You could call it collateral damage. The paper the other day had the story of a Romanian immigrant’s impending deportation, along with his naturalized wife and native-born son.
(Kevan) Chapman, of Ehlers’ office, agrees: “It’s important for people to know that (some immigrants) are being deported on a daily basis and are not criminals.”
Cases like Tiberiu’s, he added, are “just heartbreakingly common.”
Chapman’s right, the problem is all too common. And Tom Rademacher did a service to put a human face to the problems that come in the immigration debate. But there is also a whiff of sentimentality here, the sort of emotion that hides as much as it reveals.
Let’s start with the obvious: why do we hear about this family and not say some one else? Does it make a difference that this takes place in Grand Rapids Township, rather than say in Burton Heights? The reality, of course, is that when the person in harm’s way looks like us we care more than when they do not.
And of course, this instance is common: each day thousands of families suffer, even if they never make into our view. But knowing the policy, why do we then tolerate such harms? I suspect we tolerate it for two reasons, first we have a war-metaphor in the back o our mind: as in military combat, so here in the “war” on terrorism, there exists collateral damage. The innocent suffer as a necessary aspect of doing our duty.
Second, there would seem to be a more utilitarian dimension: the innocent suffer as a lesson to others. This is a darker sort of reasoning, a belief in the efficacy of power, or better, force. We do, because we can. In the words of a recent vice president, it is better to be feared. As we have no intention of deporting all 11 million, the act of force is meant to be theatrical, it is something that reduces the immigrant family into a stage prop, a thing. They are now defined as law breakers and so aliens; they are the other and no longer us.
In short, we tolerate the action of deportation because we think injustice the price of our freedom.
Yet can this tolerated harm, this realpolitik of suffering, excuse our inaction?
For our political class, we tolerate injustice because the alternative is considered too (politically) painful. So our legislators side step. We pretend the elephant is really not in the room, even it is eleven million strong. Some will suffer, yes, but there is little consensus for a remedy. But if we this lack of consensus is the reason, it only hands over power to the most recalcitrant in our political class.
Sadly, this same reluctance dogs other issues.
We can see the same shying when it comes to education or our State’s budget.
The most negative get the most power, and so those who actually face the reality of injustice, this “all too commonplace” world are left exposed. The terrifying truth is that we simply tolerate the injustice because of a desire not to change. Faced with injustice we walk on the other side of the road, waiting for some other good Samaritan to come and do the rescue.
At the end, our politics will reveal our heart.