We should all feel some empathy at the drowning of the father and his 23-month daughter in the Rio Grande. I have not for one seen the photograph of them face down in the murky water, but it is apparently making its appointed rounds, evoking worldwide ‘condemnation’. The Holy Father has his own take:
The Pope is profoundly saddened by their death, and is praying for them and for all migrants who have lost their lives while seeking to flee war and misery
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops goes further:
Who can look on this picture and not see the results of the failures of all of us to find a humane and just solution to the immigration crisis? Sadly, this picture shows the daily plight of our brothers and sisters. Not only does their cry reach heaven. It reaches us. And it must now reach our federal government
But who and what is to blame? And what, prithee, is to be done?
As the article has it, the father showed up at the Mexican border with his wife and child and, after discovering it would take ‘weeks’ for his claim for asylum to begin being processed he decided – illegally and one might argue immorally – to swim for it, with toddler in tow. Well, I suppose he held his daughter above the swirling current. They made it to the American side, where he decided to go back for his wife. His daughter – seeing her Dad swim away 0 jumped in after him, and when Dad tried to save her, they both were ‘swept away by the current’.
Requiescant in pace.
Yes, may God rest both their souls, but, before we use this evocative story to abolish the southern border and allow the entirely of south and central America free and easy access to Texas, a few questions:
If this story be true – filtered through the media, I am always suspect – one wonders why the father would abandon a girl not-yet two, alone on the bank of a swirling river. Did he not consider that she would follow him, even after a dire warning? Toddlers don’t listen to orders, especially when their little, or not so little, ungoverned emotions are on the line.
Could his wife not swim? Why could she not make her own way, while he waited with the daughter on the other side? Why would he abandon – what other verb does one use? – his little girl, and not think she would try to go in after him? All she would think is that ‘daddy is going away, and I’m going with him’, which ended up being more tragically true than either might have imagined.
The father’s primarily responsibility was to protect the life of his daughter, not bring her to some mythical land of milk and honey, fleeing from ‘war and misery’. There was no life-or-death reason for this dad to risk the life of his daughter, and his own, even if we may admire his giving his life in the end to save his daughter, as any father should do.
But we should keep our own heads above water, realizing that raw emotions make bad laws and policies, and we should be guided not by an unhinged pity, but by reason, guided by prudence and good counsel. And we might have hoped the father in question would have been guided by the same.
While we’re on the topic of cool heads, central Europe is undergoing is hottest heat wave in recorded history, with temperatures in France and Germany headed up beyond 40 degrees centigrade – par for the course in Saudi Arabia, but they’re used to it. Of course, following the scientific fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, this is taken as incontrovertible evidence of runaway global warming. After all, look at France’s deadly heat wave of 2003.
Except that was sixteen years ago, and one would think that if gradually increasing carbon compounds in the atmosphere were causing the Earth to warm up, the temperature would also rise gradually and inexorably. Except that Europe – and the rest of the world – has had hot, cool and average summers since then, and even these terms are arbitrary, for what is one’s baseline with which to compare?
Furthermore, it is still winter in large swathes of the United States and Canada, regions covered in snow where one would normally predict summer, and they are under the same purportedly-carbon-filled atmosphere as Europe.
My advice, enjoy the heat or hunker down in a cool place, as you are able. The weather by its very nature is unpredictable, and its causality so complex that it will remain so until that other kingdom comes, where, one may predict, it will always be fair and pleasant.