Note: I wrote this Opinion Piece yesterday morning for my monthly contribution to the online publication, Baptist News Global. The editor informed me, however, that he had been inundated with posts related to the President’s regrettable “zero tolerance policy,” and its effects on migrating families, so it will not be published there.
After I penned these thoughts the President changed course and signed an executive order to immediately change that policy. Thank God. Despite those factors, I am choosing to post these comments here as a means of speaking to the current situation – which has actually changed very little. Yesterday’s movement was a positive change, but several thousand children are still being held in detention centers without their parents.
The whole episode is as regrettable as it was preventable, so I am unwilling to remain silent in the face of such actions by our government. – Russ Dean
The opener had apparently become part of Tony Campolo’s schtick, but it was no less effective in a room filled with college kids mostly from the south, mostly expecting just another chapel preacher. As I remember that moment from a Furman University chapel service, he said,
“Three thousand children died of starvation last night, and you don’t give a sh--.”
After the nervous gasps settled into an indignant hush, a few irreverent snickers skittered across McAlister Auditorium, the powerful evangelist came back with his punch in the gut: “And now you’re not nearly as concerned about those children as you are that I said ‘sh--’ in chapel.”
I feel like that right now. Thousands of children, some just infants, have been torn from their mothers’ weeping arms. We’ve seen their tear-stained faces. We’ve heard their pitiful pleas, their fright-filled cries, and “we don’t give a sh--.”
(I’m not a “shock jock,” – but that was the bold Evangelist’s point. He didn’t abbreviate “the s-word,” and he offended my enthusiastic, youthful piety in chapel that day. Then I realized how right he was and how wrong I was. The word is offensive, but what we ought to find even more offensive than using the word in a chapel or referring to it in a blog post is all that has been happening to the children on our southern border, as well as the moral and spiritual affect this hardline policy will continue to have on an entire nation.)
As a nation we’re more concerned about the optics of partisan politics. “It’s the Democrats fault,” the President continues to say, to spite the facts. The children are just effective pawns in a game of partisan chicken. What’s the price of a wall, after all? Truth is always shown in action, not words, so the truth is we’re much more concerned about ourselves and our politics than the children. The Democrats are just as intractable as the Republicans, just as much a part of the dysfunction, so, really… who cares about the children.
I’ve heard less about the children than I’ve heard objections, justifications. To name a few:
“Obama separated families, too.” Who cares about the children.
“It’s really like summer camp for these kids.” Who cares about the children.
“Some of those children are really actors. Some are not the actual children of adults crossing the border. They’re just being used as props.” Who cares about the children.
“I don’t think any of it is real. All of these pictures are staged.” (Yes, a Baptist pastor from NC actually said that on a national news show.) Who cares about the children.
“It’s the adults we should be angry with. It’s the parents’ responsibility for bringing them here to begin with. We need to prosecute the adults.” Who cares about the children.
And don’t forget, “Bill Clinton had an affair in the Oval Office 25 years ago.” Who cares about the children.
Yes, anything to distract us from the children, and anything to assuage our guilt. We’re not responsible. It’s their fault – the other party, the other country, the law someone else passed, the parents.
Who cares about the children?
People migrate for a host of reasons, and in the process there are lots of justifications given, in any nation, in any era, honest and dishonest. Every sad story and every tale of deception we’ve heard may have some basis in fact. For the record I would have done anything necessary to feed my two young sons, too, and to keep them safe. When they were children, dependent upon my care, I would have gone anywhere, done anything, honest or dishonest.
All decent people love their children without hesitation. We should understand that, respect that, and Americans should also realize that no one leaves the safety and security of their land and their language – if there is actually any safety and security to be found there. Furthermore, without their parents, children have no safety and security, anywhere.
So, any nation that can stare into the faces of children, afraid and alone, orphaned by a policy designed to deter by terror, and argue only about our politics instead of their protection is in danger of losing its soul. We are there.
Dozens more children will be separated from their parents today, it’s quite possible some will never see each other again. For the sake of the soul of the nation, not our politics, it’s time we started, in the words of Mr. Campolo, “giving a sh--.”
The children deserve at least that much from us.