“Moral injury” is a term we often associate with war. I first heard it used relative to the Viet Nam war. More recently, I saw it discussed in a article about drone pilots, safely removed from combat while working at bases in the U.S. or Europe. Many are unable to countenance killing people as if in a video game.
I found a good description of moral injury in an online publication called Stripes:
“Moral injury is a nebulous term that few use seriously because it doesn’t read well on Veterans Affairs claims. It’s a new term but not a new concept. Moral injury is as timeless as war — going back to when Ajax thrust himself upon his sword on the shores of Troy. Unlike post-traumatic stress, which is a result of a fear-conditioned response, moral injury is a feeling of existential disorientation that manifests as intense guilt.
David Wood, a Huffington Post reporter, describes moral injury as “the pain that results from damage to a person’s moral foundation.” In her forthcoming book “Afterwar: Healing the Moral Wounds of Our Soldiers,” Georgetown University’s Nancy Sherman thinks of moral injuries as a painful “transgression” or as an erosion of “a sense of goodness and humanity.” Moral injuries, she says, have to do with failing to hold yourself or others to account. For some, it’s realizing that what you choose to do or not do in combat doesn’t align with the person your parents raised. The person who volunteers at rescue shelters and takes his grandmother out to lunch on her birthday doesn’t seem like the same person who once reveled in the shock waves of 500-pound bombs.”
I’m going to apply the term “moral injury” to the Trump/Sessions policy of tearing children away from their parents at the U.S. Mexico border, and warehousing them in old big box stores and soon, tent cities. This policy is badly damaging America’s moral foundation. Hearing Jeff Sessions defend the policy with quotes from the bible sickens me. Hearing Sara Sanders do the same thing reminds me that anyone associated with Trump becomes tainted by his innate cruelty and moral emptiness.
History will look back on this in much the same way as we now see the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II. People then will wonder what we were all thinking, how the moral compass of the nation could become so easily and quickly distorted.