There are many who believe that the deaths of Oscar Alberto Martinez & Angie Valeria Martinez, the father and daughter found face-down after trying to cross the Rio Grande, will be a game-changer on border action. They may be correct, in that there is now a photo to go along with the horror stories, and images can be powerful things. But it is the image, not the deaths, which might change things. If death were all that was required, we would have reversed course after Marco Antonio Muñoz, a Honduran man, committed suicide in a prison cell just over a year ago. The reason he strangled himself was that he’d had his children seized after crossing the border and was told he was not getting them back.
Stories like this, and the deaths and squalor of toddlers, and the seizure of and refusal to return children, are all terrible events. They are events which would normally not be tolerated by Americans. But this is different, in the minds of many, because we are “at war”.
War is a powerful word. Before joining the military, I – and, I suspect, many like me – spent some time wrestling with the notion of whether or not I could kill a person who was not immediately threatening me or others. This is what may be required of anyone, during war. It’s not simply a convenient synonym for “fight”, it conjures a different degree of severity. This is something understood by those who have dealt with it. “War is Hell” is a famed quote for a reason.
We are not in a war against immigrants, legal or not. Even as some people argue for open borders – an argument which, with exceptions made for those who wish to do harm or those who are dangerously and infectiously ill, is exemplified in one of the most iconic American images, the Statue of Liberty and her “huddled masses, yearning to breathe free” – others want a harder border with careful monitoring of people and objects coming in and out of the country. This should never be extrapolated to mean that the people attempting to enter are somehow our enemies. They are not better than us, they are not worse than us, they are people. More than that, they are our partners in many ventures.
We are not in a culture war. We are seeing the culture change, often in ways that we do not like, and we can push back against it or embrace it. This is called life. If something is perceived to have value by people, it will grow in popularity. If not, it will diminish. This is why disco, “free love” and the metric system failed to take root in America while sushi thrived.
We are not in a war against Democrats or Trumpublicans. We are in a fight against them. While both groups promote ideas with which I firmly disagree, I do not want any of them dead or injured, I simply want their bad ideas defeated. There are even some among both sides I could reluctantly support in the future, given no better options. They are the ones who often reject what I consider to be the more insane ideas promoted by their respective groups. Calling it “war”, however, encourages people to give a pass to those who would send package bombs if those bombs fail to explode. Being incompetent at attempted mass murder should not make it acceptable.
Enough of “war”. There are people dying, and they are not casualties. They are human beings, and the reasons for their deaths should be addressed.