In “Tears For the Border Children” Mr. Blow says their fate has been consumed by political theater and callous fabrication. This is not the best face of a great nation. We are more honorable than this. Well, Mr. Blow, some of us are, and some of us are the Mole People… In “Leading Through Great Loss” Mr. Kristof says those who have lost the most and have the biggest reason for revenge in the Middle East offer the greatest wisdom. Here’s Mr. Blow:
The fight over how to process and care for masses of children from Central America who have crossed into this country is quickly becoming a spectacle of the obscene.
While the government tries to abide by the law as written and handle the children with as much care as any child would deserve, under any circumstances, the public continues to see images of angry adults intent on confronting buses full of minors.
This month, demonstrators in Murrieta, Calif., forced buses carrying immigrants to turn back. A group in Oracle, Ariz., this week blocked a road to prevent a bus filled with immigrant children from making it to a temporary housing facility.
The latest protest came after the county sheriff tipped local residents off about the incoming bus. According to the Associated Press:
Sheriff Paul Babeu “is credited with stirring up the anti-immigrant protesters via social media postings and a press release Monday and by leaking information about the migrants’ arrival to a local activist.”
Adam Kwasman, a Republican congressional candidate and state legislator, also showed up to protest the children’s arrival. When a school bus was spotted, Kwasman tweeted a picture of it with the words, “Bus coming in. This is not compassion. This is the abrogation of the rule of law.”
Kwasman even regaled a local reporter with what he said he saw on the bus:
“I was able to actually see some of the children in the buses and the fear on their faces. This is not compassion.”
That was until the reporter informed Kwasman that the children on the bus weren’t migrant children but local YMCA campers who, according to “reporters at the scene,” were “laughing and taking pictures on their iPhones.”
Kwasman’s response: “They were sad, too.”
Well, I know that I’m sad. We should all be.
I’m sad that the fate of children has been so consumed by political theater and callous fabrication.
Some of these children will no doubt be found to simply be illegal immigrants and sent back home, but others, likely many, will indeed qualify for refugee status.
In fact, MSNBC reported last week that of more than 400 children who fled their homes, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees “found that almost 60 percent of children had legitimate claims to seek asylum in the United States. Most were escaping recruiting attempts by violent gangs who forced participation or threatened the entire families of children who refused.”
And yet, rather than refer to these children as just that — children — or possibly refugees, some Republicans have taken to calling their entry into the country an “invasion.” They have suggested that these kids are disease-ridden. Representative Louie Gohmert even suggested on the House floor that the wave of children posed an existential threat to the country, and Gov. Rick Perry hinted that the influx could be some sort of Obama administration conspiracy.
All this has raised the tenor of xenophobic hysteria in this country and is likely to poison the well of comprehensive immigration reform.
A Pew Research Center Poll released Wednesday found that most Americans want to speed up the process by which these children are processed in this country, even if some who are eligible for asylum are deported.
When that question is viewed through an ideological lens, 60 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Independents want to speed up the process, while Democrats are evenly split.
At this point, the entire issue has taken on partisan dimensions. Many of the president’s core supporters — blacks, liberal Democrats and young people — are more likely to support following the current policy. On the other hand, constituencies more likely to oppose the president — men, whites, older people and Republicans, particularly those who are supporters of the Tea Party — favor speeding up the process.
In fact, this issue has chilled Republican views of immigration in general. There has been a 10-percentage point drop — from 64 percent in February to 54 percent now — in the share of Republicans who support “a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.”
This is not the best face of a great nation. This is the underside of a great stone, which when lifted sends creepy things slithering in all directions. We are better than this. We are more compassionate than this. We are more honorable than this.
This is not the time to give in to our lesser angels, but the time to rise with our better ones.
Now here’s Mr. Kristof:
In the carnage of Gaza and the Middle East, the most unlikely people have stepped forward from their grief to offer moral leadership.
