June 21st, 2018 | Essays - Culture: Permeable Behavior
The image shows this as published in a newspaper, but heavily edited. The publisher felt this national problem will be localized soon enough and did not want my column fueling any sparks of bigotry into flame.
I did not like the way it was edited, as my byline and picture appeared with it. Below is the unedited submission.
By Melissa Walsh
Missing in our nation, top down, is the notion that bad behavior is permeable in community. Bad behavior spreads through attitude and policy like yeast in dough or like a cold virus in a workplace.
Good behavior also spreads, despite and countering unethical laws and rules. The civil rights movement is an example of good behavior spread by brave, committed people, who gave up safety and comfort for collective honor. During the centuries of slavery, Quakers and other courageous abolitionists illegally, but morally, aided fugitive slaves.
A good person is more concerned about right relationship with others than legal prohibitions countering compassion.
“Whole people see and create wholeness wherever they go; split people see and create splits in everything and everybody,” wrote Franciscan friar Richard Rohr in his book Falling Upward.
If we were a whole nation, we would welcome desperate families teeming our borders. But we are a split nation — split well beyond partisanship and disputing the very cause of America.
Are we a nation of comfortable individualists or a nation valuing reason, charity and justice with the aim of collective honor?
“Whole” people lost to “split” people in Nazi Germany. So did those in Sarajevo during the early 1990s, where I attended university in the late 1980s. I was eyewitness to the early infection of the virus of hate contaminating former Yugoslavia.
I’m witnessing the same strain of virus here in the United States, as citizens and political leaders feel encouraged to blame the weakest among us shamelessly, detached from personal moral accountability and collective honor.
So in recent weeks we’ve received reports about detention centers holding children taken by our government from parents fleeing to safety from the instability in Central and South America. We’ve heard from detention center workers that they are forbidden to comfort distressed children as young as those still in diapers. We witness nefarious policy defended by the U.S. Attorney General with irrelevant biblical references. Why would our Justice Department support attacks waged against the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free?
If honor is a force in history transcending any sense of entitlement Americans perceive as rights to comfort and greed, then America may win a few meaningless battles against those seeking asylum here only to lose the war to virtue.
History will reflect the truth of this president, who views socio-politics as one big real estate “deal” and holds children in detention as collateral to gain leverage on a border-wall vision. Deplorable is not harsh enough a term to describe this warped sense of political maneuvering.
Political players applying a moral compass, such as former first lady Laura Bush, are speaking out. But if other good citizens are silent, there will be more harsh treatment of the most vulnerable among us by this administration and more blemishes in American history.
Meanwhile, imprisoned children remain detained, barred from human comfort and from even knowing the welfare of their parents. They suffer and wait with the view of a sign with Donald Trump’s image and a quote, “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.”
Another vainglorious leader in history said it this way, “Arbeit macht frei.”