Or How A Humanitarian Crisis Sheds Greater Light On Washington Dysfunction
We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me
—Michael Jackson/Lionel Richie
Remember that crap?
It was the sort of utopian farce that conjures odd memory when first seeing footage of rabid faux nationalists cum Birchers shouting obscenely racist folderol at frightened children sitting on a government bus in some cow town north of San Diego. Many of these goobers weren’t even aware that the displaced refugees from Central American slaughterhouses they were “protesting” against were not immigrants—legal or illegal—nor were they from Mexico. Neither did they have the minutest understanding of the legal procedure for detaining and providing due process for such unfortunates or the policy of the USA since 2008 to provide shelter for displaced children from non-bordering nations.
But that is to be expected. What most Americans don’t know you could barely cram into the Grand Canyon. They are busying themselves with talk radio, porn and whatever LeBron James is tweeting. I am sure Michael Jackson had no idea what manner of disarray Africa found its political system in when he decided that somehow “we” were the world back in 1985, like some half-mad, crotch-obsessed, effeminate Jesus/Gandhi figure. But he got everyone singing about it. Americans like to sing. It keeps us from knowing what the hell is going on, so we can get our signs together and rush out to scream at children.
Hell, MJ was not so far off, since much of his pie-in-the-sky nonsense rang a bell in the loftiest halls of our federal government; long before Ronnie Reagan started playing footsies with Nicaragua; arming hordes of raping and pillaging jungle warriors in a wildly misguided attempt to “stem the tide of Communism.”
Nope. Our meddling and upheaval in Central America, coupled with our money-pit of failed and damaging anti-drug policies in Guatemala (Harry Truman’s 1954 coup de tat folly that led to decades of bloodshed and anarchy) and El Salvador (Jimmy Carter’s 1979 “secret support” of a politically ambiguous civil war that appeared to only include drug cartels), has long-since led to the hellscape it is today. Granted, Reagan’s obsession with Nicaragua should have gotten him impeached and eventually led to the dilution of the Central Intelligence Agency, allowing its fractured remnants to orchestrate the sad joke that became the Iraq War, but this “crisis” emanates from our American soul.
But explaining this historical minutia to yammering goobers is not our aim here, nor should it be. Shit, these are the same crackers that spat at my ancestors generations before; the “Irish Need Not Apply” set, who spread the same ignorant hate-speech about “diseases” and burnt Catholic churches to the ground. Fearing those fleeing to this country from famine, death and genocide is human nature. Far be it for me to quibble with that.
However, what we aim to do now is point out that our elected officials, both houses of Congress and our president, appear to not have a handle on our national responsibility to uphold our laws and get a handle on some sort of humanity—not necessarily a “We Are The World” kind of craziness, but maybe a sense that if we demand of other nations that refugees be taken in after say something as horrifically sweeping as the Holocaust to the unmitigated disaster in Syria/Iraq today, then certainly it needs to be summarily addressed on our own continent.
It’s mostly important to point out that this “crisis” has become microcosm of how completely inert this government is; from the executive branch on down. Everything has now become so political that it has crippled the government to work together to solve even an obviously open/shut case.
Congress’ responsibility during such a crisis is to act; in this case to appropriate funds to secure parts of the border, enhance the legal proceedings involving refugees, and at the very least provide care to the displaced. This is the basest form of legislative powers: Shit hits fan, act. Congress seems to think that this is an opportunity to point fingers, rewrite history, soapbox a restructure of immigration policy or cause a panic among the unwashed that somehow this is some sort of de facto invasion.
How is it that acting swiftly when it comes to bombing something or to scream about providing weapons and money to underground Syrian kill-clubs is no problem, but this is clown time?
This Congress, now officially the most inactive in the history of this republic, has completely become so dysfunctional it is a headless quagmire of inner-bickering and grandstanding. But it pales in comparison to how Barack Obama has handled this mess.
Why the president—especially after how abysmally his predecessor dealt with the devastation of Katrina—did not get his ass down to the border, is beyond explanation. Granted, there is a sense of theater and photo-op phoniness to such a trek, but it is incumbent on every president, whether Calvin Coolidge after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 or Jimmy Carter patrolling the burned-out remnants of the Bronx, NY in the ‘70s, to show up. Again, like Congress’ inability to understand its job—as in failing to uphold the faith and credit of the nation in favor of showboating—Obama needs to show support to these disposed and frightened refugees, many of them children, and, more pointedly, for the citizens along our southern borders.
It is almost comically tragic that I am writing about this today, halfway through July and weeks after this reached “crisis” proportions.
There are limits to what this country can do about what is going on the Middle East—despite our obsession with it. Civil wars and cultural unrest has been going on before there was even a Bible or a Qur’an. The latest violence in Israel will likely change nothing. And Russia’s grand plan of annexing Ukraine is already disintegrating in. What to do about the genocide in Africa or the ethnic cleansing in Syria or whatever the hell Iran is up to this week is something to debate. But this?
Action is required; morally, legally, historically.
What we are getting instead is inertia.
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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” and “Y.”