Not My America: Children’s Safety, Chemical Weapons and the Consequences of Hate

Among the uncountable lies Trump has heaped on the American people, perhaps none was as pernicious as the one he told about tear gassing children at the border. The president remarked, “Why is a parent up into an area where they know the tear gas is forming and it’s going to be formed and they were running up with a child?” Later that day he said it was “a very minor form of the tear gas itself that was very safe.”

Almost immediately, the American Academy of Pediatrics called BS. In a powerful response to the tear gassing of children, they stated: “Children are uniquely vulnerable to physiological effects of chemical agents. A child’s smaller size, and more frequent number of breaths per minute and limited cardiovascular stress response compared to adults magnifies the harm of agents such as tear gas.” The organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical sub-specialists and pediatric specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults, added, “Immigrant children are still children, and they deserve our compassion and assistance. We will continue to speak out against their inhuman treatment and advocate for their safety.”

Immigrant children are still children. In a civilized nation, that should be unnecessary to say. But after decades of using other words to label these children as something less than human, it has become necessary to say it. They are not aliens. They are not illegals. They are not migrants. They are not border jumpers, grabbers, thugs, or criminals. They are still children.

So no, Mr. President, the chemical weapons you authorized and condoned to be used against those children were not safe. Whenever tear gas is used there is a risk of permanent injury or even death. The first documented use of tear gas dates back to 1914 in WWI, when Xylyl bromide was employed as an easy to use tearing agent. The effects then were the same as they are today. The gas works by irritating mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs, and causes burning, crying, sneezing, coughing, chest pain, difficulty breathing, pain in the eyes, temporary blindness, excessive saliva, and skin irritation. There is nothing safe about it, and there never will be. There is a reason, Mr. President, that the use of tear gas has been prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Conventions. 

In fact, the United States ratified the Geneva Protocol which banned the use of chemical and biological weapons on January 22, 1975. In 1989 and 1990, the U.S. and Soviet Union entered an agreement to both end their chemical weapons programs, including binary weapons. Mr. President, if a chemical weapons program is too inhumane for use in war between the strongest armies in the world, why is it acceptable to use on women and children on the border.

“These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas,” said Californian Governor-elect Gavin Newsome. These “women and children who left their lives behind-seeking peace and asylum-were met with violence and fear. That’s not my America.” 

George Cassidy Payne is an independent writer, social justice activist, domestic violence counselor, and adjunct professor of philosophy. 

About the author

George Cassidy Payne

George Cassidy Payne is a freelance writer and domestic violence counselor. He has theology degrees from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, NY and the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.

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  • Not your America?
    Perhaps you have been living inside a “virtual reality” bubble…
    This is America!
    Better said: the USA… the ‘Barbarian’ at the Gate of just about EVERY other Nation around the workd;
    – Exporting “Democracy” to the Middle East resulting in failure, trillions $ (on credit) the lifes on all sides. 17+ years “war” in Afganistan!
    – USA support of Dogmatic “governments” as long as they dance to the beat of Uncle Sam’s tunes.
    – Isolating Cuba for “human rights” violaions and been “communist” yet awarding China #1 trade partner, while for decades greedy Uncle Sam exports your jobs to China in exploiting “cheaper” labor costs to enhance “profits”, building China’s economy while weakening your own America.
    – Who do you think is responsible for destroying other societies around the world in the name of USA National Interests?
    The only diference is that now, these consequences are no longer silent, and kept abroad…
    They are here!
    Upon your very own GATES!
    Your feel good “bubble” is bursting with reality…
    Blame current POTUS all you want!
    In fact, keep obstructing his America First Policies… for you are creating the very same hostilities these Central American “asylum” seekers are peacefully walking away from, your hate for Trump is creating a Banana Republic of “Your America”… thus, in time, the future Patriots of your america will be/feel right at home!
    Your America is been turn into a Banana Republic!
    On the brighter side, you will not need to travel the world any more… it is coming to you!

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