the point of the demonstration, wasn't it? The kids themselves have no autonomy. They were in the hands of the authorities who made the decisions for them so letting them know how despised and rejected they were would only accomplish one purpose....to threaten and frighten them. Wow, terrifying children - makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it?
Meanwhile, those two courageous macho men, Rick Perry and Sean Hannity are floating down the Rio Grande in a boat bristling with guns, single-handedly protecting us from 7-year-old kids. Some of my Facebook correspondents do believe that's the answer to this crisis - more guns, more tanks, more drones. I asked how they would handle it? Would they mow down anyone who tried to cross? Would they only shoot the adults, leaving the kids to fend for themselves on the Mexican side? If you're going to make these kinds of declarations, you have to think through how it would work, right?
One friend took me to task for insisting on referring to all the border crossers as children when obviously, they are not and I agreed that was true. I did tend to do that because the kids are my primary concern. But she is equally guilty of denouncing them all as gang and drug cartel members when obviously they are not that either. Many of my debaters simply refuse to believe that the information we get about the conditions in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala is not bogus. (Some kind of Obama plot).
I think the difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives are simply incapable of putting themselves in another's shoes to say, "what would I do if....", at least, with anything approaching reality.
Question: - "What would I do if my child was shot my a wannabe cop coming home the convenience store?"
Answer: - "That could never be my kid because he's not a thug."
Question: - "Can you imagine how horrible circumstances at home must be for a mother to be desperate enough to send her children off on such a terrible journey, never knowing if she'll see them again or whether they'll survived the trip (many don't)?"
Answer - "I would never do that."
I asked some of these people - "You guys claim to be Christians and often ask, WWJD. What do you think Jesus would do in this situation?"
One response: - "he'd build a goddam fence!"
It makes me think of the Berlin Wall. People who are desperate do desperate things and many people were killed trying to climb or fly over or tunnel under that wall in a bid for freedom. When the wall came down, people flooded across from East Germany to find a better life in the West. We all celebrated that event but if it happened today on America's Mexico border, I guess we'd line our side with tanks and shoot them as they came across. We probably should have droned and drowned the Mariel boat people trying to escape from Cuba instead of making them all welcome.
America has never been as perfect as some people want to believe. Our history is one that includes both generosity of spirit mixed in with some truly shameful behavior. But through it all, I still thought of America as being the leader in enlightenment. Given time, we usually did the right thing. We encouraged other countries to deal with their refugees with humanity and respect. We extended civil rights and worker's right. We cared for our poor and vulnerable. We helped write the Accords that banned torture. We outlawed "cruel and unusual" punishment and put our faith in due process.
And there are lots of us who still believe in all those American principles but many, it seems, no longer do. This cruelly conservative America is a country I don't even recognize anymore.
After all, unless you're a Native American, we're all just immigrants here.