Why You Shouldn't Be Upset About the Recent Separation of Families at the United States / Mexico Border:
By which I mean to say you shouldn't be specifically upset.
As a couple of my friends who work in this context (a lawyer and a counselor) will tell you, abuse of immigrants has been going on for quite some time. Sure, it's gotten particularly ugly as of late, at the specific behest of this administration. But governments have always taken ugly shortcuts to achieve their goals. Our government, in particular, has a long history of doing things that ultimately make the lives of children much, much worse: interfering militarily, propping up dictators, and most of all doing whatever it can to crush weaker economies and stay on top—not to mention taking this country by genocide and then building national wealth with slavery and warfare.
For the most part, we're content to look the other way.
As long as the value of our middle-class real estate trophy keeps rising, we'll keep fabricating stories in which we're the Good ones, basking in wealth that's primarily a product of our own glorious virtue.
In this, we're not particularly bad people... it's just a lot harder to care than to not, and we've got stress enough without picking up the weight of the world. So we seek out a narrative in which we're the hero and someone else is the villain. We throw a few bucks at some charity that aligns with our narrative (and thanks so much for the tax credit, Uncle Sammy) and then go back to barbecuing factory-farmed meat with friends and taking Saturday afternoon joyrides on our twenty thousand dollar motorcycles while mentally planning our next trip to Thailand (where we'll stick to the resorts and try not to see anything that'll wreck our groove).
As long as the suffering is kept at a distance, we're okay.
Every once in a while, though, our social media feeds blow up with something we can't ignore, so we all go quickly to work to construct a narrative in which someone else is the villain and we're the virtuous, beleaguered Crusader-for-the-Truth.
Don't get me wrong—evil is definitely afoot.
But rather than just trumpet virtuously on Facebook (color me guilty), we should consider taking the actual steps available to us to make a difference. Call our representatives. Vote. Put our money where our consciences are by supporting organizations that support the weak and powerless as they struggle to survive. Most of all we should own our culpability, admitting that we, too, bear the stain of self-absorption in the face of evil.
If we do this, we've got a chance at opening our eyes to our own Hearts of Darkness and then to the darkness around us. Not so that we can crumple under the oppressive weight of it, but rather so that we can light our one small candle and join it with all the others that are being lit. Alone, we can't do much. But together we can and will change the world.
Let's not fly off the handle in the Digital Slacktivist Arena at the latest atrocity to rise past the smokescreen. Wasting time trying to convince that racist-propaganda-addicted high school "friend" of the error of his ways only makes more smoke, and probably pushes him to double down on the narrative that helps him (like us) dodge meaningful action and responsibility.
Real change is much, much more difficult than a Facebook post. It demands something from us not just once, but always.
Get angry, yeah (if you pay attention with an open heart, it's inevitable). But then STAY angry, sacrifice a little, and get to work making a real difference.