Yesterday was Father’s Day in the U.S. , that commercial innovation designed to sell goods and greeting cards and, oh yes, to recognize the important role of dads in our society. The date also happens to be my wedding anniversary, that moment in time forty-six years ago when Katie and I formed our official Sheppard partnership. It’s a nice overlap. Certainly, the marital partnership led to the four children who called their father yesterday with thanks and good wishes. Marriage and fatherhood. It was a good day.
It seems conventional and predictable, to celebrate these kinds of events in our lives. That does not diminish their enjoyment, but it recognizes the expectation that celebrations of family are meant to happen, and often. I felt a special gratitude yesterday, maybe because I keep getting older, with an increasing awareness that, despite their regularity, these special days are finite in life. Or maybe there was a nagging awareness in the back of my mind about children elsewhere in our country being separated from their fathers and mothers in the name of the law. And that is disturbing.
My intention here is not to wade into the great immigration debate within our country; there are enough voices disagreeing about that already. But there is a distinction between enforcing border security versus tearing families apart as a punishment for border violation. The practice is not only philosophically reprehensible, even as a deterrent to illegal immigration, but carries an eerie similarity to the separation of Jewish children from their parents at Nazi concentration camps. Our nation’s posture on this matter is an expression of our values and our morality; I wonder whether this is truly a reflection of who we have become as a people.
The U.S. Attorney General has responded to the criticisms of this policy of separation by observing, “Well, we are not putting them in jail.” To excuse an abusive and inhumane practice by comparing it to something even worse is no excuse at all. At the end of the day, after all the explanations and defenses and rationalizations, children are being taken from their parents. In some cases, according to government personnel, they are taken under the pretext of taking them for a bath, and with no guarantee of ever being reunited with mom and dad. It’s a punishment which the children do not deserve in any context. But here in the U.S.?
Further defense of the practice falls along the lines of “the law,” that the law requires that this practice be carried out, and that if the practice is to end, it must be the U.S. Congress (noted these days for its inability to pass any kind of meaningful legislation) which takes the responsibility. But it must be noted that the immigration law being referenced in this defense was also the law under at least two previous administrations. In neither case was the separation of families used as a means of torture.
We are at an immigration crossroads in our country. The topic has been discussed and debated, leveraged and used, with words couched in sympathy and actions devoid of empathy: more than 1300 children have been separated from their families thus far. The untruths about which political party is more to blame is meaningless. On Father’s Day, 2018, children are being separated from their families. That’s all we need to know.
I had a memorable Father’s Day and anniversary yesterday. It was a good day. But it could have been a lot better….