••• The International Writers Magazine - Our 20th Year: Reality Check USA
The Moral Low Ground
Conditions at Our Southern Border & What It Says About Our Country
Admittedly, the person who pens this column every week is either an asshole or a genius. Or both. The mantle I have chosen to drape myself in does not come with gray areas. I sometimes point out that hypocrites fail to see those in their black and white existence, but mostly I tend to work on the margins between beauty and disgust. Predominantly disgust. This is due primarily to my insistence on commenting on politics, but that is merely a subtext for the great human experiment, America. We’ll be celebrating its two-hundred and forty-third birthday this week, so this is where the asshole comes in: Sure, remind us of our shitty side when we’re about to merrily force-feed hot dogs at an alarming rate, get our dime-store mini flags out of mothballs and blow stuff up. But consider the genius of this. It is not unlike Dickens getting all up in your self-absorbed misery when you just want to get some eggnog and a new tie. Humanity is a tricky subject.
And it is of our humanity of which I write this week. Forget politics and countries and religion and the rest of that John Lennon song. Let’s concentrate on humans. For the purposes of the true grit here, children.
The images and news emanating from what amounts to concentration camps, or if you are Laura Ingram – a comedy show host from a cable network – “essentially summer camps”, has really struck me hard. From the very beginning when we became aware of what our government was doing with our money I tweeted daily, “There are children locked away in cages and we’re paying for it.” I thought this might cut through the usually self-absorbed hate-fest that is Twitter. After a time, even I thought it silly to keep bringing it up. Apparently, like perpetual war (Americans have been fighting in Afghanistan for eighteen years now and Iraq for sixteen), we have more or less come to accept this as our national normal.
Now, I am not here to cast blame. We know who is to blame, if you choose to blame anyone. Our president, who likes to say he runs everything, so get out of his way and get sick of winning, blames congress. Congress blames the game show host. Some people blame Mexico. Some blame past administrations. But I blame humanity. And if you’re reading this, you’re human, so yeah, us. Our government, that means us in this fancy American experiment, is putting fellow human beings in hot, clammy, lice-infected flu-cages in stifling heat under inhumane conditions. And that cannot sit right with anyone. Can it?
This always gets me to think about the moral high ground that America is supposed to, theoretically, or for some, theologically, stand for. In other words, if this were happening in the Middle East or Central America there would be debates on when the bombing should start. Yet, we’re paying for it. When I am done with this piece, I will send it to press, and then at the end of a period, I will get money. Then, at some point, I will pay taxes on that money. Those taxes will go to what doctors have recently described as “torture facilities”. Now, I have written extensively in the past about the kind of torture or “enhanced interrogation” methods our government used on apprehended terrorists at the beginning of this century. I believe for terrorists, anything goes. Once you choose terrorism, you’re essentially saying “no thanks” to society and its norms. If you wish to see those norms eradicated, then you kind of hand in your human card. However, not sure people escaping poverty and violence and sneaking into the country equals the same thing. Some argue it is. Those people have wildly exaggerated what they feel is an open attack on our nation and for them, this nightmare of caged children is justified. No tolerance. Stay home or get this kind of treatment.
Makes sense. But is it good? Or even moral? Or something we represent as a nation or as fellow members of humanity?
What has always made me ill about the concept of morality is its vacillating institutional tool, religion, and especially its most bizarre creatures, evangelists. Mostly it is their sadly quixotic ways in which they flub the very idea of it. All religions are filled with this craziness, but Christians, when considering the source, do and say the most hateful and judgmental things. We can argue whether Jesus was an egalitarian and hated capitalism and money and property and welcomed the inclusion of all peoples against the ruling religious class or not. We can even assume him God. But I am not entirely sure how you balance what is happening to the children at the border with any level of comprehension about a Christ figure. Never mind Yeshua the Nazarene. Yet, there are a whole lotta Christians who support this policy and this administration, and I don’t get that. Never will.
I only bring this up because the No Tolerance Policy that led to these horrors was sold, predictably, by quoting Biblical scripture. Then Attorney General Jeff Sessions said “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.” Ignoring that the former Saul of Tarsus, a man known for torturing Christians as a weekend hobby before some shit happened to him on the road across the border, using the Bible to sell oppression and systemic criminal activity is as old as the damn thing. But that brings us back to our national morality, even a secular compassion for our fellow humans.
How do we, a nation so full of itself, so prideful of our accomplishments to assist the less fortunate and protecting the weak and needy, stand by and watch this happen?
I have no answer and that is not a rhetorical question. I want to know.
© James Campion July 3rd 2019
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, "Midnight For Cinderella" and “Y”. and his new book, “Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon”.
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