Pogo, the possum-philosopher from the Okefenokee Swamp of the comics page, got it right: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Everything is spinning out of control, and this is where the passionate pursuit of pleasure has brought us. Everybody is eager to go somewhere else, anywhere else, but there’s the dawning realization that “you can’t get there from here.”
The rush to judgment about who to blame for the crisis and chaos on the border only confuses the unwary. Some people want to blame it all on Barack Obama, and he deserves much blame. He’s the leader of the gang that can’t shoot straight.
Both Democrats and Republicans are contemptuous of the administration’s bungling of the response to disaster on the Rio Grande. Never have so many owed so little to such a shallow river. Everyone agrees that, whoever is at fault for the invasion, we haven’t seen such a parade of helpless and innocent children since the Pied Piper led the kids out of Hamlin in an earlier millennium.
Some of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate, with their eyes on the prize of an endless stream of prospective voters, which would ensure their control of Congress for as long as the wind blows and the rivers run down to the sea, are angry that President Obama, reluctant as he may be, is willing to talk to Republicans about revising the 2008 law that now makes it difficult to deport children who come to the United States illegally.
These Democrats want to eliminate “root causes,” a vague cliche that nearly always means “let’s build a bigger bureaucracy to throw money at somebody.” The War on Poverty was such a big success, so why not try it there? Honduras even suggests a “mini-Marshall plan” for Central America.
But one of the important causes is the very destruction of everything that makes a nation a nation in the so-called “Northern Triangle” of Central America — the miserable nations of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Honduras, by the measure of the U.N., is the most violent place on earth. Honduras counts 90 murders per 100,000 residents every year; Guatemala counts 40. By comparison, Afghanistan, where war still rages, and the Democratic Republic (so called) of the Congo, count only 28 per 100,000. Life in the Northern Triangle is almost as lethal as life on the south side of Chicago.
John F. Kelly, the Marine four-star general who commands the U.S. Southern Command from Miami, says it’s “the malignant effects of immense drug trafficking through these nations that is responsible for accelerating the breakdown in their national institutions of human rights, law enforcement, courts and eventually their entire society evidenced today by the flow of children north and out … . The human rights groups I deal with tell me young women and even the little girls sent north by hopeful parents are molested and raped by traffickers. Many … join the 17,500 [girls] the U.N. reports come into the United States every year to work in the sex trade.”
This fact leads straight to the guiltiest villain of the piece, the American consumer of illegal drugs, without whom there would be no $250 billion drug traffic, the general writes in Military Times, reprising what he had earlier told Congress. “This traffic is what threatens the collapse of certain societies in this hemisphere.” That much money, spent for heroin, cocaine and meth, is irresistible to evildoers. “Many,” says Gen. Kelly, “argue that these threats … do not challenge our national security. I disagree.”
This takes us straight to Pogo’s point, that the enemy within, with his insatiable appetite for pleasure and gratification through drugs and indifference to the real world, is indeed “us.” Without the market for heroin and cocaine on the streets and in the salons and other places where Beautiful People live their privileged lives, there would be no clamor of children at the border, begging to be let in.
The next time you see an endearing child with a dirty face, just off the thousand-mile trail from Tegucigalpa, trying to smile from the front page of the morning newspaper or from the television screens of the evening news, think about what put him there.
One young woman arrived back in Tegucigalpa over the weekend with her two children on one of the first deportee flights from New Mexico. “Part of my heart stayed in the United States because I missed a chance to get ahead,” she said. She brought back only souvenirs, $24 for travel expenses, and her little girl got a small backpack and a package of crayons, which she clutched close to her heart.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.