By Gary Olson
Recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
- The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Good on everyone who rallied in such large numbers on behalf of keeping families together. I will generalize and break down the participants into three groups. The first was composed of folks who may have participated in their first protest and responded with genuine empathy and moral outrage regarding a transparently immoral situation.
For them, the blame lies primarily with President Trump. Many of these well-intentioned folks, denied exposure to alternative narratives, believe the Federal government is not acting in ways commensurate with America’s highest ideals. Yes, occasionally some grievous “mistakes” are made, but overall, U.S. intentions are good. At the same time, it’s been my experience that this first group is receptive to dialogue, in part because they’re genuinely puzzled why so many of the world’s people do not share their benevolent view of the U.S. government.
A second group understands that public pressure must be sustained to force any meaningful change. They also grasp that this didn’t begin with Trump but with a long history of brutal bipartisan U.S. policy in Central America‘s Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. These three countries suffer the first, fourth and fifth highest homicide rates in the world. U.S action on behalf of empire stoked this desperate situation. This second group also refuses to exempt the Democrats for their complicity, including Obama’s horrific immigration policies. They know that in 2014, Hillary Clinton spoke in favor of deporting thousands of Central American migrants, saying, “We have to send a clear message that just because your child gets across the border doesn’t mean your child gets to stay.” And they’re aware that in June of 2009, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton championed the overthrow of moderately reformist Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, followed by a flood of Honduran migrants attempting to enter the United States.
This second group largely connected the dots and know the history of U.S. officials breaking and destroying families both here and abroad from the very beginning. These folks might have read books like Howard Zinn’s "People’s History of the United States" or Robert Jensen’s "Citizens of the Empire." Further, they might have wondered, as did social media commentator Elizabeth Oram, that considering this past, “Where was the mass outrage--the fury? Do we care about families or do we just want to make a partisan challenge to an embarrassing Republican?” In addition, the second group are right to worry there will be 24/7 efforts by DNC-level Democrats to co opt the movement and use it to protect incumbents and increase their seats in November.
What about the third group? After returning from a recent visit to an Immigration Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, where she witnessed the stark cruelty of children being separated from their parents, Sen. Elizabeth Warren proclaimed this is not what America stands for. She said “We are people who believe in the worth of every human being.” If only this were true. Warren’s hypocritical statement typifies those in the final group. They may have a “Hate Has No Home Here” yard sign, mouth sanctimonious phrases and join one-off, media-celebrated, “feel good,“ anti-Trump events. Not a few of them come across as self-righteous while keeping cognitive dissonance at bay. Warren herself, known by critics in her home state of Massachusetts as “The Senator from Raytheon,” recently voted in favor of the largest ever increase in Pentagon spending.
This last group chooses to deny that beginning with genocide against Native Americans and slavery, right up to today’s perpetual U.S. wars of “regime change,” largely against people of color around the globe, this is precisely who we are. It’s this group that Noam Chomsky characterizes as “...deeply and deliberately, apolitical in the sense they do not seek to address issues of power, resources, decision making, or how to bring about change.”
I take no pleasure in saying it’s the latter who must “get woke“ from their moral amnesia if they’re serious about safeguarding children and families everywhere. It’s not too late but time is exceedingly short.
[Editor’s note: Gary Olson is professor emeritus of political science, Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA]
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