My recent twitter-sparring with a “pro-lifer” jolted me back to my early school years.
I must have been about 9 years old when I first learned about WWII. I vaguely remember reading some of Hitler’s rantings about people he deemed evil and criminal. I also remember seeing pictures of him always being “heiled” and thinking how odd it would be to have a leader who constantly demanded praise. (I couldn’t imagine people doing that to Jimmy Carter.)
I read about the concentration camps at Dachau and Auschwitz. I saw small children in prisoner uniforms huddled in cages, like the one above. I asked my history teacher why no one stopped this. How was it possible that they let that happen?
I don’t remember what my teacher said—only that she didn’t answer the question. However, I do remember thinking how awful the German people must be. No country full of good people would suffer such a tyrant and ignore such horrors inflicted on their fellow man. Thank God I live in America in 1980.
My twitter spat had my asking this person how he could claim to be a Christian pro-lifer who protests “abortion clinics”, but seems to have no problem with Jeff Session’s horrible policy of ripping very small children from their mother’s arms and throwing them into cages for no reason except to “send a message” to others.
I also posted a PBS article detailing how US Health and Human Services released some unaccompanied children to the custody of people who turned out to be human traffickers.
The response was utterly chilling: I DON’T CARE.
To be followed by comments from others, which I summarize as essentially:
- Take care of American children.
- Not my problem.
- Screw ‘em.
- If the parents didn’t want this to happen, they shouldn’t have come here [seeking asylum].
- Look where they come from.
Despite the fact that they are fleeing violence in their home countries– (not to mention the fact that much of it was caused by us)—the view is that the children deserve to suffer for it.
The conditions of these facilities are so deplorable that a sitting US Senator was kept out. These small kids have swollen eyes from crying so hard, sleeping on cold floors—and that fills me with a rage that I can barely contain. The separation policy has led to very traumatic situations:
- the NYTimes looked at one case involving a 5-year old unable to even speak to his parents
- WaPo featured a story of father so distraught they took away his 3-year old that he committed suicide
Yet to a disturbingly large segment of our population, these innocent children just don’t matter.
(And just to be clear, there is NO LAW that requires parents to be separated from children. This is yet another lie by Donald Trump.)
Recently, Sessions was on Hugh Hewitt’s show defending this horrendous policy. You know you reached a new low when Hewitt is disgusted by what is going on:
HEWITT: I’m disturbed by this. I don’t think children should be separated from biological parents at any age, but especially if they’re infants and toddlers. I think it’s traumatic and terribly difficult on the child. Is it absolutely necessary to do so? Can’t we have facilities where parents remain united with kids?
SESSIONS: If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them.
HEWITT: Can you imagine your grandchildren separated from your children for more than 72 hours in a dormitory with up to, the deputy secretary told me, 1,000 other children and the impact on them of that?
SESSIONS: The US can’t be a total guarantor that every parent who comes to the country is…able to have their hand on that child the entire time.
Keep in mind that Jeff Sessions is a man who:
- Was deemed too racist and hateful to be appointed as a federal judge over 30 years ago,
- Once called a white civil rights lawyer a “disgrace to his race”,
- Recently bragged about deporting a human slave because her forced servitude, he argued, was providing “material support” for terrorists.
Now, this evil, evil man is, to use CNN’s words, a “one-man Supreme Court of immigration courts” who can unilaterally decide immigration policy. Sessions can even take cases from the Immigration Court of Appeals and rule on them himself.
He can make bigotry and hatred legal precedent. And he’s doing it.
He had no empathy for being a grandfather because these aren’t his people suffering. It’s “those” people whom he calls “illegals”—as if somebody’s entire personhood can be defined that way. Sessions and his rightwing ilk view them all as genetically inferior, criminally-prone, “bad” people. “They are rapists. They are bringing crime”, in the words of Trump. They deserve to suffer. Even toddlers. Even infants.
A steady diet of fear and paranoia has caused a wide swath of Americans to view these people as subhuman. That’s why I could talk all day long about these children being taken, beaten, abused, even lost—and it wouldn’t make a difference. I would just be sent another picture of an adult MS-13 gang member and told good riddance—doesn't matter if I’m talking about a small child. They will grow up to be a criminal because that is what “those” people do.
In Germany, if any crime was committed by a Jewish person, that person was featured as proof positive that the Jewish people were prone to criminal behavior. It fed the narrative. Hitler even required publication of their crimes in a weekly article entitled ‘The Criminal Jew’.
In his very first week in office, Donald Trump ordered DHS to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrants—legal and otherwise.
It’s all about learning to hate.
It’s about learning to dehumanize.
The change isn’t sudden, it’s gradual.
And now we have a dominant national party that has entirely devoted itself to fostering hatred towards different kinds of people.
To clarify: I’m in no way saying our internment camps, as awful as they are, can compare to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Not only am I not saying that, it misses my point.
What I am saying is that once you learn to dehumanize a person, it’s the first step towards allowing atrocities to occur. It can happen anywhere.
It can happen here.
It IS happening here. Right in front of us.
I finally get it now. It took me 38 years, but I finally was able to answer my own question.
And I am so, so ashamed.