Yes, we have a serious problem at the border – indeed, at every border we create and defend with force of arms and bureaucratic indifference.
“‘If you want water, just drink from a toilet.’ That’s what border patrol told one thirsty woman we met on today’s #DemsAtTheBorder trip. These are the same CBP personnel who threatened to throw burritos at members of Congress. Changes must be made.”
So tweeted US Rep Judy Chu in the wake of a visit by congressmen and women to Texas border facilities last week, stirring even further incredulity and disgust about the nature of these American concentration camps for immigrants.
The problem we have is ourselves. In the process of defining ourselves in “us vs them” terms – obsessively protecting ourselves from an enemy – we jettison our values and become everything we pretend not to be. Defining a particular group as the enemy gives one permission to dehumanize that group. This is essence of militarism. It’s also called racism.
Just prior to the congressional delegation’s border visit last week, organized by the House of Representatives Hispanic Caucus, ProPublica published a disturbing story about a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents called “I’m 10-15.” The term is Border Patrol code for “aliens in custody,” writes A C Thompson. The three-year-old group has about 9,500 members.
Some of these members “shared derogatory comments about Latina lawmakers who plan to visit a controversial Texas detention facility on Monday, calling them ‘scum buckets’ and ‘hoes,’” according to the article. They also “joked about the deaths of migrants, discussed throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress visiting a detention facility” and posted several illustrations unrestrained in their vulgarity, making fun of Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“In another thread, a group member posted a photo of a father and his 23-month-old daughter lying face down in the Rio Grande . . . . The member asked if the photo could have been faked because the bodies were so ‘clean… .”
Joaquin Castro, head of the Hispanic Caucus, said, according to ProPublica, the site “confirms some of the worst criticisms of Customs and Border Protection. These are clearly agents who are desensitized to the point of being dangerous to migrants and their co-workers” and they “don’t deserve to wear any uniform representing the United States of America.”
Here’s the thing. This is situation normal at the American border – and by ‘border’ I mean every confrontational setting between America’s armed protectors and a defined enemy. These settings are both internal and external.
Fascinatingly, barely a month before the ProPublica revelations were published, something called the Plain View Project hit the news. As I wrote at the time: “The project, an exhaustive, two-year analysis of social media posts by some 2,800 police officers and 700 former officers, from police departments across the country, revealed another non-surprise: a racist subculture permeates American police forces.”
Thousands of such posts, I noted, which are from officers’ personal Facebook pages, can be seen at the Plain View website. For instance: “It’s a good day for a choke hold.” “If the Confederate flag is racist, then so is Black History Month.” And, as though in solidarity with the Border Patrol: “Sooner or later they end up in a cage, where (they) belong.”
The parallels are so naked, so obvious: When you define particular people as the enemy and arm yourself against them, you also dehumanize them. Their lives don’t matter in the least. And when people holding such views are wearing official government uniforms (not KKK robes), their actions are in our names.
The crucial point to make here is that this is not about “bad apples.” It’s about a culture of militarism, which, unavoidably, equals a culture of racism.
Excerpted from: ‘Trouble at the Border’.
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