Thousands of people fleeing situations of murder, rape and gang violence in Central America come to this country seeking asylum. They expect and ought to expect that they will receive a fair hearing. But they are greeted with gimmicks meant to circumvent the law in order to discourage them from pursuing their claims of asylum: people’s children are arbitrarily taken from them; people are told that they must wait in Mexico until their cases are heard; border patrol agents were even instructed by the president himself to lie to judges and say that they are unable to process more cases because they are overwhelmed (their supervisors instructed these same agents to ignore the president).
One might be tempted to say that the administration is administering a policy of terrorism to discourage people from seeking asylum. Terrorism is a political tool. Its aim is to achieve a political aim. It entails perpetrating indiscriminate acts of violence against civilians to create a level of terror that leads to capitulation.
However, these policies go beyond terrorism. These policies give free reign to our most negative inclinations to inflict pain and suffering on others for the sheer sadistic pleasure of doing so. Hanna Arendt used the phrase the banality of evil to describing Adolf Eichmann’s contention that his participation in murdering millions of Jews during World War II was merely a matter of following orders, and was not grounded in any particular animosity to Jews as such. It was the decision of the state to murder six million Jews; he was not responsible; he had a duty to be obedient to the mandates of the state. His claims of duty were nothing more than a façade for his sadistic pleasure of murdering millions of people for no other reason than the fact that they were Jews.
Whosoever would claim that they are not responsible for the sadistic practices perpetrated in our name are seeking, in the words of psychologist Eric Fromm, to escape from freedom. Freedom necessitates responsibility and accountability. John Dewey wrote that “the serious threat to our democracy … is the existence within our own institutions of conditions which have given victory to external authority.”
We live in a democracy. The word democracy is a compound of two Greek words: demos, meaning people and kratos, meaning power; hence, the power of the people. As a democratic people, we ought not to escape from our responsibility with regard to what is done in our name. We ought to hold ourselves accountable: at every level of governance we ought to draw the line. Did not Jesus say to his disciples, whosoever is not with us, is against us?
First posted by Ramon Duran on Facebook