Saturday, June 8, 2024

Everybody Who Is Gone Is Here


Everybody Who Is Gone Is Here

Peter Schultz


                  The above is the title of a book by Jonathan Blitzer on “The United States, Central America, and the Making of a Crisis.” It’s about the crisis that the United States helped create by supporting death squads in places like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that led to thousands of Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States.


                  It raises some interesting questions, e.g., which was humanizing this crisis, the Reagan administration or the sanctuary movement? The latter arose among volunteers who smuggled asylum seekers, those fearing death in their countries, into the United States and worked to get them legally situated in the US. They were breaking the law and so sought to create sanctuaries, both in churches and cities, where the dislocated would be safe and neither incarcerated nor deported back to their countries where they were likely to be killed.


                  Of course, the answer to the question is obvious: It was the sanctuary movement that was attempting to humanize what was a dehumanizing crisis, whereas the US government was helping to create that crisis. But then why do we believe that the government is humanizing when, again and again, it wages war, creating death, destruction, dislocation, and dispossession? Isn’t this quite an illusionary mindset? Why do we privilege governments while criminalizing humanizers?


                  The sanctuary movement, which was of course committing crimes, was more humanizing than the US government – and not only when Reagan was president. Which should alert us to the fact that governments don’t humanize; they criminalize and militarize. And, often, they criminalize those trying to humanize.


                  Criminalization and militarization are essential to government. Violence and repression are essential characteristics of government and of politics. “Affirming the political” means affirming violence and repression. Political virtue, patriotism, that is, is indistinguishable from affirming violence and repression. “This may be bad morality to conclude with, but I believe it is the truth.”

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