NUVO at 25: Dan Carpenter


When I wrote in this space last week about Indiana’s conspicuous indifference to the plight of the border children, I didn’t consider the possibility that private households could and might take up the noble task that government was performing in Massachusetts and shunning here.

So, I’ve been surprised to see that more than 200 of the refugee kids have been placed with Hoosier sponsors.

I’ve not been surprised by the peevish, partisan, pandering response from our GOP leadership.

First State Sen. Brent Steele chides the feds for not warning Indiana officialdom this horde of foreigners was being “dumped” on our holy soil.

The Gov. Mike Pence tells them to go back where they came from.

Which, for many, is roughly equivalent to saying “Go to hell.”

After dispatching a stern letter to President Barack Obama as to the unfairness of burdening Indiana with the (speculative) cost of educating all these parasites, Pence demanded they be deported and that he be notified if any others show up.

Not that he didn’t feel “deep compassion for these children,” mind you.

Now, let’s grant that failure to give a state a heads-up that it is about to become part of a headline-making humanitarian crisis is a sin of omission. But let’s also agree that it is a venial transgression at worst, considering the numbers involved and the potential degree of state government involvement in these kids’ welfare, if any.

Small grievances, small men. Where Pence and Steele and their peers of both political parties see a problem — and somebody else’s problem — other Americans great and ordinary see innocent young victims of violence and poverty who are ours because they are here. Yes, bureaucratic and political and logistical sorting-out must be undertaken; but for God’s sake, where is the simple Christianity these powerful conservatives profess at every wink of the camera? Must Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts play the role of Good Samaritan, East Coast liberal foreigner stopping to help the wretch the righteous ones leave to the devil?

“I was a stranger, and you took me in. What were you thinking?”

It’s just so wearisome. The poor, the weak, the marginalized, the ones who most need help from the pious keepers of the Statehouse are the least likely to become a priority. Indeed, keeping their grimy hands out of the treasury to which the well-heeled have virtually unquestioned access is a proud goal of “fiscally responsible government.”

Sometimes, real money is at stake. Inner-city schools and city services may be hurting, but the business lobbies like tax cuts.

Sometimes, it’s ideology trumping practicality and common sense.

Spurning the gift of Medicaid expansion, a federal windfall even other Republican states have accepted on behalf of their low-income constituents, is a textbook example. Making a public show of protest over acts of charity toward desperate children, rather than thanking the people who stepped up, is a poetic one.

Just once I wish these guys would amaze me and toss their script. And I’ll tell you something else: Next time one of my rightwing kibitzers challenges my side to personally care for the downtrodden for whom our hearts bleed, I’ll say here, we did it, and the good deed got duly punished.

Dan Carpenter is a freelance writer, a contributor to Indianapolis Business Journal and the author of “Indiana Out Loud.”


Recommended for you