The Irreducible Needs of Children

Okay so the following story may not show me in the best possible light: Some years ago, I heard on the radio that T. Berry Brazelton had a new book. The Irreducible Needs of Children had just been published! Everybody knows and respects Dr. Terry, I said to myself. He is the most respected pediatrician in the Northeast, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus at Harvard Medical School. I better hurry over to the bookstore before all the copies are gone! This book is going to fly off the shelves! I rushed over to Books & Books in Coral Gables. To my surprise, it was easy to find a parking space and there were no lines at the cash register. On the shelves were multiple copies of some best sellers, some local authors, some literature, but no INOC. I asked a helpful sales person about Dr. Brazelton‘s new book. She said, yes I believe we have a copy. It turned out that they did indeed have one copy--high up on a shelf. I bought it. Apparently, my fascination with the irreducible needs of children does not extend to the broader population. I felt silly for speeding across town to the bookstore. Then I went home and read the book.

Fast forward to the present. I have written over 400 of these Tuesday columns. I have assiduously stayed away from questions of faith, politics, public policy—anything controversial. I will not break that promise today. But I am going to reprint a column about children, one of the best things I’ve read in years. Full disclosure: the author is one of my running buddies. He is also a nationally recognized expert on business. And a fine writer. Here, with his permission, is the article that he wrote for his blog this week. When you read it, you will understand why I am proud to call Bruce Turkel my friend. 

First, let me share a guilty admission. Your network has been very very good to me. The 400 plus appearances I’ve made on Fox News and Fox Business have helped me generate lots of keynote speaking opportunities and helped me sell a bunch of books. My TV appearances have not only earned me exposure and social confirmation, they’ve also helped me get TV time on other networks, including CNNi, MSNBC, and Chinese National Television.

Moreover, I’ve developed some very good relationships at Fox. My favorite anchor, Melissa Francis, has been my friend and mentor and given me great on-air experiences. Your producers and bookers, including John, Joanna, Avino, and Amanda, have also treated me nicer than I could have ever expected. I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate what they’ve done for me.

And no, no one at your network has ever told me what to say or which side of an issue to take. Your people have disagreed with my opinions, of course, but our differences have never held me back nor kept me off the air.

An open letter to fox news. From Bruce Turkel.

All of that being said, I also have to say I can no longer appear on the Fox network.

I quit.

Quite simply, the position Fox has taken on our government’s policy of separating children from their parents is too heinous for me to accept.

Ann Coulter claimed that videos of crying children feature “child actors.”

Sean Hannity suggested that these children are part of a “rolling invasion” of our country.

And more than one announcer has suggested that these kids are actually better off in cages than they were with their parents. One heartless commentator dared say locking innocent children away was like “sending the kids to camp.”

Accepting that this misguided policy is wrong doesn’t depend on which side of the political aisle you’re on. It doesn’t matter if you support immigration and immigrants or if you don’t. And it doesn’t matter if you believe the law — or the Bible — gives our government the right to do what they’re doing or not.

Separating innocent children from their parents and jailing them is just plain wrong.

It’s not as if we don’t know better. We’ve seen this kind of abominable behavior before.

Slave owners regularly separated African and African-American children from their parents. Western expansionists regularly separated Native American children from their parents. The children of Irish immigrants were often taken from their parents. Children with mental illness or intellectual disabilities were regularly institutionalized and separated from their parents. And Nazi Germany created horribly efficient systems for separating Jewish children from their parents.

Am I being hypocritical? Perhaps.

After all, this is certainly not the first time I’ve disagreed with the positions Fox has taken. And it’s not the first time I’ve suffered a sleepless night wondering how I could continue to appear on your shows. But I always justified my decision by saying that I wasn’t really involved in Fox’s political conversations. And when we did have political conversations, I justified my decision by always being honest about where I stood on the issues.

But this time it’s different. This time it’s different because what the government is doing — and what Fox is supporting — is wrong.

It’s not wrong only if you’re a Democrat. It’s not wrong only if you’re a Republican. It’s not wrong only if you’re a liberal. It’s not wrong only if you’re a conservative. It’s not wrong only if you’re an atheist. And it’s not wrong only if you’re a believer. Separating children from their parents is wrong no matter who you are.

