Maybe I first began to think of myself as a Compassionate Conservative in 8th grade or thereabouts, when I had to memorize The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus. It's a beautiful poem, a bit old-fashioned in its sensibility now. We wouldn't think of referring to immigrants or would-be immigrants as "the wretched refuse of your teeming shore" nowadays... or would we? We wouldn't want to imply that America is in any way exceptional, these days, and that the countries immigrants came from are somehow inferior. It's kind of a delicate subject, along with other old-fashioned terms no longer used in public schools, like "the great American melting pot." But still, I love our immigrant heritage, the diversity it brings to America, the richness of experience.
The immigration crisis snuck up on most of us, and it is a true, shocking, humanitarian crisis, and it is happening on American soil, and it is at least in part the fault of incompetent leadership at the highest levels of the American government. It seems like an imperialistic power grab, and you look at the rights we are supposed to have as Americans for protection and self-expression, and they're being ignored. Freedom of speech and the press? Not so much. How much worse must it be for those whose immigration status is in limbo, who are being used as political pawns in a game they have no way of understanding?
Think about it with me: I have several dear, long-term friends (more than 20 years) who have adopted children internationally. I've met several newer friends in recent years who have this beautiful story as well. I rejoice with them when they welcome a new child from Africa, or Asia, Central America, or Eastern Europe with Facebook photos captioned with "America's newest citizen." It is hard to adopt internationally, and rightfully so. Families have to undergo a years-long process of home studies, lawyers' visits, sometimes multiple visits to the child's country, a crushing load of paperwork, invasive medical and psychological questioning, financial hurdles that would make most of us balk ($20,000 seems to be a minimum to complete an international adoption), and even after all that, many adoptions do not go through, leaving parents with a very real empty-nest heartbreak. On top of the sheer difficulty of adoption, there are the additional challenges of special-needs parenting (let's not kid ourselves, all children have special needs, but internationally adopted children are undeniably in that category even if they don't have a medical diagnosis), cultural differences, and terrible, insensitive comments by other Americans. Oh - and you have to be careful not to denigrate your child's birth country. You don't want to be seen as this arrogant Ugly American trying to "rescue" and "save" children from an evil empire. You want to celebrate what is good about your child's cultural heritage, even if there is precious little good there - you still have to find it, because your child is going to need it some day. I admit, this would probably be the hardest thing for me. When you know about the horrific conditions of orphanages and mental asylums in Eastern Europe, the corruption and cruelty in China, the disease and poverty in so many countries, it would be hard to put a sunny face on it for the sake of the children, but that's what people have to do to make a good life for them. Sometimes, people come to the conclusion that even though they love a child and want to adopt, that child is better off staying in the language and culture that he or she is familiar with, even without an adoptive family. It is a hard, complicated issue and I don't think there is one right answer. Parents of all kinds love their children and try to provide for them in the best way they can: that is the one constant.
So, has President Obama at long last rediscovered American Exceptionalism? I'm assuming it is because he knows that America is far superior to backwards Central Amerian countries like Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador that he has permitted this wave of migrant children to swarm over the borders. But has he done his home study? Does he have the funding to support all these children? What about provisions for the well-being of the children he is already responsible for? And what message does it send to these tiny, poor countries, that our President wants to depopulate them and resettle their younger generations in our own borders? How cruel, to dangle the hope of a better life before vulnerable and impoverished young people, and then bus them into internment camps and subject them to dehumanizing treatment and long bureaucratic waits. It reminds me of the way we treated the African slaves, the Native Americans, the Japanese Americans during WWII. But wait, aren't Democrats utterly opposed to such terrible behavior, or is it only Republicans who object to human trafficking and warehousing? I honestly don't get it. Who could possibly have thought this was a good idea?
I don't know. But I bet me and some of my Facebook buddies could rustle up some real homes for some of these kids that would be better than what they're experiencing now.