Richard Fulton

All eyes are on the historic storm on the east coast and all our thoughts and prayers are with the people in its path, including those suffering in the Bahamas. Help for those along the coast is poised to come to the aide of those in the path who suffer losses.  

Natural disasters have a way of focusing our attention, and rightly so.  There are other national and international stories that compete for attention as well: missile firings from North Korea; Great Britain’s move towards exiting the EU; peace prospects in Afghanistan (again) and the ever-present presidential race.

But let me divert your attention back to a story that has lost its immediacy in the ever-changing news cycle — the continuing placement of children in cages and detention isolation.  

We must not forget the plight of these helpless children, caged and separated from their families.  The harm being done to these children will linger for the rest of their lives. And we have tended to let their plight slip from our view and from our concern.

As late as last month the attorney general’s office admitted that children were continuing to be separated from their families and sent to detention camps alone. This weeks after the government claimed separation was no longer happening. Advocates have had to turn to the court system to get a little relief for these kids.

The courts had to tell the government to provide decent food, toothbrushes, soap, and other basics. How sick is it that you have to go to court to get our government to treat these kids like human beings?

Meanwhile we were treated to news of the opening of one showcase refugee camp last week, but that camp was for families, not separated children. And still it looked depressingly crowded and empty of basics.  

Let me make myself clear: there are refugee detention centers all around the world, some in retched conditions. Still, ONLY IN AMERICA have children in camps been separated from their families. World-wide, camps are family based. Not in America and it is shameful.

Edward Watts recently published an evaluation of the decline of the Roman Republic called Mortal Republic. In one of his conclusions, a basic one, he says that the Roman republic when it worked, “works only because most Roman politicians accepted the laws and norms of the Republic.”  Not just the letter of laws, but the norms by which they were executed. What American norms are at work here?

“When politics becomes a zero-sum game,” he writes, “when the public looks away, the republic is in danger.” Hear the echo of this warning for our own republic?

So, I urge you not to look away, especially from helpless children unable to understand what is happening to them. Write to Congressman Sam Graves and Senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley and tell them to raise their voices to help these children and to reunite them with their families.

These are our representatives, they act and speak for us. Their voices should be raised now. If you think this sounds partisan because they happen to all be Republicans, write to Nancy Pelosi, Democrat speaker of the House. They are the government as much as the executive is. They are as responsible as the executive for the treatment of these children.  

And they speak and act in our name.

Only in America use to refer to all the positive examples we present to the world. Not in this case, it speaks to our callousness and inability to find the compassion for children and refugees that Jesus enunciated time and time again. Look it up.

 Richard Fulton is an emeritus professor of political science.  


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