Peggy Noonan: The Crisis on the Border – WSJ

Peggy Noonan

Peggy Noonan

What is happening at the southern border is a true and actual crisis. News accounts justly use words like chaos, collapse and breakdown. They feature images of children—toddlers, 4- and 5-year-olds—being shuffled to warehouse holding centers, sleeping crowded at night on what look like pallets, covered only in Mylar blankets. “I never thought we’d have refugee camps in America,” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, “but that’s what it’s appearing.”

All this gives normal people a feeling of besiegement and foreboding. Is a nation without borders a nation? Washington’s leaders seem to recognize what’s happening as a political problem, not a real problem. That is, they betray no honest alarm. They just sort of stand in clusters and say things.

There seem only two groups that view the situation with appropriate alarm.

One is the children themselves, dragged through deserts to be deposited here. To them, everything is a swirl of lights, color and clamor, and shouting and clanking. A reporter touring a detainment center in Texas noted a blank, lost look among some of the younger children. Every mother knows what that suggests. Children who cry and wail anticipate comfort: That’s why they’re crying, to alert those who care for them that something is wrong. But little children who are blank, withdrawn, who don’t show or at some point know what they’re feeling—those children are in trouble.

The other group feeling a proper alarm is normal Americans, who are seeing all this on TV and who judge they are witnessing a level of lawlessness that has terrible implications for the country.

This is how I think normal people are experiencing what is happening:

A young boy bows his head in a holding cell for immigrant children at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona. Reuters

It’s like you live in a house that’s falling apart. The roof needs to be patched and there are squirrels in the attic, a hornet’s nest in the eaves. The basement’s wet. The walkway to the front door is cracked with grass growing through it. The old boiler is making funny sounds. On top of that it’s always on your mind that you could lose your job tomorrow and must live within strict confines so you can meet the mortgage and pay the electric bill. You can’t keep the place up and you’re equal parts anxious, ashamed and angry. And then one morning you look outside and see . . . all these people standing on your property, looking at you, making some mute demand. Little children looking lost—no one’s taking care of them. Older ones settling in the garage, or working a window to the cellar. You call the cops. At first they don’t come. Then they come and shout through a bull horn and take some of the kids and put them in a shelter a few blocks away. But more kids keep coming! You call your alderman and he says there’s nothing he can do. Then he says wait, we’re going to pass a bill and get more money to handle the crisis. You ask, “Does that mean the kids will go home?” He says no, but it may make things feel more orderly. You call the local TV station and they come do a report on your stoop and then they’re gone, because really, what can they do, and after a few days it’s getting to be an old story.

No one’s in charge! No one is taking responsibility. No one who wants to help has authority, and no one with authority is helping.

Read complete article via Peggy Noonan: The Crisis on the Border – WSJ.

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