The White House website recently featured the story of Alex, a six-year-old boy in Scarsdale, N.Y., who wrote a letter to President Obama in which he asked the president to bring Omran Dagneesh and family to the United States to live. Omran is a Syrian five-year old who was wounded in a horrific bombing and whose picture went around the world as a result. Unfortunately, the White House’s decision to highlight Alex’s letter tells us depressing things both about both the infantilization and hypocrisy of refugee policy under the Democrats.
First things first: Anyone who saw the picture of Omran would be moved by it. As a parent of five young kids myself, I can’t help but look at Omran and see my own children. What happened to him should never have happen to any child. And yet that doesn’t tell us much about what America should do in the world. Have America’s interventions in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, made with the intention of removing tyrants, reduced suffering or increased it?
Is Germany safer, more prosperous, and more humane through taking in millions of refugees and “refugees”? Is London mayor Sadiq Khan correct when he implied that terrorism is the new normal “part and parcel of the life of a big city”? If we moved every Syrian who is suffering in the Civil war — and there are no doubt many innocents on all sides – to the United States, we’d doubtless ease their misery, but we’d almost as surely increase ours.
Alex’s missive is touching and sweet, filled with sentiments about how his family would like to wait for Omar in their driveway “with flowers and balloons” and how he will “share his bike and teach him how to ride it.” “My little sister will be collecting butterflies and fireflies for him,” he prints in block letters. Alex’s care for the well-being of others is admirable in a person of any age. But the president of the United States needs to balance a child’s compassion with an adult’s wisdom. As my Hoover colleague Thomas Sowell wrote in his book Compassion versus Guilt: “Many of our attempts to share our good fortune with others, at home and abroad, have undermined the very efforts, standards, and values that make that good fortune possible. Trying to ease our own guilt feelings is very different from trying to advance those less fortunate.”
Alex’s parents also are part of the problem. In talking to their children about Omran, responsible parents might praise their child’s compassion and generosity, and then teach them that people of different cultures and different beliefs don’t always get along. Or they could point out that we don’t always have the resources to do everything we want to, and that we are not always able to solve others’ problems. They might point out that Omran has a family that would need to come to America as well – a family whose values and experiences will be different and perhaps not compatible with ours and who, as a result, might struggle to fit in in here.
None of this, of course would indicate that we shouldn’t try to help the Omrans of the world. But good parents teach their children that the world is complex, problems are difficult to solve, and that doing the thing that seems kind and feels good isn’t always the right thing to do. What they do not do is have their six-year-old boy write the president of the United States with his six-year-old’s hot takes on refugee policy. Democrats and “progressives” insist on living in a childish moral fantasyland and further insist that the rest of us live there, too, no matter how much damage their fantasies cause.
Maybe instead of writing the president and then seeing the White House use their child as a prop to push the Democrats’ reckless refugee and immigration policy, Alex’s parents could explain to Alex why they have chosen to live in Scarsdale, outside of New York City, one of America’s wealthiest and most liberal suburbs. They could explain why Scarsdale, in Westchester County, home of Hillary Clinton, is one of many communities in that county subject to legal action from HUD for discrimination in its practice of blocking blacks and Hispanics from housing.
Maybe Alex’s parents could explain to Alex why they have chosen to live in nearly all-white
Scarsdale, one of America’s wealthiest and most liberal suburbs.
Alex, I hope you don’t read this now, because there are some adult truths that six-year-olds aren’t ready to learn, and one of them — observable through what economists call revealed preference – is that your mommy and daddy don’t even want you living near 10,000 DeShawns and Manuels, much less 10,000 Omrans or other poor refugees from Syria, Somalia, or other global trouble spots. That’s why you live in Scarsdale (84 percent white non-Hispanic, only 5 percent black and Latino) rather than nearby Mount Vernon (75 percent black and Latino), Yonkers (54 percent black and Latino ) or the Bronx (97 percent black and Latino.)
Maybe Alex’s parents should explain to him the honest reasons behind their decision before allowing him to appear as a kiddie prop in a White House propaganda video, in support of the values of wealthy Democrats and RINOs who like their country’s borders open but their own neighborhoods closed. Maybe Alex’s parents should be aware that as children get older, they look more and more at what their parents actually do, and not just at what they say.
However, Alex’s parents did help him in one way. Through all of the publicity he’s gotten, they’ve taught him about the market value of hypocritical social-justice virtue-signaling. It may not do too much to help the Omrans of the world, but in wealthy, white, and liberal communities like Scarsdale, or in the Ivy League school or prestige job that is probably in Alex’s future, it’s a skill that will take him far.