“Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror,” said Donald Trump in his remarks announcing the U.S. military strike in Syria.
I’ve never agreed with him more, though I question the wisdom of basing foreign policy decisions on an emotional reaction to horrific images of victims of what he now calls “our very troubled world.”
An article in today’s Washington Post outlines the process that led to the decision to launch air strikes. According to adviser Kellyanne Conway, “What the world saw last night was the United States commander in chief, and also a father and grandfather.”
Though many have questioned his motives, I’m willing to give even Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt when he says he was moved to action by images of suffering children.
The Post reports that in January his team asked those briefing Trump to cut down on the number of words and use more graphics and pictures. As a teacher who recognizes that people have different learning styles, I can even understand that request, though I find it troubling in someone who occupies the highest office in our land.
What I find most disquieting, however, is a continued lack of empathy that seems to make it impossible for Trump to conceive of the suffering of others except when faced with the most sickening and tragic of situations.
When challenged about how he could ban refugees despite the conditions of the children fleeing Syria, Trump simply said that the awful news footage in the aftermath of the chemical attack led him to have a change of heart.
If graphic images of children are what it takes to move this administration to care about the plight of others, perhaps Trump and his team should be forced to confront images of other children affected by his policies.
Would he change his mind about sensible gun control if confronted with images of the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary school?
Would he change his mind about cutting the funding of the National Institutes of Health if presented with a stack of photographs of children dying of cancers for which we don’t have cures?
Would he change his mind about cutting funding to FEMA if shown images of the children huddled in the Louisiana Superdome in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?
Would he change his mind about school vouchers if shown images of children in homes and classrooms in San Perlita, Texas, or Cairo County, Illinois, the two poorest school districts in the country?
Would he change his mind about social welfare programs if he saw images of homeless children living under bridges in New York and Los Angeles, the two U.S. cities with the largest homeless populations?
Would he change his mind about fossil fuels if he were forced to watch video footage of children in respiratory distress in emergency rooms in Appalachia?
And what about situations that have not yet reached such tragic proportions? How do we get Trump to be proactive in addressing the issues of America’s and the world’s citizens before disaster strikes?
Must we wait to see images of children dead in the rubble of storms or starving in lands ravaged by drought before he and Republicans will face the ravages of climate change?
I hope not. And that brings me to the one other thing I’ve agreed with Trump on this week: I will join him in his prayer that, “We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world.”
But I will add to that a prayer during this Holy Week that God will help him imagine other children who could be crucified on the cross of his administration’s policies.