Daily Dispatch 7/8/2019

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InAlienable
Daily Dispatch

July 8, 2019


Image:Reuters

On July 4th, Donald Trump stood before the Lincoln Monument, surrounded by U.S. American flags, and reflecting on the “inalienable” (or “unalienable” if you are a Constitutional stickler; it could have gone either way) rights this country, according to popular mythology, was founded to defend. In response to this display, we should also focus our attention to the more than 100,000 people trapped in cages and prison camps as a result of the immigration policies of this administration. There are 16,000 people held in border facilities designed for a third of this capacity. There are 53,000 people languishing in Immigration and Custom Enforcement detention centers inside the United States, and 14,000 children incarcerated in old Wal-Marts and tent cities placed on military bases by the Department of Health and Human Services. There are more than 10,000 people detained by the U.S. Marshall Service awaiting trial for the misdemeanor charge of “irregular entry” and the 15,000 or more sitting in federal prison having been convicted of the same. This administration, decries the lack of funds to provide adequately for the people it has chosen to detain, but finds the money to block the streets of Washington, D.C. with Abram tanks and the skies with flyovers of Air Force and Navy planes. 

Nothing could be more perfect.

Perfect, that is, as revelation of the hypocrisy that pervades the halls of power in this country. This reflexive equating of support for the military with patriotism must, to survive, deny the consequence of what U.S. militarism actually means to millions of people around the world. Including many of those 100,000 currently incarcerated for fleeing the violence we helped foment. Far from defending U.S. “values,” the military must institutionally devalue life to do its job. A rather obvious consequence of this violence is driving people from their homes. Around the globe, 70 million people are either internally displaced or have been forced across a border as refugees from war. We’d be hard pressed to find a single conflict in which the United States has not been involved at some level.  The greatest refugee crises are directly tied to U.S. policy and allegiances (Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan).

The United States will allow fewer than 22,000 refugees into the country this year, which is, frankly, pathetic. And though the United States receives the most asylum requests of any country at the moment, from day one of his administration, Trump has sought to make it harder and harder for people to actually get asylum. Here I can only echo Nils Melzer’s words:

Have we shrunk so far from our own humanity that we can no longer recognize theirs? Or are we simply too comfortable to recognize that much of our own prosperity grows on the ashes of other peoples’ lives, on the swamps of inhumane working conditions, on the blood spilt by conflicts fought with our weapons, on the smoldering remnants of an environment destroyed by our extractive companies? After we have exploited their labor, ransacked their environment, colluded with their dictators and fueled conflict that turned their lands into battlefields – are we really surprised they come knocking on our doors saying they would rather live at our place now?

Of course, it may be that this lack of care for the lives of others outside our borders expresses some fundamental U.S. value. How else could we stand in the rain and cheer as an F-22 flies overhead? For many U.S. Americans there is no cognitive dissonance created by waving a flag and shouting “USA, USA” next to a tank, while also screaming at immigrants to “go home,” even if U.S. forces and/or surrogates have already set their home on fire.  

Is it really that hard to figure out that this destruction is exactly what people are fleeing? Indeed, perhaps the most progressive immigration policy we could advocate for is cutting the Pentagon’s insane $718 billion budget request for FY2020, and slashing government licensing for private weapon sales around the globe, which at $55.7 billion last year made the U.S. government the single greatest merchant of death on the planet. It is worth noting that total private weapon sales, combining U.S. foreign military sales with direct sales from U.S. companies to foreign entities, actually topped an unbelievable $136 billion last year. 

It would seem that the profits of pain are never-ending. Companies in the United States profit from the dropping of bombs around the globe, and when people dislocated by that violence seek shelter here, more companies line up to profit from their detention and transport on everything from food and health services to $15 phone calls. The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are, in reality, alienated, resting as they do on the reality of deprivation and denial of the most basic human aspiration to simply live in peace. The July 4th celebration on the national mall this year was a clear reminder that the “ideals” of this country’s founding are still an unrealized dream, with the weight of a bumper sticker on the back of an Abrams tank. Pretending otherwise simply extends the nightmare.

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