The family of Naftali Fraenkel, a 16-year-old Jewish boy who was one of three kidnapped and murdered, said in a statement after the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian boy: “There is no difference between Arab blood and Jewish blood. Murder is murder.”
Likewise, the father of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian boy, said: “I am against kidnapping and killing. Whether Jew or Arab, who would accept that his son or daughter would be kidnapped and killed? I call on both sides to stop the bloodshed.”
Thus those who have lost the most, who have the greatest reason for revenge, offer the greatest wisdom. Yet, instead, it is now hard-liners on each side who are driving events, in turn empowering hard-liners on the other side.
Look, when militants in Gaza fire rockets at Israel, then Israel has a right to respond, but with some proportionality. More than 200 Gazans have been killed, three-quarters of them civilians, according to United Nations officials; one Israeli has been killed. In any case, Israel’s long-term interest lies in de-escalating, not moving to the ground war it now threatens.
Remember that the trend had been away from Gaza rocket strikes. Last year, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry website, there were far fewer rocket strikes on Israel than in any year since Hamas took over Gaza in 2006. But then, since June, there were the kidnappings and killings, rockets and the kind of mutual escalation that arises when each side thinks that the other understands only violence.
When missiles are flying, hard-liners on each side are ascendant. They purport to be defenders of their people, but, in fact, they’ve repeatedly demonstrated myopia and taken actions that ultimately created vulnerability and weakness.
After all, it was Israel itself that helped nurture Hamas and its predecessors in the 1970s and ’80s. The late Eyad El-Sarraj, a prominent psychiatrist in Gaza, warned Israel’s governor that he was “playing with fire” by nurturing religious militants. According to the book “Hamas,” by Beverley Milton-Edwards and Stephen Farrell, the governor replied: “Don’t worry, we know how to handle things. Our enemy today is the P.L.O.”
Similar shortsightedness unfolded to the north. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 inadvertently helped lead to the rise of its enemy there, Hezbollah.
Likewise, it was Hamas extremism and violence after the 2005 Gaza withdrawal that undermined Israeli moderates and led to the rise of the hard-liners who today are bombing Gaza. Israel helped create Hamas, and Hamas helped created today’s Israel.
The only way out in the long run is a two-state peace agreement. It’s true that one is not achievable now, but the aim should be to take steps that make a peace deal possible in 10 years or 20 years.
Israel could learn a lesson from Britain and Spain, both of which managed to defeat terrorist challenges that were once seen as insoluble. The analogy is imperfect, for rockets weren’t falling on London or Madrid. But Spain could have sent troops to quash Basque terrorists, and Britain could have bulldozed the offices of the I.R.A.’s political wing in Belfast.
Instead, Spain gave autonomy to the Basque Country and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher negotiated an agreement in 1985 that was criticized at the time for rewarding terrorists. This was painful and controversial, and it was by no means an instant success. Thatcher said in her memoir that the results were “disappointing.” Eventually, this approach proved transformative.
Today, in Middle Eastern terms, the analog would be a minimalist response, not a maximalist one. It would be a halt to settlements, cooperation to bolster Mahmoud Abbas and other moderate Palestinians, and an easing of the economic chokehold on Gaza to strengthen businesses there as a check on Hamas.
None of this is easy or certain. Secretary of State John Kerry’s admirable but failed peace initiative suggests that mutual distrust is so great that it may take years to lay the groundwork, so let’s get started.
When the families of a murdered Palestinian and a murdered Jew each call for humanity toward the other, it’s easy to dismiss the plea as naïve, inconsistent with harsh realities on the ground. But what we’ve actually seen for decades is that aggression on one side boomerangs and leads to aggression on the other.
In contrast, what has worked — albeit not very well and not very quickly, and in different circumstances — is the Spanish and British approaches of tough-minded conciliation and restraint to change the political landscape. That’s the approach that empowers not the hawks, but rather the Fraenkels and the Abu Khdeirs, so that an impossible peace eventually becomes possible.