I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist. I am not even a sociologist. So my comments below are based simply on my observations as a human being.
In literature - from Arendt to Kafka, from Levi to Bulgakov, from Platonov to Solzhenitsyn, from Shalamov to Gogol, from Ionesco to Kundera, from Klima to Marquez, from Kinckaid to Coetzee, from Brodsky to Walcott, and so on - a license of power awarded to one by a title or a job, by the state or the sovereign policy, by order or diktat is commonly associated with dehumanization of the awarded. In more common media and popular studies, see https://www.npr.org/2011/03/29/134956180/criminals-see-their-victims-as-less-than-human and https://www.npr.org/2011/03/29/134956180/criminals-see-their-victims-as-less-than-human the notion of a sadistic bureaucrat / soldier / officer / office holder is commonly associated with the license for violence promoted by the State.
With this in mind, in a case of our modern liberal democracies, when such violence / sadism does arise, the dehumanization of its victims and the dehumanization of the officials involved in these acts reinforce each other. Repeated on a rare occasion, such violence and dehuamization of its victims by the officials simply erodes our social trust. Repeated systemically, it risks dehumanizes our entire society, potentially creating systemic racism, xenophobia and debasement of core human values.
With a good part of the last two decades associated with a new - in nature, although not, necessarily in levels - degrees of violence the American society has inflicted onto other states (via numerous regime changes, direct wars, indirect/proxy wars, bombings, drone attacks, etc), and within its own borders on its own people (police violence, police shootings, snooping & spying on its own citizens, mass surveillance, state violence against whistleblowers and so on), the dehumanization of the American society has been growing at a frightening pace. As the result, xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiments, white supremacism, ant-semitism, Russophobia, political polarization, and other forms of general incivility have been pushed from the extreme fringes of the American society toward its center. The values the Americans still espouse in verbal and propagandistic discourses - those of the freedom of speech, of family, of the land of opportunity, of social mobility, of competition, of private enterprise, and so on - are now coming under the pressure when tested against empirical reality.
And, as of late, we have entered yet another, even more worrying turn of this vicious spiral downward: the dehumanization of our security apparatus. This worries me. A lot. The brutality with which we are treating people, families, kids arriving at our borders with a legitimate claim to an asylum and a legitimate hope (subject to testing) for better lives is contrary to the basic foundations of the American society: its openness to others, its support for the family, its willingness to extend opportunity for betterment of self, its basic humanity.
Last night, this prompted a twitter thread from me that some of you asked me to reproduce in one place. Here it is:
I have travelled to the U.S. for 28 years now. As a Green Card holder, as a Russian and an Irish citizen, as a GC holder again. In ALL my personal interactions with Border Control, I never witnessed any non-professional, non-courteous behavior toward myself or others around. +
+ The accounts from the treatment of asylum seekers, illegal migrants, and the Dreamers are - to me - one of the core pieces evidence of how America’s institutions are changing and have changed over the years from being a melting pot of colures and ethnicities, a land of +
+ opportunity for millions of newcomers, a place where family and children are treasured to a heartless, callous, amoral regime. Here are the facts (via nymag.com/intelligencer/… @NYMag ): +
“A. Portillo, …was taken into custody by CBP in California… her 5-month-old was sick. [Portillo] was giving her baby an antibiotic but said she wasn’t allowed to keep the medication after she was detained. Her baby got sicker as they were held in “freezing” cells — iceboxes — +
+ In a different case, “the seven-year-old Guatemalan girl died of a combination of septic shock, fever, and dehydration, just hours after she was taken into CBP custody.” +
+ Yet “another young girl who fell dangerously ill while in CBP custody. The girl, whose mother told officials her daughter had a preexisting medical condition, went into cardiac arrest but eventually made a full recovery.” +
+ These are not the acts of a civilized law enforcement. These are acts of barbaric power-drunk abusers of the basic principles of humanity. That we endow them with jobs, salaries, pensions, respect & even veneration is beyond the pale for a 21st century ‘liberal democracy’. +
+ These are not even the acts of law enforcement consistent with the principles of the rule of law, for it treats legal asylum seekers - those who have a legal RIGHT to apply for asylum - as sub-human subjects. +
+ If you doubt my judgement on this, here are U.S. Congress legislators on the subject: "New Mexico representative Ben Ray Luján said the holding cells where children and adults are held are “inhumane.” +
+ Texas representative Al Green said what he saw was “unbelievable and unconscionable.” “The [ASPCA] would not allow animals to be treated the way human beings are being treated in this facility,” Green said. “To tolerate what I have seen is unthinkable.”
+ We are empowering this behavior by those representing us at the borders. Just as we are empowering the behavior of police abusers who kill innocent people with zero consequences. We are empowering them by idolizing the brutality of coercion the state licenses out to them. +
+ We are empowering them by voting for the lawmakers who can note - on the record, in the media - the inhumanity of our regime, yet do absolutely NOTHING to stop it. We are empowering them by believing that Putin, Xi, Iran, whoever else you can imagine are causing our problems. +
+ We are empowering them by mistreating migrants, including those who are undocumented, who live and work around us. Before it is too late, before we’ve lost all remnants of civility, decency, honour, compassion, we must stop. Stop ourselves, first.
And the thread link: https://twitter.com/GTCost/status/1078875912253276161, with a link to the source article: http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/migrant-baby-got-pneumonia-after-days-in-freezing-cell.html
I am pained by the fact that the American society has grown to tolerate such abuses of power, without demanding better from their lawmakers, their executive, their officers of the State. We are marching toward the inevitable and unenviable collapse of civility as long as we tolerate such abuses to be perpetrated in our names, in the name of the law.