Lazy Saturday Reads: Something Is Very WrongPosted: June 23, 2018
The Trump administration is torturing children. Please read this article; it’s not long. It’s an anecdote from an “emergency physician in South Texas,” Alicia Hart.
Last week, on a day when Hart was on duty, the charge nurse called her over to examine a child who needed clearance for psychiatric treatment. He was eight years old, and he sat hunched in a recliner chair next to the nurses’ station. Four men, who had brought him from an unidentified holding facility for migrant children, hovered around him….
“The guardians didn’t step more than two feet away from the kid. One of the four was an armed police officer. I thought, Does it take an army of adult men to take care of one elementary schooler? I walked over to the boy, crouched down, and asked him, in Spanish, ‘How do you feel?’ ‘Sad,’ he said.
“The boy had been in custody for over a month. One of his guardians told me that he had been ‘acting out’ and threatening to harm himself, by jumping from his bed. This man told me, ‘I’m his clinician,’ but he was definitely not a doctor. I don’t know if he’s a social worker, a medical assistant, a housekeeper. I have no clue. But he obviously had been granted some sort of authority in regard to assessing children and determining what their needs are. He wouldn’t provide basic background. I couldn’t find out any information because he would say, ‘I’m not at liberty to tell you that’ and ‘You don’t need to know that,’ even though a lot of my questions were relevant to taking care of the child. I was asking things like ‘Where are his parents?’ [….]
“I asked the clinician, ‘When is this child going to be reunited with his parents?’ He was evasive. First it was ‘Oh, well, we don’t know.’ And then it was ‘Well, he won’t be reunited with his parents unless he behaves.’ The lack of compassion was scary, and it didn’t seem like there was really a plan.
“This boy seemed devastated—quiet and withdrawn. He barely spoke. I asked if he needed a hug. I kneeled down in front of the recliner, and this kid just threw himself into my arms and didn’t let go. He cried and I cried. And to think he’s been in a facility for a month without a hug, away from his parents, and scared, and not knowing when he’ll see them again or if he’ll see them again. While I held him, I heard the men standing behind me muttering that I was ‘rewarding his bad behavior.’ Thankfully, it was in English, so I don’t think the boy understood what they were saying, but it just revealed their attitudes toward these kids.
Hart recommended the boy for inpatient psychiatric treatment in order to get him away from his “caretakers.” She worried that he might be given antipsychotic drugs, but she felt she could send him back to the place where he had obviously been mistreated.
Can anyone doubt that something similar is happening to thousands of refugee children? This is an outrage. We truly do need UN intervention. I’ve heard that UN and Red Cross inspectors have been turned away from Trump’s child concentration camps. This cannot go on.
This morning Putin biographer Masha Gessen appeared on MSNBC’s AM Joy. Joy Reid asked her, “Is it too much to call this fascism? Gessen replied, I don’t think it’s too much. I don’t think we have fascist rule in this country, but what we have is a fascist leader. We have a nativist, nationalist leader…”
Gessen writes at The New Yorker: By Separating Families at the Border, the Trump Administration Enforces the “Rule by Nobody.”
Donald Trump said that the Democrats made him do it. Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, said it was the Bible. Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of Homeland Security, said it was the law. They all said it wasn’t them. In their unified defense of the policy of separating children from their families at the border, Administration officials have adopted a technique of deflection that renders victims and critics powerless: they have depersonalized the violence.
This is how violence works in the world’s most cruel and terrifying societies. The victims of genocide, ethnic cleansing, mass deportations, mass incarceration, man-made famines, and other disasters that humans intentionally visit on the “other” are always anonymous….But in the Administration’s telling, it’s not only the victims who are anonymous—it is also the perpetrators. When Trump blames the cruelty at the border on the Democrats; when Sessions says that God made him enforce the law indiscriminately; or when Nielsen claims, in effect, to be just following orders, the nation’s top officials are not merely lying; they are de-personifying the perpetrators. They are not merely refusing to be held accountable but are saying that no one will account for the violence.
The Trump Administration didn’t invent this tactic. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has perfected it over the years….But, of course, Putin didn’t invent this deflection technique, either.
Writing about the relationship between violence and bureaucracy, Hannah Arendt said, “In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one could argue, to whom one could present grievances, on whom the pressures of power could be exerted.” She called bureaucracy the “rule by Nobody.”
Thank goodness Americans rose up and expressed their outrage at Trump’s cruelty and racism. But we have to make sure that every single one of the children who have been effectively kidnapped by this administration is reunited with his or her family.
At Vanity Fair, Peter Hamby writes that Trump lost this round because of pictures: “The Images Are Out Of His Control: How Trump Lost His Grip On The Child-Detention Narrative.
