It took thousands of years to curb our natural tendencies toward cruelty. It is coming undone in a matter of weeks.
If you read the Old Testament, which represents life and belief three thousand years or so years ago, you find examples of cruel behavior—even among the faithful. By two thousand years ago, there is increased emphasis on the universal application of mercy, compassion, forgiveness. The historic results are mixed, but there was movement in the right direction. That trajectory continued, with notable interruption and backsliding, until we reached the modern era of enlightened civilization. With all our imperfections—in thought and action—we were going to try harder than ever to be better, and specifically less cruel, in spite of whatever tendencies we have.
We are not the first country to watch as cruelty becomes an official practice. We are not the only country like that in the world right now. But this point has to be made a thousand, a thousand thousand times:
We are all complicit. Whether you use belief and ideology to defend the indefensible practice or attack it, we are all complicit. Whether you sleep the sleep of the ignorant and heartless or toss and turn all night, we are all complicit. If you are a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim, an other or a none, we are all complicit.
Abraham Joshua Heschel:
Morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.
For more about the photo above, taken at the border on June 12, see The image of a migrant child that broke a photographer’s heart.