Opinion

Hey, GOP: American exceptionalism demands compassion at the border

Other countries may turn away desperate children. But the United States should aim higher.

If a child showed up at your doorstep, begging for help, what would you do?

Most Americans, I suspect, would offer help, even if that meant simply calling the police, who would, hopefully, ascertain whether the child was really in danger. But a lot of Americans who would respond to such a scenario with compassion also believe that America should simply shut its door to desperate refugees.

I would suggest that a moral nation has an obligation to come to the aid of children who are fleeing grave danger. A nation as blessed as America ought to be a force for good in the world. "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."

This, in my estimation, is part of American exceptionalism. Like the U.S. Marines and the New York Yankees, classy operations aspire to higher standards of excellence.

The question of whether or not America is legally obliged to show this kind of compassion is irrelevant. Nations, like individuals, answer to a higher calling and should go beyond meeting the bare minimum of what is required by law.

I'm tired of hearing people say things like, "You know what Mexico does if they catch you sneaking into their country?" To which, I answer: "Do you want to emulate that kind of behavior?" The fact that other nations are less humane — less generous — is irrelevant. More is expected of America — and that's a good thing. Rather than sink to the moral mediocrity of other nations, let's go for something greater. Let's hold ourselves to a higher bar. This should be a point of pride.

And I'm tired of conservatives acting as if we live in a world of limited resources, where we are all fighting over a small piece of the same pie, instead of realizing we can grow that pie. This populist rhetoric is the talk of defeatism, of fear, of scarcity. It is in utter opposition to the Reagan/Kemp brand of optimistic conservatism that helped transform the world.

It's the cry of victimhood — not the talk of a prosperous nation, or of kindness or of greatness. It's the mindset of a nation that truly believes its best days are in the rearview mirror. To paraphrase Reagan, I reject that worldview, partly because such beliefs have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophesies.

Fear leads to hoarding and bitterness. We can go that direction; conservatives can make that their brand. The GOP can become the party of the angry and the dispossessed — not the party of the aspirational and the generous. But why would we want to?

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