I know it’s considered impolite to mention a genocide while there’s still any chance of stopping one, but when –like on what day exactly– are we allowed to say that America is doing a genocide? Because that’s exactly what America is now doing.
It might be bad manners to call America’s refusal to provide adequate medical relief to its detained and imprisoned populations genocidal but it’s not hyperbolic. Genocides are often cases of ‘if you build it, it will come’ and America has spent years building.
Based on race and nationality, it has decided to treat segments of its population as subhuman. It has locked them up. The groups in these detention camps and, often in prison, have been targeted and locked up due to racism. America has built an architecture of extermination. And America built that and America waited. While it waited, America kept building. And, now, extermination arrives. Extermination knocks on the door. And America cannot say it wasn’t warned. We cannot pretend innocence. We were told. We knew.
At every step of the way, America was warned. It was told to abolish ICE, told that its private prison system held too many people behind bars and that its laws were enforced according to racism. America was told that health care was a human right. When this virus first started to arrive, it was advised that deportations stop immediately. People made their arguments about all of these things. Again and again. And, at every step, America dismissed these people and their arguments. It invoked what was practical. It endorsed moderation and electability. America said these ideas were radical, too expensive, or too impractical, and America claimed that the people who proposed them were some pie in the sky dreamers.
And now extermination arrives. And now extermination knocks.
And America will look away because that’s what we do.
I don’t even know who disgusts me more. The right-wingers who are blunt about their hateful shit or their liberal handmaidens in the media and the Democratic party who facilitate it – who pretend it’s just a political position that one should debate and compromise with. Or myself — who seeing it, seeing this— did not fight harder and better. No one gets to be innocent. Not me, not you, no one. The facts preclude our innocence.
If America can claim any innocence in this, it’s in its profound historical ignorance. In its unique ability to render anything impossible to say or even to have a conversation about. America has a special genius for producing sound without meaning. America is an idiot roar.
We saw some of this special ability when these immigrant detention facilities were called “concentration camps.” Many Americans took the view that unless these camps were in 1940s Germany, they could not be called “concentration camps.” It was a preposterous and anti-historical position to take. It was totally fucking absurd. But it did steer the conversation away from the actual problem of the camps and the ideas that led to them. It did confuse the issue. It’s probably the same with terms like genocide.
I suspect that for the average American to accept that this is genocide, they would need to believe some crazy shit — like the virus was made in a lab and that it was purposefully introduced into these facilities according to some master plan. But that’s some superhero movie. It just isn’t how these things most often work in the real world. In the real world, genocide is usually a matter of ‘if you build it, it will come.’ And genocide is very easy to build. So easy, in fact, that a society has to dedicate itself to not building it by accident.
You only need to start making a group subhuman. You then set up a bureaucracy or a corporation that is based on expelling this group. You do those two simple things and you’ve laid the groundwork. You do these things and you’ve almost made genocide inevitable.
Things proceed clockwork rational.
Bauman explains this pretty simply. Rationality’s culpability in genocide is related to The Trolley Problem. That’s the famous thought experiment where you have a switch and you have to decide whether the train will run over ten people or one. Logically, you choose one. Makes sense, right? But in a society that is building towards a genocide, the problem doesn’t stop after one iteration.The problem repeats. It keeps repeating. You keep making the logical decision. You choose one. Then another one. You make the practical decision. The body count keeps going up. People keep dying. Rationality will not save you. You have to be irrationally moral. You have to step outside the problem and derail the fucking train.
The cold logic of this process is facilitated by emotions. Particularly disgust. The detention camps get worse. People start wondering why they’re spending the money on subhumans. The sight of human suffering doesn’t make the victims more relatable but less. Suffering is an ugly thing. Those who are moved by it look away. Others, moved in a different direction, use the symptoms of suffering as evidence of the inferior nature of their victims. They start likening their victims to disease or vermin. You’ve heard it, I’m sure. It sounds like:
“Look at these disgusting people, covered in lice. Why don’t they bathe?” “Look at the danger this mother has put her own child in? Why don’t these people love their children as we do?” The clarion call is “I would never” said by a lot of people who have never had to about a lot of people who do. It’s a version of “it can’t happen here.” We would never.
Our comforts become evidence of our humanity while suffering becomes evidence of sub-humanity. It all starts to look pretty self-evident and natural.
As this goes on, the bureaucracy charged with getting rid of these people finds more cost effective ways to do so. It moves rationally. It makes cutbacks. And then it makes some more. The suffering increases. The apathy and disgust increases. The bureaucracy finds other ways to get rid of people, cheaper ways. The whole process has its own logic.
And extermination arrives.
Sometimes, extermination comes as a decision to murder. Sometimes, as refusal to lend aid. If you starve people in a camp, you are committing a genocide. If you deny them water, you are committing a genocide. If you refuse to give them medical aid, you are committing a genocide. And, according the logic already built, this will be reasonable. There’s not enough to go around, why waste it on these people? They shouldn’t have been here to start with.
Americans are not taught these mechanisms. We are not taught that these are horrors aided and abetted and carried out by normal people. Instead, we are taught about villainy. We are taught about good and evil instead of systems. We are taught about master plans. We are taught that there is a difference between evil and incompetence and we are taught that genocide is usually committed by hyper-competent villains, according to a well planned and perfectly executed plot. We are taught that The Third Reich was a cabal of evil geniuses, not a collection of homicidal oafs, vainglorious junkies, failed artists, sycophantic middle-managers, and dip-shit, beer-hall conspiracy theorists. We are taught that these people, who destroyed their own country, made the trains run on time. We are taught that the neo-nazi next door is a normal person — not so that normalcy itself can also stand in the shadow of The Holocaust but so we might find some sympathy for these fucking fascists. Why? Because they also have been known to like music and shop at Target.
We are taught total bullshit.
Murderous, despicable bullshit. From the cradle to the grave,
The sad fucking fact of the matter is there’s very few hyper-competent villains. The leaders that are most likely to oversee the catastrophe of genocide are usually corrupt and incompetent dimwits with a endless willingness to scapegoat. They make huge and costly errors. They blame others. They make more errors. They cast more blame. The blame doesn’t stop the errors. It doesn’t stop their constant crisis created by their incompetence. Their solution is more blame. It escalates fast. It’s feedback. That’s what feedback does.
It’s not a matter of what they plan to do. It’s a question of how far they’re willing to go.
History has shown us – they will go to the end. They will go to extermination.
The best way to stop a genocide is to stop it early. To never create groups like ICE in the first place and, if you are so fucking reckless to create them, to abolish them at the first sign of trouble. The best way to avert genocide is never to build detention camps and, if you are so fucking reckless to have built them, to imagine the worst immediately and take them apart faster than you built them. The best way to avert a genocide is to make sure that no human is regarded as subhuman or allowed to become a scapegoat for a society’s problems, and if you are so fucking reckless as to have allowed that to happen, to fight those ideas and the people who hold them tooth and nail until some sense of equality is created. The best way to stop a genocide to kill it in its cradle. The only other way to stop a genocide is often a war.
In the meantime, here’s a petition.