I'm With Kent Johnson

Kent Johnson, CEO of Children’s Highlights Magazine

Kent Johnson, CEO of Children’s Highlights Magazine

On June 25th, Kent Johnson, the CEO of Highlights for Children published an open letter denouncing the practice of separating immigrant children from their families at the US’s Southern border.

In his letter, Johnson cited the magazine’s core belief that “Children are the world’s most important people,” noting that this means ALL children. When our Content Director asked me to write this blog, my first response was that it would be like praising the Pope for praying. Of course the CEO of a children’s magazine would protest children being separated from their parents! Then I thought of all the people in similar situations who have so far been silent – editors of other, similar publications, for example. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in May of 2017, but has not to my knowledge been heard from since. So-called Pro-Life organizations seem to stop caring about children’s lives once they ae born.

The Irish philosopher Edmund Burke, known to many as the founder of modern conservatism, is reputed to have said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  In the United States right now, we not only have a surfeit of good people doing nothing to combat the evil that is the camps holding asylum seekers, we have over 40% of the country professing to support the President and his policies, making no exception for the institutional cruelty of children being held in camps in wire cages, deprived of basic sanitation and hygiene, drinking water and sleeping on the ground.

At what point will we rise up as a country and say “enough?” The child separation policy that Johnson rightly deplores is rooted in patriarchy – the same patriarchy that oppresses women, discriminates against people of color, physically attacks LGBTQ people, and stands by idly when the 15th woman comes forward with a clear accusation of rape and/or sexual assault against the President who is a self-confessed perpetrator of sexual assault.

In his letter, Johnson is at pains to point out that his argument is not a political, but a moral argument. That distinction is in danger of disappearing in this country, indeed in the world. Politics, particularly the politics mistakenly called “populism” is eclipsing morals all over the world as people are attacked, reviled, and discriminated against for their gender (or their refusal to be gendered), their color, their sexual orientation, and their religion. In this country, self-proclaimed Fundamentalist Christians back the President’s and others’ manifestly non-Christian policies and would happily model an oppressive regime that has no issue instituting and enforcing extreme doctrine in the US.

Those children who are torn from their parents are our children. Those parents are us. We can no longer avert our eyes from children lying in filth while “under the care” of our government and while whole families die. All that is necessary for the triumph of this evil is for us to do nothing.

If you disagree, I suggest you watch The Man in the High Castle – it’s a series based on a novel by Philip K. Dick that takes place in an America that lost World War II and that is ruled by German Nazis in the East and the Japanese Empire in the West. Sinclair Lewis wrote a book in 1935 called It Can’t Happen Here. It can, and it is happening right here, right now, while good people do nothing. Thanks to Kent Johnson for doing something.

By Ed Gurowitz, Ph.D 

Kriz Bell