Just Following Orders

“In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve.” (Joseph de Maistre)

The President recently reversed his own decision to separate children from their parents after crossing into the United States, an action that the United Nations office of human rights condemned as a violation of basic human rights of children. They weren’t alone. The Pope spoke out citing such a disgraceful policy as contrary to Catholic values, and immoral. The Methodist Church called it child abuse and racism. Other religious leaders echoed this sentiment. Business leaders spoke out publicly condemning it. All five living first ladies spoke out against it. It was clear to the world that the United States, under the direction of the Trump administration, was committing violations of human rights of children. Yes, it was disgusting and disgraceful, and the world was ashamed of us. Yes, I blame the Trump administration as the root cause of it. I also blame the people that carried it out, who all too often get away with no accountability for “just following orders”.

Such a mandate to violate human rights should have never gotten past the terrible leadership call; the orders should have been outright refused by the people who were tasked with handing them down, and ultimately by the ICE agents carrying them out. But they weren’t refused. They were carried out. From many reports, some agents enjoyed what they did. There are many horrors beyond family separation being reported, and what’s most disturbing is that these were done by Americans. Not faceless machines, but by members of our society. Yet refusing inhumane orders is what separates us from a history of atrocities. Why didn’t these orders get refused on a large scale? We should consider this very seriously. There are only two possibilities: either the agents who carried these orders out didn’t realize they were abusing the children as they were removing them from their parents’ care and putting them in cages, or they were willing to commit acts they knew to be immoral and inhumane. If even a small portion of lawsuits about living conditions are to be believed, there is no question that agents knew what they were doing. In either case, we are dealing with a very dark part of humanity that would do such a thing, even under orders.

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