A Little Good News?

Dear Virtual Editor,

A look at the news this week made me recall the line from a song by that great Canadian, Anne Murray—“Sure could use a little good news today”. People in Chicago and all over the Middle East murdering each other. Girls in Africa kidnapped. “Militias” in the U.S. playing soldier—with real guns. Local police in Murietta, California watching as their neighbors mooned the world. All in all, not a great week.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, center, last week announced the North Texas sites that will shelter immigrant children. Lauren Silverman KERA News

Dallas County Executive ‘Judge’ Clay Jenkins, center, last week announced the North Texas sites that will shelter immigrant children.

Then, behold! A little good news from a very unlikely place—Texas. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced plans to cooperate with the government and temporarily take in as many as 2,000 of the Central American children that have struck such terror in the hearts of Murrietans.

As a lawyer, my first thought was: “How the hell can a judge do this? What kind of lawsuit could there be?” Well, it turns out that Clay Jenkins, although he is a lawyer, is not functioning as a judge in this instance, and his “Commissioners Court” is really the governing political body of the county and he is the chief executive. But the tendency in the last decade to lump fears of terror and sabotage in with floods and tornadoes means that he probably can act. He is the Homeland Security officer, with broad powers to coordinate with the federal government on all kinds of emergencies, including working to prevent them. In short, Jenkins has jurisdiction over Homeland Security— you know, the same homeland and the same security that the Murrietans are defending so bravely.

My second thought was that I hope this decent gesture has the support of the people of Dallas County, and that my default impression of images-3Texans outside of Austin and San Antonio needs revision. That remains to be seen, but the hope remains. Some local politicians have criticized Jenkins for not holding town hall meetings or other formal methods of getting public input. I worried a bit about that until I found a right wing blog that was outraged to find that Jenkins was going door to door to explain the reason for the move. That is a good sign. It would be great to see these folks step up and support Jenkins. If that happens, I promise to withdraw my support for Texas secession.

It will be very difficult to question Jenkins’ sincerity. He went to the border and was plainly moved. He found 30 children stacked in holding cells designed to hold six adults. Here is part of his reaction:

images-2It’s not about politics. It’s about precious little children. I saw siblings with their faces pressed to the glass in the holding cells—dirty, scared and abandoned—looking at their siblings in the other holding cells just wanting to be reunited with what little family they had left. If people go see what I have seen, and what faith leaders have seen, then this political rhetoric will stop and this community will unite and focus on helping these precious children.

May it be so.

______

Still, all the bad news this week had me reflecting on how long it would take us to realize that outrage and hate have never done any of us any good, and never will. At the same time, by chance, I had also been thinking nostalgically about some of my favorite old music. Tom T. Hall, for example, wrote Old Dogs and Children and Watermelon Wine. One line reads: Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes/ God bless the little children while they’re still too young to hate. I try to remember that the screamers in Murietta were themselves once too young to hate.

Unfortunately, some of the other good music is a reminder that the heart of Judge Jenkins’ Baptist faith is maddeningly slow to take hold. Hall wrote Old Dogs and Children in 1972. Anne Murray’s song came out in 1983. Twenty years before that, the Kingston Trio recorded The Merry Minuet. I close with an invitation that you listen to Anne and the Trio and think about how far we haven’t come, and what we might do about it. Or, in Pete Seeger’s words: When will we ever learn?

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