“In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve.” (Joseph de Maistre)
The President recently reversed his own decision to separate children from their parents after crossing into the United States, an action that the United Nations office of human rights condemned as a violation of basic human rights of children. They weren’t alone. The Pope spoke out citing such a disgraceful policy as contrary to Catholic values, and immoral. The Methodist Church called it child abuse and racism. Other religious leaders echoed this sentiment. Business leaders spoke out publicly condemning it. All five living first ladies spoke out against it. It was clear to the world that the United States, under the direction of the Donald Trump administration, was committing violations of human rights of children. Yes, it was disgusting and disgraceful, and the world was ashamed of us. Yes, I blame the Trump administration as the root cause of it. I also blame the people that carried it out, who all too often get away with no accountability.
Such a mandate to violate human rights should have never gotten past the awful leadership call. The problem is that any nation is, to some degree, a reflection of society. Many of the problems we see in our current administration are merely a mirror image of at least a portion of our population, and this was proof of that. When it comes to acts that intentionally cause lasting psychological damage to children, such as those that were reported when this hit mainstream media, it was only possible because there were people willing to follow those orders. Government employees on payroll, with mortgages, living in our neighborhoods – willing to follow orders to do what were later condemned by many as human rights violations. We should be in sackcloth and ashes as a nation over this.
We’ll likely never see those people prosecuted. jailed, or even named, and with the President’s executive order to reverse this policy, the bleeding is beginning to stop. This brief window into ICE / CBP / DHS, however showed us something about our own government and some of the people in it. There are many great people working in our government. There are clearly also many willing to violate human rights when given orders to. Lots of them, in fact. It begs the question of what other crimes against human rights are they willing to commit if given the order?
The child separation policy was a test of our grit as Americans. I’m very proud that so many stood up against it, and I am sure that there are many good men and women in law enforcement who did too. It was, however, also a test of our inner government agencies to see how far they could push their own employees to commit such acts, and we know that many did follow their orders. Those that did not refuse such orders and quit their job failed an important test of their character, and have no business serving the people. Next time, the orders may be worse. Agents that follow such orders and keep telling themselves, “next time” will always follow those orders: the line just keeps moving until it is no longer visible.
Over my time working with government, I’ve come to know many amazing human beings who do good work and keep us safe. The people who forcefully ripped children away from their parents and locked them in cages were not deserving of the badge. Those people should, in my opinion, be charged and prosecuted for crimes against human rights, to set an example that America won’t stand for this kind of behavior. We should all take this as a serious warning that there are those in our society who are capable of such things, and rectify the situation before it gets worse. America should not be capable of this. Yet we have been, historically. If left unchecked and unrepentant, we may one day find ourselves not far from repeating the atrocities of our own history as a country.
This exercise should have been a wakeup call that we are in a potentially dangerous place.