Even if the Border Patrol and the rest of the agencies kept perfect records of every one of the over 2,000 children that were separated from their parent by those agencies and shipped off to who-knows-where and could reunite them with no delay, there will still be long-term damage to those children. Ten, fifteen, twenty years from now we’re going to be dealing with the aftershocks.
Long after we’ve forgotten about what jacket Melania Trump wore, where Sara Huckabee Sanders ate dinner, and all the little “oh-look-at-the-kitty” distractions have come and gone, we’re going to be left with the clean-up that comes after a disaster. No matter where those refugees end up, we will still be confronting not only what was done to them in the real sense, but also the cost to our nation in terms of being able to set an example of morality and democracy for the rest of our civilization.
We’ve had a habit of trying to teach the world how to live, how to bring freedom and justice to people, how to create a society that respects the rule of law and sets a good example. We have failed on numerous occasions, but in doing so we’ve learned from our mistakes and vowed to do better. In my relatively short lifetime I’ve seen those failures and seen the attempts to fix them, and the naive optimism that has come along in the aftermath that nothing like that could ever happen again. I saw it with the McCarthy era where we were supposed to learn that xenophobia incites panic and harm; I saw it with Vietnam where going to war didn’t always mean that we won, especially if it was for the wrong reasons, and I saw it in Watergate where we stopped a corrupt administration from trashing the Constitution to achieve political ends.
We made it through dark times before but with aftershocks that still rattle us today, and in some cases the cautionary tales we told ourselves that were supposed to warn us away from certain behaviors and outcomes have become beacons, not warnings. Simply put, we’re in a place where each one of those failures has come back to us and our response so far has been “Hold my beer.”
I firmly believe that we will survive this time in our history, but at what cost? Who’s going to pay for it?