Anti-immigrant rhetoric and lies have led the U.S. to hurt innocent children.

The world watches in horror as the U.S. enacts state-sanctioned cruelty toward children at the U.S. border.

No matter our stances on immigration, we should all agree that there are moral lines we won't cross. Cruelty to innocent children goes far over that line, and separating children from their parents with no reassurance or hope that they’ll see them again is cruel. A Washington Post op-ed by a professor of developmental psychology at UCLA likens the effect of such forced separation to torture.


How did we get to a place where the U.S. government decided separating kids from their parents at the border was morally sound?

Photo via John Moore/Getty Images.

That’s easy: anti-immigrant propaganda, lies, fear-mongering, and more lies — most of it coming straight from the highest levels of our government.

President Donald Trump's lie-laced tweets are a perfect example of the kind of propaganda that allows human cruelty to flourish.

Fear is a powerful human motivator. That’s why marketers — and con artists — make liberal use of it to influence people, truth be damned.

And that's what the Trump administration has done, and continues to do, with anti-immigration rhetoric. It's designed to convince Americans not just to condemn undocumented immigration, but to be afraid of it.

Take the president's tweets as Exhibit A:

"Crime in Germany is way up." No, it's not. That's a lie. Just last month, Germany's Interior Minister (who happens to be anti-immigration) released data showing that Germany's crime rate is at its lowest since 1992.

And despite persistent falsehoods about no-go zones (they don't exist, folks) and despite zeroing in on a few specific crimes committed by migrants in Europe (statistically, a group of hundreds of thousands of people will have some crime, but that does not make that group more likely to commit crime), Europe has not fallen into violent chaos. It just hasn't.

The president followed that tweet up with "We don't want what is happening in Europe with immigration to happen to us!" Fear-mongering at its best.

The problem with fear-based propaganda is that it works really, really well.

Since we have a primal instinct to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and our brains like to make generalizations, we're susceptible to rhetoric that fuels fear and prejudice.

Screenshot via Donald J. Trump/Twitter.

"Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country," Trump tweeted, before pointing to the danger these families are trying to escape. The president is using fear of children to justify cruelty to those same children. It's unreasonable. But fear and reason rarely go hand in hand.

Screenshot via Donald J. Trump/Twitter.

Even the erroneous capitalization of  "border security" (yes, I'm ignoring the misspelling) and "crime" in this tweet seem designed to drive home the lie. It's not just "crime," it's "Crime." Big Scary Stuff.  Be So Scared.

These tweets are just from one day, and they're just the tip of the iceberg.

Anti-immigration rhetoric has led directly to hurting children. What's next?

Saying that Mexico is sending us rapists. Setting up and promoting a hotline specifically for people to report crimes they think were committed by illegal aliens. Ranting about immigration increasing crime rates when it doesn't. Insinuating that undocumented immigrants are more likely to commit crimes when they're not. Highlighting specific crimes to make it look like immigrants commit more or worse crimes than native-born Americans. This anti-immigrant rhetoric makes it easier to swallow inhumane immigration policy.

The constant drip, drip, drip of fear-based propaganda has brought us to where we are now — a nation publicly and purposefully inflicting anguish upon innocent children.

Words matter. People with power have wielded words to foment fear and promote prejudice throughout history, leaving heinous atrocities in their wake. Ignoring or brushing off rhetoric as "just words" is dangerous, as we find ourselves flirting with atrocity right now, on our soil, in our name.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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