Last night I spent nearly an hour scrolling through tweets, articles, videos, and other posts attempting to make sense of the controversy surrounding the separation of immigrant children from their families at the US-Mexico border.
This morning I woke up to more posts, more stories, and more debate about what is actually going on. The comments section of almost every post feels like a battle ground of blame shifting where cries of “fake news” and “propaganda” are tossed back and forth like grenades. In this case, no man’s land is filled with traumatized and displaced children.
As far as I can tell, on opposite ends of the spectrum of explanation are two narratives that have emerged to describe what is taking place and contend for our trust.
On one end of the spectrum is a story about children who are being ripped from the arms of their parents and separated from their families, many of whom are seeking political asylum or refuge from otherwise desperate circumstances.
On the opposite end is a story about action being taken to protect both US citizens and migrant children who are vulnerable to being exploited by criminals claiming to be their parents when in fact they are not.
In between these two poles are a number of more nuanced accounts that only serve to demonstrate how incredibly complex this situations is.
I must admit that in the midst of an increasingly politicized climate I am ever more disillusioned by the struggle to sort out fact from fiction. Nevertheless, as I consider everything I have read, heard, and seen thus far two reflections come to mind.
The Common Denominator
First, the common denominator in every version of the story I have heard is that children are suffering, full stop.
Whether they were separated from their families at the border or long before, whether they are being abused by migrant criminals or neglected in border camps, it seems the one thing almost everyone can agree on is that right now children are facing trauma, exploitation, and abuse.
No matter what version of the story we are inclined to believe, this is reason enough for us to fall to our knees in prayer and ask God to protect the vulnerable, comfort the grieving, and defend those who cannot defend themselves. As our hearts yearn for justice may we be found crying out to the “Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,” the One who “watches over the sojourner” (Psalm 68:5; 146:9).
Likewise, may we consider deeply what it means to obey this God who says "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself” (Leviticus 19:33–34).
The Tragic Irony of “Fake News”
Second, as we earnestly seek to understand what is happening and what action must be taken to protect these children, we would do well to let the collective response to this situation instruct us about the nature and significance of truth.
It baffles me that in a culture that increasingly prizes relativism and condemns claims of absolute truth as backward and intolerant, so much energy is being given to debunking the “myths” and establishing the “facts” surrounding these events.
Let me be clear, I fully support any effort to uncover an accurate story in order that we might respond appropriately and see to it that justice is done. Nevertheless, I cannot help feeling bewildered frustration in response to the tragic irony at the heart of this debate.
The very term “fake news” implies that there is an “authentic news” that can be deemed “true” because it corresponds to reality (i.e. what is really happening) while “fake news” does not.
We could scarcely imagine someone saying, “You can believe the US government is violating the fundamental rights of migrant families while I believe it is not violating their fundamental rights. You have your story and I have mine and both stories are equally true.”
Yet for some reason when it comes to the most fundamental questions about morality or the nature and purpose of human life, the popular consensus seems to be a variation of “what’s true for you is true for you and what’s true for me is true for me” or even, “the only thing that is true is that nothing is.”
Such a statement might seem fashionably counter-intuitive when casually discussing existential questions, but try applying it to a situation as imminent and tangible as the plight of migrant children and it will be quickly exposed as a utter folly.
For the Sake of Human Dignity
Frankly, while I cannot logically understand how our culture largely embraces relativism whilst simultaneously decrying fake news and demanding that we learn the facts of a given issue, I am also grateful for the grace in this flagrant inconsistency. Pause long enough to consider the implications of relativism and you will soon realize that when truth is a matter of preference or opinion there is no such thing as “inherent" human rights.
Thankfully, something deep within us testifies to the intrinsic dignity of human beings and recognizes that the abuse of children and wrongful separation of families is objectively evil.
Nevertheless, as a culture we need to seriously ask ourselves how much longer we can champion relativism while claiming the benefits that only absolute truth can provide. What is at stake in the defence of truth is not the logical victory in an abstract, philosophical joust but our very ability to respond to injustice and uphold human dignity.
Photo by Roi Dimor on Unsplash