It’s common for people to complain that news stories are “one sided” and journalists didn’t get “the other side of the story.” But often the bigger problem is when journalists stop at two sides.
That seems to be what is happening now in Texas. We hear the mothers deny that anything at all was wrong and the state justify tearing the children from the mothers as the only way to get their stories out of them. (When this Blog predicted this would happen, and predicted the rationale, I noted that it also would be easier to get the children’s stories if they waterboarded them. Memo to the Texas child welfare agency: I was being sarcastic; please don’t get any ideas.)
But here’s a third side of the story: The children may well have needed to be removed from the ranch. But under the laws that govern American child welfare systems there is no way they’re going back until and unless their “stories” are fully known; and probably not then, either. So there was no excuse for further traumatizing them by tearing them from their mothers. There is no reason the children and their mothers could not be resettled, in effect, as refugees.
The ABC News website tells the third side of the story today. Though the headline asked who did more harm, the sect or the state, that’s not really the issue. One can believe the sect did more harm and still think it’s a bad idea for the state to harm the children further by separating them from their mothers.
The actions of Texas CPS remind me more than anything of a notorious comment made by a general during the Vietnam War. Surveying the destruction of a village he explained that “we had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
So here’s the third side of the story in Texas: Don’t destroy these children in order to save them.