Tag Archives: morality

Fact Checking Kindness.

By: Chris Warren.

The internet enables the average person to access more data from their smartphone than could be stored in an entire large university research library twenty years ago. Lost in the excitement of holding all civilized wisdom in one’s hand is the reality that the internet also provides a platform for dishonesty that, when mixed with just enough actual facts and spread around far enough, will sound completely plausible.

This week’s Twenty First Summer article started out as a thoughtful introspection about Glen Buratti, a six year old autistic boy who was cruelly snubbed on his birthday by his entire kindergarten class. During the process of reading up on the story and planning my article, I noticed a familiar plot shaping up: A victimized child, a mother openly wishing she could make it right, and an internet full of complete strangers coming to the rescue. Spoiler alert: It has a happy ending.

But that’s not where I’m going with this. The familiar plot was a tipoff: These stories occasionally go the wrong way. Everyone has heard of someone running to the media or the internet with a heart-tugging tale. The tale goes viral, attracting huge levels of support and attention and money, only for it to turn out later that they lied about the whole thing. I’ve grown cynical in my internet old age. Even a cute little kid doesn’t get an automatic free pass out of me. I always turn to my old friend google to cross-check everything lest I too become just another sucker who got duped into propagating an endless chain of electronic fiction.

As hard as I tried, I could not bust the Glenn Buratti story. There were some odd aspects to it that didn’t quite line up, but no big gotcha! There wasn’t even a little gotcha! Part of me felt relieved this wasn’t a scam. It is one of those feel-good stories affirming my faith that humanity doesn’t totally suck after all. I wanted it to be true. Another part of me felt like a cad for questioning Glenn’s mother’s motives in the first place. Maybe I should have no reason to feel bad because being suspicious is part of modern life, or at least it should be.

pinocchio-how-to-make-yourself-into-a-human-lie-detectorSo that’s where I’m at: Validate everything, especially if I’m going to use it as the topic of a blog article. That old fashioned sense of giving everyone the benefit of a doubt doesn’t work the way it did in days past. I’m not naive enough to think dishonesty is new concept, nor will I be guilt-tripped because I checked my facts before I put my byline on something for the whole world to see. The internet has made it easy to confirm truth, it’s also made it easy to bury a lie. President Ronald Reagan’s maxim, “trust but verify” no longer applies only to nuclear disarmament agreements.

Beyond the obvious moral lesson that kindness always trumps the mean spirited, the Glenn Buratti story  also teaches that it’s not a wise policy to accept someone at their word. There are so many scams and flim-flams out there; it poisons the well for any honest person in need who wants to be taken seriously. At the other end of the transaction are generous people who want to help but are holding back on the possibility they are being played. I still believe in compassion, empathy, and humanity toward others. Since I hold all of mankind’s knowledge in the palm of my hand, I’m going to to make sure there is enough truth to warrant my good will before I invest any heart and soul into someone else’s tears.

DREAMing of a Solution.

By: Chris Warren

My dad, who is not a sophisticated guy (I mean that as a compliment), once observed that the American court system does not do what’s fair, it does what’s legal. In a perfect world there would be no distinction between the two. When courts aren’t fair we sympathize with the situation, but in the back of our minds we concede that “life is not fair” is part of…life. It’s further complicated by the fact that fair is largely a matter of viewpoint, whereas legal is a lot easier to pin down. We tend to stretch these boundaries when dealing with children as they are sympathetic figures deserving of a light touch.

If a child is introduced to a bad situation by an adult, then the responsibility of bailing the kid out of trouble goes to other adults who presumably know better and have the child’s best interests in mind. It is not a time to fuss over whose fault it is or how “unfair” it is that someone else has to right the wrong. In that spirit, we need to make fair and legal the same thing and find a way to let young illegal immigrants who grew up in the United States stay here. People who know me are aware that I strongly empathize with people from other countries and cultures and have blogged about this issue before.

The biggest problem with immigration policy in the United States is that both the left and the right attempt, and fail horribly, to correct the intractable maxim that sometimes there is no truly fair option, just varying degrees of unfair. Conservatives are cold and disconnected for not seeing that deporting people just to wave the law & order badass banner  is an ugly scene. Being legally right doesn’t make one morally right. Going the other way, liberals are manipulative users. They profess to care about immigrants, but only for selfish political reasons. For over a generation, Democrats have played up this issue solely for votes and believe with a cult-like intransigence that everyone is entitled to be here no matter what rules are broken or what the unintended consequences are. We have borders and laws for a reason.

Imagine a young person who was brought to the United States illegally as a child. They did not make a choice to come here on their own and may not even be aware of their immigration status. They grow up in American culture, hang out with American friends, speak English as their first (and possibly only) language, have no criminal history and little if any familiarity with their home country.

This is not a way-out there hypothetical scenario. There are tens of thousands of kids living in the USA who fit this description. I would like everyone who thinks this person should be given a one-way ticket back to their country of origin to answer these questions: Is your legal argument for kicking them out of the USA greater than the moral argument for letting them stay, and furthermore, is your argument so strong that it’s worth ruining a young life for? Are you willing to look this kid directly in the face and personally tell them they are being deported? What if this person was your neighbor, or your own kid’s best friend, or your future son or daughter in law? Exactly what “problem” is solved by shipping them out?

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM) has been floating around Congress since 2001 and has bipartisan support. I understand that in the world of politics the devil is always in the details. There are plenty of things in DREAM I’m sure I do not like, but I do believe in the basic premise of the legislation, which is to give people who came here illegally & involuntarily as underage minors a chance to stay and be productive members of American society. “Amnesty” is a loaded word in American politics, but it’s exactly what’s needed when the law is so blatantly unfair that a greater moral imperative is created to warrant changing it, or for minors who did not intend to break the law in the first place and played no active role in how they got into their situations.

Twenty First Summer is not a public policy blog and I am not knowledgeable enough on this topic to attempt a dissection of the DREAM Act and all the things that are both right and wrong with it. All I know is that kicking promising young people out of the only country they know and identify with for the “crime” of being brought here as minors by someone else is inhumane and should not be allowed to happen. I’m not coming at this from a right or left perspective. I’m looking at it as a question of “Is this moral?” For me the answer is a no-brainer: It’s disgusting and wrong. I’ll let others sweat the political details.

As President Chris, my first goal would be to stop the flow of illegal immigration to begin with. Then, pass some form of the DREAM Act and make it wholly separate from how the legal system will treat adults who are not innocent bystanders and came here fully cognizant that they were breaking US laws. That would be my compromise: Go easy on the young people in exchange for locking down the border and throwing the book at the adults.

Our default should be to find a way to help the children, not run them out like unwanted pests. The United States likes to brag about how we as a nation care for our kids. The DREAMers are “our kids.” They are Americans in their hearts if not in the law; they deserve to be protected and held close like the treasures they are.