Rarely has Donald Trump been on his heels as he has over the past week. Even during the hottest-burning controversies and scandals of his administration, Trump is usually the stick-and-move president: provoke, evade, pivot to the next thing. The media has a hard time keeping up, and congressional Democrats are too busy holding limp-dick press conferences like it’s still 2006. They’re about as effective as those digital finger-waggers who tweet “Sir!” at the president every time he burps. As I wrote previously for the Hive, Trump is absolutely curb-stomping his opponents in the battle for attention.
But the wrenching story of migrant children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border has unfolded differently. Trump has been forced to play defense. It’s not just because the policy is cruel, inhumane, and an ugly stain on our country’s moral integrity. It is all of those things. But Trump has done plenty of ugly things. What’s different this time, and the handful of times Trump has found himself losing, is that there are pictures.
Think of the handful of moments when Trump has been subjected to a sustained drubbing that’s lasted more than just a day or two: the Access Hollywood tape. Sean Spicer’s lie about the size of the inauguration crowd. The massive airport protests around the travel ban. Trump’s “very fine people” comment about neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville. The Rob Porter domestic-abuse allegations fiasco. (Porter has denied the allegations.) And now the gross panorama of migrant children being separated from their desperate parents. All of these stories were accompanied by images—pictures or video—that either tilted public opinion against the president or blatantly contradicted the dubious claims of Trump and his allies.
We don’t yet have photos of the missing girls and babies; Trump is hiding them because he know those images could be even more shocking than the ones we’ve seen up till now.
And so far Trump and Sessions have not ended their “zero tolerance” policy. USA Today reports that as a result of that policy, the feds are not dealing with serious drug smuggling cases.
Federal prosecutors warned they were diverting resources from drug-smuggling cases in southern California to handle the flood of immigration charges brought on by the Trump administration’s border crackdown, records obtained by USA TODAY show.
Days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed prosecutors to bring charges against anyone who enters the United States illegally, a Justice Department supervisor in San Diego sent an email to border authorities warning that immigration cases “will occupy substantially more of our resources.” He wrote that the U.S. Attorney’s Office there was “diverting staff, both support and attorneys, accordingly.”
The email, sent by the lawyer who runs the office’s major crimes unit, said prosecutors needed to streamline their work on smuggling cases. He said that would mean tight deadlines – sometimes just a few hours to produce reports and recordings – for those that would land in federal court. Going forward, the lawyer, Fred Sheppard, warned, if agents can’t meet that high bar, “the case will be declined.” [….]
Still, there are signs that border authorities are seeking to prosecute drug smugglers in state courts instead, even though the possible sentences typically are harsher in the federal system.
The District Attorney’s office in San Diego said Friday that the number of cases submitted to them by border authorities had more than doubled since the administration started its border crackdown.
Read more at USA Today.
One more recommended read, and it’s a long one. The Financial Times: Donald Trump and the 1930s playbook: liberal democracy comes unstuck.
“I really don’t care. Do u?” said graffiti on the back of Melania Trump’s coat as she boarded the plane for Texas to visit encaged child migrants. No one, except Donald Trump, who tweeted that her garb was meant as a criticism of the “fake news” media, could be sure whom the First Lady was targeting. Some thought she was channelling her husband’s views. Others believed she was telling the world what she thought of her marriage. Either way, it captured the nihilism of a week in which the west’s liberal democratic glue appeared to be coming unstuck. It was hard to miss the echoes of the 1930s.
“Make no mistake, there is a concerted attack on the constitutional liberal order,” says Constanze Stelzenmüller, a German scholar at the Brookings Institution. “And it is being spearheaded by the president of the United States.”
Mr Trump started the week by trying to undermine a key American ally. He attacked Angela Merkel’s “tenuous” coalition government in Germany for “allowing in millions of people who have so strongly and violently changed their culture”. It followed a summit between the premiers of Austria and Bavaria in which they called for an “axis of the willing from Berlin to Vienna to Rome” to stop migration. Italy’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, called for a “census” of Roma citizens evoking Italy’s fascist-era registry of Jews. “Unfortunately, we have to keep” those with valid resident permits, he said.
Back in Washington, public outrage forced Mr Trump to pause his policy of corralling “tender age” migrants into separate child detention centres. He nevertheless ordered the Pentagon to prepare camps to house up to 20,000 children. Last weekend Mr Trump called Hungary’s proudly “illiberal” Viktor Orban to issue a joint call for “strong national borders”.
The differences with the 1930s are obvious. No one expects war to break out today. There is no Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany nor fascist Italy egging each other on to plunder the old order. Nor is the US standing aloof. But the parallels are too troubling to ignore. In Europe, the forces of disintegration are on the march. The status quo is struggling to come up with a defence.
Read much more at the FT link.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?