The “ugly American” has gotten a lot uglier over the past few weeks, from the streets of California to the halls of Congress and state houses around the country.A growing number of our fellow Americans have taken on grotesque features, in looks and sounds, in reaction to the thousands of children from Central America who have crossed our borders as they flee poverty and violence in hope of something better.Sadly, the arrival of these youngsters has been greeted by flag-waving, sign-carrying, Bible-thumping and Constitution-quoting citizens demanding that they not be received here and that they be returned immediately to their country of origin.There have been some ugly scenes reminiscent of the days when racist mobs in the 1960s attacked young “freedom riders” on their buses or at lunch counters in the South. The viciousness — indeed hatred — demonstrated in some of these anti-immigrant protests is painful to watch.And while I assume, hope and pray that the most vile individuals represent a minority, I also know that they are being egged on by some of our most influential political leaders and social commentators, who seem to care more about their own power than they do anything or anyone else, especially some poor, frightened child from a distressed country who is looking for refuge.I know that there are plenty of people in Texas and across the nation who care about these kids and their families. We’ve seen an outpouring of people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area stepping up, ready to help.My hope is that they will not be discouraged by those so wrapped up in their own biases and political agendas and that they will follow their hearts to do what is right. My belief is these good-hearted, soulful individuals will not be deterred.Some political “leaders” don’t know what to do other than recite the prescribed anti-immigrant, anti-Obama rhetoric, along with the tired, nondescript, ineffective mantra, “secure the border.”In the context of these children, apprehended as soon as they enter the country and detained and processed under the law, just what does “secure the border” mean? What else do Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Ted Cruz and House Speaker John Boehner want done?Rather than working with the president, they are still obstructing things to score political points. Boehner said on receiving the president’s nearly $4 billion budget to confront the immediate crisis, “This is a problem of the president’s own making. … When is he going to take responsibility for something?”No, Speaker Boehner and Congress — and that includes Sen. John McCain, who’s waiting on Obama to submit a proposal to change a 2008 law that prevents immediate return of child immigrants to countries other than Mexico and Canada — you should take responsibility. I suppose the thing that irritates me most is hearing these inane, anti-immigrant folks repeat the diatribe against these children that they’ve heard from their high priests in Congress, talk radio and cable television.They’re calling these children gangsters, terrorists, disease-infested leeches.I’ve heard some condemn these kids’ mothers as unfit, uncaring and abusive for allowing their children to embark on such a treacherous journey.Keep in mind, many of those who say such things call themselves Christians and devoutly religious.I wonder what they would call another mother — one from the Bible — who so feared for her child’s well-being, that she placed him in a basket, put it in the Nile River and hoped he would survive.That child was Moses.
Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. 817-390-7775 Twitter: @BobRaySanders