Totalitarian Tendencies

Of course, it’s always problematic to make comparisons between current events and infamous low points in human history, no matter how emotionally vexing those current events may be.   I call for an end (until it becomes undeniable, at which point I’ll be unable to post calls for anything) to the comparisons of brutal policymakers to Nazis or other totalitarian regimes.

Taking young children from their mothers’ arms is not the same, clearly, as wrenching a baby from the mother and smashing a rifle butt against its tiny head.   Putting a crying child in a cage for indefinite detention is not anywhere near as horrific as putting a child in a gas chamber.  You can’t even fairly compare those two things, caging and murdering.   So calling a government policy that dehumanizes certain classes of children and designates them for this kind of inhumane treatment “Nazi-like” sounds like hyperbole and is easily enough dismissed by the hard pragmatists who believe that this kind of harsh, tough, zero-tolerance policy that makes parents pay a brutally high price, their connection with their children, will deter desperate people from coming to our borders.

It is easy to condemn this sort of policy as the terroristic tactic of people consumed by unreasoning hatred of the objects of their policy.   The people coming to the US southern border are portrayed by proponents of these harsh policies as criminals, rapists, terrorists, a hoard posing untold dangers to our eternally threatened nation, incredible dangers, unbelievably bad dangers, really dangerous dangers.   That many of them are running from terrors directly produced by, say, our own imbecilic ninety year selective drug prohibition regime, our eternal War on Drugs, is beside the point.  Those violent drug gangs are the problem, not the ongoing American law enforcement idiocy that has only produced a massively lucrative product for these increasingly violent foreign (and domestic) criminals to peddle.    

Fleeing gang violence, says our tiny, racist top law enforcement official, is no longer grounds for political asylum, it’s your goddamn problem, deal with it, you brown, non-English speaking losers.  Neither is fleeing a spouse who beats the living shit out of you and threatens to kill you.   Nothing to see here!  No longer America’s role, to provide a haven for women and children who will otherwise be killed in their home countries, or teenagers facing death if they refuse to join a drug cartel’s street gang.

We cannot underestimate the vital role that terrorism and the threat of violent physical force plays in human affairs.  By terrorism and violent force, I refer to the routinized violence threatened or visited on citizens by states, by nations and coalitions of nations.  This state violence causes the vast majority of deaths by terrorism (though it is rarely referred to as terrorism, for obvious reasons).  Deadly violence, and the terrifying threat of its instant deployment, and more recently fear of non-government terrorism, and the need for extreme measures to protect the populace from Terror with a capital T,  is always used by the status quo to maintain order and to influence political relations.  

The old debate over who is the terrorist is now all the rage, in our terrified of terror Post-9-11 world.  Those illegal Mexicans, Guatemalans and Hondurans are TERRORISTS, we are told by American law enforcement.   The protesters in Gaza, every one of them according to the Israeli Minister of Defense, down to the medics and members of the international press:  TERRORISTS!   When you’re fighting terror, the gloves must come off, obviously.

The I.C.E. agents who forcibly take the kids from their potential terrorist parents are only protecting law abiding citizens from criminals and terrorists, the worst of the worst, shameless terrorists using their own babies as human shields!    Those terrorists in Gaza?   We have every right to kill as many as we need to in order to make them stop hating our freedom!    Israeli leaders, particularly the extreme nationalistic right wing ones, are fond of reminding the world that Israel is the region’s only real democracy.   Therefore any means needed will be employed to defend it from haters, including opening fire on unarmed protesters, with special bullets designed to do maximum damage on impact.

The moral battle is won by the most skilled story-tellers, the people who can make us empathize the most with their point of view.  With that in mind, Israeli lawmakers are considering a law making it illegal to photograph Israeli soldiers in a way that could potentially harm Israeli military morale.  Showing a photo of an Israeli soldier cuffing a belligerent Palestinian teenager could really harm the morale of the sorely tested Israeli army.   Five years in prison for the photographer who has caused this harm to Israeli democracy, ten if the photograph, according to the law, undermines the security of the state.  They are voting on this important measure as I type these words.  Nothing to see here!  

