Curtain Raiser

The Age of ‘Lock Them Up,’ Colltalers

In the White House-sponsored nauseating tour back on time, we’re hitting all the ‘right’ stops. That’s one way of giving some context to this renewed urge for mass incarcerating people under the assumption of culpability. A clear historical parallel is the 1942 Japanese internments.
In still less than two years, the administration has implemented a radical agenda of racial oppression and xenophobia towards immigrants, while taking steps to further push the Supreme Court into a subservient role. And that’s not mentioning the Christmas tax cuts for the rich.
To say that every cruel error of judgment and knuckled-headed executive order are somehow unintentional or lack equivalence in American history makes no sense. Not just there’s a method to this brutal cavalcade towards fascism, but also plenty of half-forgotten past examples.
What may be arguably new is how little pushback what Nobel laureate Paul Krugman calls the Republican war on the poor is getting from the Democratic establishment and party leaders in Congress. And that, of course, the Supreme hasn’t had such a heavy partisan run since, well, ever. If it’s up to these institutions, it’s getting worst before getting any better. But it’s still up to the American people to say ‘Stop!’
Again, we’re not getting into corporate complicity to the status quo, because it’s obvious they’re being benefited from it; or the boot-licking support from a now dominant media, which often dictates policy; or how devastating the attack on civil rights and the environment has been.
We’re just taking the issue of imprisonment, not out of criminal behavior, but for those who have become inconvenient for the enforcement of a white supremacist narrative. That means annihilating a considerable core of the American experience, by going after every person of color.
It’s a vicious irony that the country that has already more prisoners than any other nation on earth, is now building temporary facilities to hold yet even more people. And it’s no surprise

that they, as the current prison population, are mostly poor, black and brown, and/or immigrant.
The hysteria against ‘aliens’ only reached this kind of fevered pitch during WW2. The suspicion that ordinary Americans, who happened to be of Japanese ‘ancestry,’ would hold the same Kamikaze zeal of the Hitler-ally Japan’s empire, and stage attacks in the U.S. soil was, of course, never more than a paranoid idea concocted by a stunned military establishment after the Pearl Harbor attack. But for three years it was law.
Up to 120 thousand Japanese-Americans were detained in camps, and it took 46 years for the U.S. to issue them a formal apology, along $20K to each surviving victim. It was lame but happened, even that many were already dead, and others were hurt by the experience.
Lesson not learned, apparently. The massive imprisonment of Muslims following 911, some tortured and even killed with little or no proof of their involvement, may be still years from an apology and compensation. At least as long as their torturers remain unpunished and powerful.
Some may invoke the horrific images of abuse of Abu Ghairb prisoners, which surfaced by chance in 2003 and exposed our morally wrong strategy for catching terrorists, and the secret black sites around the world that the U.S. used for torture out of reach of international law and American courts. In all cases, including Guantanamo, and its majority of innocent already released, no actionable intel came from and of it.
On the contrary, at least some of those found not guilty now hold an understandable grudge against the U.S., as those still held on in Cuba may. It’s the price to pay for enforcing such a tragic policy that also goes against everything America has stood for, even if mostly as an ideal.
So it’s fair to link that dark past and recent history with what’s going on now, when people knocking at the border, seeking shelter from the rot and injustice that, often, were sowed in their countries by U.S. intervention, are instead being treated like criminals without any rights.
The parallel may be also extended, if not to German concentration camps in the war, then to the Gestapo-like tactics of arrest and summary deportation of people who only want to live and pay taxes in this country; those already contributing for years; and even legal residents too. Considering family split ups, lost or caged infants, and poor conditions of the facilities so many are being held on, how can this be right?
The great tragedy that many Americans are still not aware that’s taking place right here and right now, goes beyond the potential destruction of representative democracy, independent judiciary and media, and increased global hostility towards the U.S. Because it also normalizes evil and turns us all into associates of a regime of terror. And for the last time, let’s not even get here into the issue of the Russian interference.
For just taking what’s already all around us is enough to compose a terrible picture of America, circa 2018. As shown, this descent into a racist and discretionary society, where courts merely rubber-stamp the will of the executive, unfortunately has legs throughout our history.
Even worst, it has visited other modern nations, and has a number of predictable outcomes, none of which we’re exempted of or safe from.
One has a feeling that this is but an experiment, to test how far it can get without effective reproach from society. And it’s a way to carve yet more room for more to come. Sounds paranoid? Maybe, but only if tomorrow while reading the paper, the thought won’t occur to you too.
Unlike other times, Americans are for the most part mobilized. At least a large percentage of voters, some who rarely vote before, are willing to give it a shot, so to help reversing the process. It’s unquestionable that many overlapping movements are putting on a fight to prevent a rise of a totalitarian rule in America. But more is needed, or rather, don’t believe the hype that either others are on to it or it really doesn’t matter.
To defend the right to an unbiased Supreme Court, to uphold international conventions against torture and political imprisonment, to support an independent media, and to stand for guarantees of equality to everyone, regardless of race, color, nationality, credo, and personal choices, is more than the least we can do for ourselves. It’s what entitles us, and not tyrants and morally corrupt leaders, to be Americans. Cheers. WC


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