Selective Outrage

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The American news media seems to lack a sense of proportion.  Every few weeks attention is focused almost exclusively on one story.  They report on it obsessively, and then move on to the next headline du jour.  This past week the “crisis” the press’s attention was fixated on was the separation of children from their parents as families attempt illegal entry into the United States at the southern border.

Anyone with a modicum of compassion is disturbed by the idea of taking children from caring parents.  Clearly, there is a problem here that government has a responsibility to address.

However, if all that was known about the border separation issue was learned from recent television news broadcasts, a person might conclude that this was all recent, and nothing like this has happened since Japanese were placed in internment camps during World War II.   Actually, the current difficulty results from a law signed by President Clinton back in the ‘90’s.  Border separation has been going on for many years.  Why then the sudden outrage?  Although there has been a recent increase in border law enforcement, I suspect that the furor is driven more by politics than by anything else.  Sad.

Sad because children been separated from their parents at the border for years with no one seeming to care.  Sad because for decades there has been a dramatic increase nationwide in American children being removed from the company and custody of their fathers and their mothers, and there is almost no public concern about this.

Since 1970, the percentage of children living with only one parent or with neither parent has more than doubled.  Nearly a half million children in the U.S. now live in foster care.  The reasons are numerous – the opioid crisis, alcoholism, imprisonment, child abuse, neglect, etc.  Over 100,000 of these children can never be returned to their parents.  Incredibly, in the past twenty-five years the number of children with at least one parent in prison has multiplied by five.  Nearly four percent of American children has an incarcerated parent!

Millions more children are routinely separated from parents who are not incarcerated.  Through divorce or parents not living together who never married, court-ordered visitation decrees force children to leave one home and parent to be with another.  This occurs weekly, monthly, sometimes annually, sometimes irregularly.   The common thinking is that children are resilient; it does not hurt them; there is little pain or problem in this separation.  However, common thinking is wrong.  Studies consistently show that harm is done, emotionally, socially, and in other ways.

Several years ago, as I was driving through a Belding neighborhood, I passed a house with two police cars parked out front.  The drama I witnessed on the front lawn was tragic.  A police officer was literally pulling a screaming child from the arms of what appeared to be its mother.  The child was then placed in a police car.  I can only guess why this was happening.  However, none of my speculation lays any blame on law enforcement.

The recent outrage over border separation has some merit.  But it is a selective outrage.  Outrage should also be directed toward the separation and suffering unwed parenting, infidelity, divorce, crime, and addiction inflict on children.

During the Babylonian invasion the prophet Jeremiah wept for the orphaned and starving children of Jerusalem.  “Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children, that faint for hunger in the top of every street.” (Lam. 2:19)  We too should lament for the children, and not just at our southern border.  We should be concerned for all children – our own children in particular.  And we should strive to ensure that they are raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord by married, loving mothers and fathers.  Anything else is an outrage.