Know this. Many of the children who have already been taken away will never be reunited with their parents. Bureaucratic snafus, bad record keeping, parents who don’t speak English, administrators who don’t speak Spanish, infants and toddlers who don’t speak at all, and a general lack of understanding of political systems and access to those systems, will conspire against families ever being made whole again.

Know this too. Being separated from their parents is just one of the problems these children are going to be forced to deal with. Besides the deleterious effects of poverty, limited education, relocation, and so on, the trauma of separation will manifest in every type of developmental issue imaginable. These children — and society in general — will suffer the effects of this disgraceful policy for generations to come.

Friends and family used to ask me how I could appear on Fox. I was asked this question so often that my answers became automatic. After repeating my justification about how good the people at your network have been to me, I’d present the same three tired points:

  1. My political viewpoint is pretty solid and pretty well known. I don’t need Fox’s image to determine or disagree with my own opinions.
  2. Demographics show that more business owners watch Fox than the other news stations. Business owners are my target audience. Therefore it makes sense for me to cast my bait where the fish are swimming. And,
  3. Fox invites me to be on the air almost every single week. The other stations do not.

But all that was before you decided that separating innocent children from their parents was an acceptable practice. And it was before you supported people who will say anything — true or not — to defend this horribly un-American behavior.

Clearly, there’s nothing I can do to change the way you run your business.

And let’s be honest, none of the shows I’ve been on will even see a blip in viewership because I no longer appear on the programs. Truth is, no one will even know I’m not on Fox anymore.

But you will know. And I will know too.

I quit.

So there you have it. An ethical man taking a stance that harms him economically, but may benefit children. Those of us who have the unrelenting privilege of seeing our beloved and uncaged children whenever we want, take note. Wouldn't right now be a good time to forget about chores and homework so you and your kids could go kick a soccer ball in the park? For young ones, let's make some brownies together. Let's read Alexander Key's The Forgotten Door. For older ones, let's dust off the photo albums and relive some glowing moments. Or tell the story about how you got lost on a hike and drenched in a rain storm. There's a tradition that states, "In a place where there are no men, strive thou to be a man." Let's all of us commit to doing what we can for our children.

And for everyone else's children as well.

9 thoughts on “The Irreducible Needs of Children

  1. Daniel Messinger

    Dear David,
    As you know well, developmental science clearly indicates the negative consequences associated with forced removal of (young) children from their parents. Thank you, as always, for standing up for children.
    Daniel Messinger, Ph.D.
    Professor of Psychology, Pediatrics, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Music Engineering
    Coordinator, Developmental Psychology Program
    Director, Social Systems Informatics, Center for Computational Science
    Cooper Fellow, University of Miami
    305-284-8443 (v), 305-284-4795 (f)
    Flipse Psychology Annex, P.O. Box 249229, Coral Gables, FL 33124-0721
    (Street address: 5665 Ponce de Leon (Rm. 308), Coral Gables, FL 33146)

  2. Mary McVeigh

    Good for you, I hope you have an unexpected economic windfall. We are often rewarded for doing the right thing. Just as the Sean HAnnity, Ann Coulter, et al may receive their just “reward” for their”morals” from their own children.
    As you know, children may not do as we say but they certainly do as we do.

  3. David H. Craig

    I was surprised to see a Friday offering, but quickly saw the reason why. Thank you for bravely forwarding this article. We can argue about the merits of video games vs. hikes, but there should be no argument that separating children–including babies and toddlers- from parents is just wrong–not just bad policy–wrong.

  4. Laurence Faso

    Well said sir, well said. Thank you for your courage.

    L. Faso

    Education Specialist, Los Angeles Unified School District-retired

    I will be marching tomorrow !

  5. Ann Rossbach

    Thanks, David, once again, for sharing a message that is rooted in morality and the welfare of children. I ask one question: How in the world can this act of separtaing children from their parents be tolerated? Inhumane, amoral, trauma-inducing, and in its simplest description, kidnapping.

  6. Whitney Laughlin

    Thanks so much for sharing this, David! I can only hope that more and more will continue to speak up about this and way too many abhorrent policies.


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