Zero Tolerance for Staying on The Sidelines

The story began weeks ago but took a while to become front and center. The new Zero Tolerance Immigration Policy at the border resulted in children being separated from their parents. From what I recall, it was the misguided reference to a passage in the Bible by our Attorney General that brought this to the national spotlight.  Within a week, politicians from both sides of the aisle came out against the policy—some were in favor of it, but more were opposed. The majority, however, were either silent or very careful with what they said publicly.

While the issue is not totally resolved, political pressure did lead to an executive order stopping the practice of separating families.  As I reflect on what happened and what may still happen at this point, certain things trouble me deeply. As always, I will provide my interpretation with a bit of a historical bent.

One survey that I read showed the country was 67% against the policy with Republicans 55% opposed. The United States has always supported the concept of “the family.” Even if it is just lip service, pro-family statements have appeared in the messages offered by both parties for decades. Given that this is the case, why didn’t the groundswell of opposition in Congress mirror the groundswell of public opinion?

I’m sure there are many theories on this matter, but if we look to history, there were moments when a powerful leader promoted an extreme agenda that resonated with a small, but powerful few, and others didn’t speak up. The powerful leader was then emboldened by this initial success and took things to the next level with another provocative move. The second time around, the opposition was not quite as vocal and many of those who initially stayed on the sidelines, now went with the crowd. The leaders within the Republican Party who came out against this measure, many of whom are among the elite, showed courage. I’m worried, however, about the large numbers of officials who remained silent or who were very careful with their words.  The people who initially say nothing are the very ones who go whichever way the wind blows.

While I may not always agree with a particular politician’s position, I do respect those who are clear with their beliefs. The people who play the middle and do nothing, however, will be the death of us all.  Let’s remember who said what regarding this issue and file that away for future reference—we need leaders not followers. Please note that I’m intentionally not giving a specific historical reference because they are all too dramatic and will only serve to sensationalize my argument, which I believe stands on its own.