Roger Rosenblatt on why the family separation crisis touches us all

Essayist Roger Rosenblatt on Trump's family separation policy
Essayist Roger Rosenblatt on Trump's family s... 02:17

Each of us has our own response to the now-familiar images coming from our Southern border this past week. Author Roger Rosenblatt certainly has his:

Every once in a while we are reminded that all politics is personal, and that political acts and thoughts have people at the center of them. 

I'm thinking, of course, of the abomination at the Texas border – the forced separation of children from parents, with children placed in cage-like structures. What began as a matter of national debate soon was concentrated down to children's cries in the dark.

Author Roger Rosenblatt says the Trump administration's policy raised the nation's temperature more steeply than other issues because it reduced innocent children to crying in the dark. CBS News

Not Watergate, not Irangate, not Monica Lewinsky, nothing since Vietnam has raised the nation's temperature as steeply as this issue. Why is that?

One of the hairs being split in the current discussion is whether to regard the captured Latin American families as "illegals" or refugees, the implication being that refugees are more deserving of humane treatment than illegals.

But deep down, I don't think we care about that. I think we look at the caged little girls and boys and their folks purely as people, irrespective of status.

A protest against the policy initiated by the Trump administration to separate families at the U.S. border.  CBS News

The president backed away from his initial hard line because he understood that's the way we see it. (To be fair to him, he may have begun to see it that way himself.)

Whenever we observe a child in distress, our hearts respond to more than a victim, I think. More than to an image of our own kids, to whom we draw sentimental comparisons. In children we acknowledge, perhaps unconsciously, the possibility of our improvement. Redemption. A second chance. It's wishful thinking, to be sure.

Still, the plight of the helpless child strangely improves us. We want to hold these kids, to bring them the care and kindness that still resides at the center of our being, however often we ignore it. Our better angels. 

This is why, I believe, the emotional tumult attending this crisis has been so loud and relentless. We see people at the center of the politics. Children in the dark, they cry for us.

Story produced by Aria Shavelson.