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Do you believe in right and wrong—not as a topic of philosophical or religious discussion but as an everyday guideline for behavior? Many believe wrong is okay if the end justifies the means. What do you think about “mitigating circumstances?”
War, for example, grants the combatants absolute license—or so some contend. Anything done under orders is merely obedience, and don’t we teach obedience above all in our educational system? The international Nuremberg Trials after World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust established a precedent for saying even atrocities committed during war can be prosecuted. Twelve defendants were ultimately executed, eight given life in prison, and 77 assigned prison terms that may have been reduced later. Today, the U.N. tries crimes against humanity in its International Court of Justice.
In 1968, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, an Army helicopter pilot, intervened to stop the wanton slaughter of the citizens of a small Vietnamese village by American troops. A total of 504 people were murdered (some also raped and mutilated), including 182 women (17 of whom were pregnant) and 173 children (56 of whom were infants). Lt. William Calley claimed he was merely following orders to destroy villages. Not a single shot was fired from the village of My Lai. He was the only one punished for what is known as the My Lai Massacre. As in the Nuremberg Trials, similar savagery was identified elsewhere yet not prosecuted. However, the United States had made a statement that lines of human decency exist. No one should obey an immoral order.
American history provides plenty of examples in which prejudice against particular groups, religions, ethnic backgrounds, gender identities, or races has been used as justification for treating members of those populations as animals (assuming animals deserve no better). Many Americans don’t know there was a time when KKK-like groups tormented the Irish. Abraham Lincoln wrote of one, “When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.’”
Modern Americans claim they want to rise above their darkest history. Our modest progress in civil rights proves many mean what they say (www.familiesbelongtogether.org) —but not all.
Today, we’re told to accept the decisions our representatives in Congress and the White House make in our names. We’re given multiple reasons—often based on partially hidden, false, or conflicting information. Investigations have established our representation was chosen, in part, with foreign influence and money, but many citizens defend all the changes to our democracy being implemented as they would unconditionally defend a favorite sports team. (I’m an Independent voter, if you hadn’t guessed.)
Now, permit me to be personal. Are you a parent? Have you ever been forced to stand helplessly by while children you love are dragged away from you kicking and screaming to a future you know will be tainted by neglect at best? I have, and I can tell you I know of no more exquisite torture. I couldn’t tell my story without visibly trembling all over for years after the situation had been changed for the better. The children retained emotional scars.
Imagine you hear your child crying for you, but you can’t do anything. Now imagine you’ve risked your life, perhaps suffered physical attacks or deprivations for weeks to carry your child to safety. You arrive at the “golden door” of the U.S. only to have your child seized and your pleas for asylum ignored. You’re unlikely to ever see your child again, regardless of whether you survive being returned to the horrors you were escaping. There is no reliable ICE protocol for reuniting parent and child, especially after deportation.
Yes, I believe in right and wrong—with or without religion. I know separating children from parents who love and protect them is wrong. Prosecuting people who come to the USA for legal asylum due to credible fear for their lives—without bothering to consider their cases—because you don’t like immigrants is illegal and wrong.
“Injury to…mental or physical health” is one of the U.N. court descriptors for crimes against humanity as is the “taking of hostages.” What is being done to immigrant families by this American administration constitutes child abuse at best. It is wrong, regardless of the rationale. There is a line between human decency and abject cruelty, and they have crossed it. Even if they back away from their decision due to the backlash, they cannot escape the fact that they let it happen.