Sunday, June 22, 2008

Degrees of Separation

What if you knew that genocide doesn’t necessarily mean what we think it does?

What if you knew that it can begin to happen without our even noticing?

Well, now you do.

In 1996, the International Campaign to End Genocide identified for the US Department of State the eight stages of genocide.

Take a look.

While you’re looking, think about how undocumented immigrants are being discussed on US talk radio, in the press, on Lou Dobbs, in Congress. Notice the swell of violence against immigrants all over the world. Ask yourself whether that doesn’t somehow seem to legitimize it here. Consider the for-profit detention centers—here, on US soil. Focus on the deaths in detention, on the number of parents separated from children by our ICE agents, on demands to deny citizenship to "anchor babies."

Think of the effect of that term on how Americans perceive Latino migrant children. Consider that bills are being written all over the country to deny healthcare to "illegals." Think of that word as a weapon of mass dehumanization. Reflect on the working conditions the immigrants face at Agriprocessors and Smithfield and other US meat packing facilities. Think about racist militias gathering at the border and surrounding (legal) day worker centers here in the land of the free. Consider how many US sheriffs' departments and local police forces are being militarized in the hyped-up war on immigrants. Think how you'd feel if you were the target of dawn and midnight raids and cattle pen roundups.

If even CNN can flagrantly rely on Tanton's white supremacist propaganda machine instead of using respectable, comprehensive immigration data, what makes you so sure that someday you won't be?

I'm daring you--YOU--to read through these online resources on genocide and tell ushow many of the stages of genocide we've let loose on US residents of Hispanic origin--citizens and noncitizens. Or, if you still don’t think that the stages of genocide apply, tell us what differences you see, because I don’t see them.

What I see are my friends and colleagues frightened that they, too, can be caught up and ICE'd even though they are US citizens or are here with proper documents. What I see, all over the world, is that with enough propaganda, in the right conditions--usually economic hardship such as we are experiencing here, now--genocide can occur readily enough. We can all be its enablers if not its agents--witting or unwitting--given sufficient hate speech and rage--or given sufficient apathy and cowardice.

There's certainly a difference between what’s going on all across America right now and full-scale genocide. But it's a difference of actualization, not of potential. All the elements are in place, including the street thugs and way too many complicit police.

What I see going on in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Maricopa County, AZ, and in Sheriff Chuck Jenkins' Frederick, MD (more here), in and dozens of other small and large towns across America undoubtedly threatens our constitutional democracy to exactly the same degree that it threatens Latinos.

Genocide begins with the unswerving conviction that Das Volk--the people--are under threat from a specific group, and that breaking our own laws, defying our own moral and ethical conventions, and ignoring our own Constitution are justified in their defense.

What does it mean that the United Nations has issued several condemnations of America's human rights record under the Bush Regime?

What does it mean that the same Regime embraces torture, and how many degrees of moral principle separate those who are willing to torture from those who are willing to commit genocide? Who can tell me?
If we do nothing to stop this, what are we? And how long do we wait to decide?

Denial is the fertile ground necessary for genocide to take root. Seen from that point of view, the eight stages represent at least half a dozen opportunities to prevent it. Starting now.

(Since 1948, the crime of genocide has been clearly defined in the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Maybe if it were required reading along with the eight stages of genocide, it wouldn’t be a 21st Century epidemic.)