Ralph J. Dolan: Finding compassion for those in flight from violence in other lands
Ralph Dolan poses for a portrait, Tuesday, in Northampton. SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »
HAYDENVILLE — What now, America?
With waves of human beings streaming across your southern border seeking refuge, you are now reaping the bitter fruit of centuries of occupation, plunder, coup d’ etats, proxy wars, exploitation, enslavement, torture and dislocation throughout Latin America.
Most of these young migrants are from Honduras, which has the dubious distinction of being the murder capital of the world. Guatemala and El Salvador are no better off. Drug lords use murder, extortion, intimidation and bribery to keep the politicians, the police and the judiciary in line. The people have been driven down into desperate levels of poverty.
Lots of these young people are just running for their lives, hopping trains, sleeping in ditches, alone among strangers, bone-weary, penniless and hungry. They make the trek of 1,000 miles hoping to connect with family members who have made it across, determined to escape violence and squalor. Hoping to live.
What now, America? You look with horror upon these migrant youths as if they were a swarm of locusts who will feed upon America’s privileged way of life, depleting her resources.
One of America’s foremost spokesmen is Sen. John McCain of Arizona. He is a war hero and former presidential candidate. He possesses all the prestige a man could want, a generous senatorial compensation package and perks galore.
If you can come up with his speaking fee, he might consider giving a one-hour talk to your group and honoring you with his wisdom. During the Vietnam War, he was shot down on a bombing sortie in the north, was captured and subjected to severe conditions for five years. His enemies could have killed him. He had rained much destruction down upon them. He could have become one of the 58,000 American dead.
But they did not kill him. They sent him home.
One might imagine that over the years, reflecting upon his war experiences, McCain would have developed compassion for those ensnared in terribly violent situations. He has not. His heart seems hardened to the misery of those less fortunate. His solution is to send these 58,000 young people back into the caldron of violence and insanity. “I’ve got my pile of goodies,” he seems to be saying. “You go get your own.”
What now, America? These are all our children. We, America, have a moral obligation to protect and give comfort to these young migrants and to nurture them until they are strong enough to stand on their own.
This is not a time to get mired in the legalese of immigration law, to parade these children one-by-one before a magistrate to determine whether they deserve to have conferred upon them the prized status of refugee. We can throw away our humanity nit-picking nuances of the law as we did when we decided it was acceptable to torture people.
We may try to use smoke and mirrors to side-step our obligation here. But the reality is that all of these migrants are refugees.
Allow me to make a modest proposal. America is big enough, rich enough and I dare say compassionate enough to absorb all of these youths fleeing violence and poverty.
But I do not believe that the funds needed to meet this obligation should come from the public coffers. We might consider challenging the top executives of all U.S. corporations to make multimillion dollar donations to this humanitarian crisis and post running tallies of their giving.
It cannot be denied that there has been a terrible corporate plundering of the land.
With these funds we could reunite these refugees with relatives or provide foster homes, education and opportunities. We could send international peacekeepers into this region to stop the violence. We could provide economic aid and development so that the people in flight would choose to stay home — or return home. And we could put the drug kingpins out of business by ending a disastrous war on drugs.
Ralph J. Dolan of Haydenville writes a monthly column and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.