President Trump has announced that he is taking action to end the country’s policy of separating families at the border, wherein illegal alien parents are taken into custody while the children are held at separate facilities. Many times those children are young and scared, including infants and toddlers with no concept of what is happening to them or their parents.
During the Obama administration, the government opened the bizarrely named “tender-age” facilities, and images emerged of slightly older kids sleeping on a mat in cages like they were animals. We should have done better then, and we should be doing better now.
As hard as what it has been to hear some of the audio from these separations – sounds that made my mind go back to what I imagine it was like on the slave auction blocks when families were separated permanently – and see the images, it remains encouraging to me that we live in an open society where bad, even immoral practices, like this can be exposed to the light of day. And it is encouraging to me that our people possess the moral character to generate outrage intense enough to prompt our leaders to acquiesce and act.
All that is good. But even that could be improved.
One of the most unproductive elements of this whole tempest-of-the-week drama has been, unsurprisingly, the attempts of political one-upmanship that it spurred. Yes, part of that falls on our leaders in Washington who more often than not seem to be motivated more by what can be leveraged to hurt their political opponent than what is right.
For instance, outside of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, few politicians were demanding a straightforward policy to simply end the separation. So many of the others were crafting legislation or writing petitions that included political jargon they knew the other side would not agree to. Then when they didn’t, the authors would pound the podium and declare those who wouldn’t go along with them didn’t care about families. It was a charade.
But that shamelessness wasn’t confined to the theater of D.C. politics. It was happening in media – both mainstream (and I don’t mean Maddow’s tears that I have no reason to conclude weren’t genuine) and social, and even amongst the religious community. Take this exceedingly unhelpful accusation from feminist columnist Jessica Valenti:
“It’s funny, I haven’t seen any outcry from ‘pro-life’ organizations about the treatment of children at the border. Almost as if they don’t give a s*** about actual babies.”
Leave aside the startlingly anti-intellectual assumption that babies in the womb are something other than babies, and recognize that perhaps the reason Valenti didn’t hear any “outcry” from pro-lifers was because she wasn’t listening to them.
Personally, I know a lot of pro-life people, I surround myself with them, and I don’t know one of them that, once they became aware of it, didn’t think the country’s family-separation border policy needed to be changed.
Nationally, organizations like the Family Research Council and Tony Perkins, the ERLC and Russell Moore, Samaritan’s Purse and Franklin Graham, the Catholic Church and its many subsidiary pro-life ministries, the US Catholic Bishops, the Southern Baptist Convention are just a few of the ones who explicitly called for an end to the policy.
Politically, some of the most outspoken pro-life politicians, whether that’s Cruz and Rubio, or others like Ben Sasse, Paul Ryan, and Mia Love all condemned the policy and pushed legislation to end it.
Culturally, pro-life media voices were unequivocal in their call to end the border policy – Erick Erickson, David French, Guy Benson, and Ben Shapiro to name just a few.
Sadly, it would be generous to conclude that Valenti’s remark was poorly researched. In truth, it wasn’t given even a 5-second Google search for accuracy before being sent. And why? Because the point wasn’t about helping families or separated children. If it would have been, Valenti would have tweeted about how she and other pro-abortion feminists are standing in solidarity with their pro-life friends to call for action. Instead, the point was politics.
But sadly this conduct isn’t even confined to radical feminist activists. It bleeds into the religious context as well. Take progressive Christian activist Shane Claiborne who took the opportunity to demand:
Dear Pro-Life & Pro-Family Friends: If you’re not speaking out against children being ripped from parents and held in cages, don’t call yourself Pro-Life and Pro-Family. Just say you’re Anti-Abortion.
Claiborne tweets this from time to time, with a different topic in place of kids in cages. This time his more astute followers have fairly asked him where his voice was during the years the Obama administration was putting kids in cages and wrapping them in tinfoil blankets. But beyond that, if this was a good-faith tweet by Claiborne, he would have followed up with the obvious converse:
“Dear Everyone Speaking Out Against Children Being Ripped From Parents and Held in Cages: If you’re not speaking out against children being ripped limb from limb in their mothers’ wombs, don’t call yourself concerned about children. Just say you’re anti-Trump.”
But it’s not done in good faith. Because it’s not about the kids and families. It’s about politics. And something like this just shouldn’t be.