The motto of every great democracy– Nothing to see here!   Criminalize those who take pictures of things that are nobody’s business, merely the democratic sausage we all love being made.  We are no slouches in this department, here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.  Dubya Bush’s daddy made it illegal to photograph and broadcast images of the coffins of dead American soldiers.  How bad was it for morale to see, day after day, those dead Americans coming home from war zones?!   No more of that shit, citizens of a democracy do not need that kind of incredibly depressing shit, it only creates prejudice.  It sets our people against lawful war as the solution to every business-related foreign problem our leaders seek to solve by violent means. 

Recently our perpetually petulant president withdrew the U.S. from the the Human Rights Council in the United Nations.  Who needs fake fucking Human Rights from a bunch of self-righteous loser hypocrites?  This sudden departure from the council did not come out of nowhere.  First the council unfairly condemned Israel for having snipers shoot countless protesters, killing scores, hospitalizing thousands.   Next they attacked us directly!     The UN Council on Human Rights is poised to release a report about the extent and conditions of extreme poverty in the United States.

“It’s patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America,” U.S. Ambassador Haley Barber said in response to the Special Rapporteur’s report.   Fair enough, Ms. Barber, if you say so.   Just because the U.S. has vast numbers of citizens,  an estimated 5.3 million (out of 40 million in poverty), living in desperate Third World type poverty is none of anyone’s damn business.  Making a big deal about falling American life expectancy, an infant mortality rate as high as in many very poor countries, America’s informed choice not to recognize the human rights of children,  outrageous meddling!   It is no business of a bunch of Socialist America haters to “impartially” investigate and write preposterous, hateful, patently ridiculous reports about us.   They’re our fucking poor people and we’ll deal with those selfish parasites, including the 13 million so-called children in poverty, as we fucking see fit, Sir.  We’ve got your Human Rights Council right here (grab crotch), bitches!

It’s not right to call them Nazis, I’ll be the first to remind you.  Assholes, yes, vicious assholes, sure, but Nazis… not quite yet.   Still, this administration is taking steady, consistent steps toward a kind of American authoritarianism.   The destruction of critical thought is the first thing that must be achieved, to allow incoherent partisan buzzwords to carry every argument.  

Think of the incoherent messages about this policy of taking children from their parents, the citing of biblical scripture to justify it, the denials about the policy, the indignant objection to cages being referred to as cages, the blaming of Democrats for the policy, the sudden reversal of the policy by executive order.  None of that really matters, if we are really ready for the end of our democracy.   The silencing of all thoughtful criticism leads to the acceptance of incoherent narratives.  This process is crucial for anyone seeking absolute control over a population.  Silence the critics and you’re most of the way home.  The lying media, enemy of the people, knows this too.  Those bastards need to be made to fall into line, by hook or by crook.

Once the possibility of  coherent public discussion is eliminated, the rest is pretty much downhill for any motherfucker, already in the highest position in our government, who would become Supreme Leader.   The test of American democracy is upon us all.  The good news is that’s its a pass/fail exam, which is also, sadly, the bad news.

 

Torture– drop the word casually, it means little

People who know me, who’ve been to this untidy, dilapidated place where I live, would all agree I have many more important things to do right now than stew about politics.   I know it is a symptom of something else, but I can’t clear my throat sometimes.  There are things that stick there like poisoned steel wool, irritating to no end.   So let me try to pump this one up, like a cat with a hairball, and get on with my life today.  

President Change You Can Believe In (you can also believe in the tooth fairy or the patriotism of men willing to torture suspects– so he’s not really misleading anyone)  casually spoke the word “torture” the other day, I heard the sound bite.  He admitted explicitly, for the first time, that our great nation had descended to torture in the so-called War on Terror.  Torture was committed in secret, in our names, against people who are abstractions. It was authorized and justified, under a changed name, in secret memos, with surprisingly little legal support, that were authored by Bush Administration lawyers, one now a federal judge for life, the other a tenured professor of constitutional law at Berkeley.

