Monday, February 20, 2017

"Have We Lost All Sense of Proportion?"

On Saturday, Ken Dow, our city attorney, posted this picture on his Facebook page, along with the link to the article from the New York Daily News it accompanied: "Nine people, including four children, barely escape U.S. border patrol to seek asylum in Canada."

Photo: Paul Chiasson|The Canadian Press
I was stunned by the realization that these people were escaping from the United States--fleeing a U.S. border patrol officer and being welcomed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And I was moved by Dow's eloquent reflection on the photograph, excerpts from which, with his permission, are quoted below.
Have we lost all sense of proportion? To those who say "they aren't supposed to be here--they have broken the law"--is that transgression so grave as to warrant ripping children from their parents, to dislodge children who have grown up here from the only home they have ever known? Is the simple act of being here worse than countless other offenses--other offenses that do actual harm?. . .
I am sickened to see our country led by a man entirely without compassion, empathy, or basic human decency, and appalled to know that a large portion of the people with whom I share this land either support that or find it acceptable.
I am saddened that so many Americans have retreated into fear, or have been led into fear, such that their fear has displaced empathy and humanity. There was, not too long ago, a time when an appeal to decency put a pause to another episode of harsh and reckless assault on those accused of being a threat.
Joseph N. Welch, Chief Counsel of the United States Army, famously shut down Senator Joe McCarthy with these words: "I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. . . . Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. . . . I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. . . . Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"
Is there any sense of decency left to appeal to? Or, more precisely perhaps, is there any sense of decency toward people who may be different from us, or have we become so small and insular and tribal that only "our own" matter and all the rest are callously disposable?
Look at this child, fleeing government agents of the United States, in the arms of a welcoming officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I never thought I would see the day. Through the years, I have disagreed with and been critical of many things this country has done, and agreed with and approved of many others. But I have never gotten close to feeling what I do now.
We are not just seeing changes in policy. We are losing the moral essence of what we, as a nation, have striven toward and are supposed to stand for. To the extent the United States has been a beacon for the world, we are witnessing that light go out.


  1. "Living in the Promised Land, our dreams are made of steel. The prayer of every man is to know how freedom feels. There is a winding road through the shifting sand, and room for everyone living in the Promised Land." Willie Nelson