It’s not like there were witnesses as actual people we know were hung by their arms for hours at a time, forced to soil themselves, stripped naked, kept in freezing cold or boiling hot cells, kept awake for days at a time, kept in airless cells too small for them, thrown against walls (harmless, just to get their attention!) shaken, punched, slapped, kicked, water-boarded.   Some of these people were guilty as hell, even if many were not.  At any rate, full disclosure, agents of We The People tortured people, we’re not going to do it anymore, and that’s that.  There’s no point prosecuting anyone, heck, we’d probably have to prosecute ourselves too, which would suck!  In addition to posing an uncomfortable conflict of interest.

It was as shocking hearing the president finally say “torture” as it was hearing the word “poverty” come out of his mouth for the first time in public during his second inauguration.  I heard it like this “we murdered some people, frankly, we did,  in cold blood and without any real legal defense for our actions.  We also engaged in systematic rape, of men and women, some admittedly quite young, and other atrocities.  We killed babies, and old women, we broke down doors and beat up and sometimes slaughtered people in far away lands who had nothing to do with terrorism.   We grabbed people in airports that we sent to savage regimes to be tortured and found out only years later that many of them were innocent.  Guilty as charged.  These things are terrible, unforgivable, and we abhor them to our core.  I say, not without some personal sadness, that as a practical matter we will never hold anyone accountable in any way for any of these policies.  We made sure that our contractors are immune from prosecution, and we sure as hell are not going to prosecute the wealthy and powerful men who created the secret torture program.  Get over it, America.”

“After all, we are wealthy beyond counting, as a nation, but 21 million of our children go to bed hungry every night, is that not in some ways a greater national shame than torturing people we don’t even know?    We have neighborhoods where the death rate is as high as in third world nations engaged in civil wars.  Shit happens, people.  I say these things not because I will hold anyone accountable for crimes we committed in the past, for the crimes we continue to commit or for a system that allows the wealthiest to increase their wealth beyond the wildest imaginings of the greediest while children, by the million, are asked to eat shit and die.  I mention these things only because I am a man of conscience and an expert in constitutional law.  If you think it is easy to be an expert in constitutional law, think again.  I challenge you, for example, to find the three discreet phrases buried in that succinct document that formed the constitutional basis for human slavery and its strict legal protection for almost a hundred years.”

“We do some very bad things, I will admit.  Most of these terrible things we keep secret.  You have 1,000 channels of TV programming to distract you, a fantastic network of professional sports where some of the greatest athletes in the world compete for your enjoyment, many fake news channels, a hundred Darwinian contests, scripted reality TV shows with colorful people in many cases even dumber than you are.  You have great stores full of wonderful products and you can buy anything you like on-line, from the comfort of your favorite chair.  You have everything you need, unless you’re really poor, or working class, in which case you may feel left out of the American Dream.  I pity you, I really do, it’s really a great dream.”

“But I must also point out that I will be very, very strict with anyone who tries to make public things that the public must not know.  If the U.S. military has a digital video of an American helicopter crew getting permission to gun down unarmed Iraqi civilians who come to try to rescue other civilians shot down by that same American helicopter crew, that is their business.  The military knows best how to deal with these things, it has been doing so for over two hundred years.  Things like this are classified for a reason and anyone who releases such information is a traitor and enemy of the state worthy of death.  And guess what?  As we’ve already shown, we no longer need to even accuse you of a specific crime or have any kind of due process before we take you out with a flying remote control death machine.  Thank you for listening and God bless these United States of America.”

“Oh, and one more thing.  Vice Admiral John Poindexter, a shady character out of the Iran-Contra scandal and former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Reagan, was pitching a data mining system that could be used to keep tabs on the activities of conspiracies to undermine America.   It could be used, for example, to get the names of everyone opposed to a specific government policy, the phone numbers of everyone involved in street protests or petitions, those subscribing to internet lists or those organizing for any purpose that might run counter to the best interests of America as defined in secret by unaccountable persons.  I am not at liberty to say if the NSA data mining program recently revealed by a traitor worthy of death, a reckless and dangerous young man named Edward Snowden, is that same program Poindexter was peddling or not.  Does it make any difference to you?  God bless America.”

“And goodnight, Gracie.”