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writing for godot

Standing Against the Madness

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Written by Al Markowitz   
Saturday, 14 April 2018 00:18


The old question again settles like ash:
how did it happen? The madness, that is.

Gradually, day by day, a tint, a taint, a delicious
poison that seems perfect. Always,
after the fact, historically, when the mass graves
have become paperwork, scholars search for that place
where the nightmare began to ride the dreamer.

– Robert Edwards

Times in our country are moving from bleak to terrifying, especially if you are Black, Hispanic or a refugee immigrant. As I read the paper this morning, I see Trump announcing a cancellation of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Imbecile-in-Chief demonstrates again that he doesn't even have the capacity to retain the knowledge that this program was limited in scope to people already here who arrived as children. It is not an ongoing or expanding program and does not cover new arrivals.

Meanwhile, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or “ICE” goons continue to round up decent, hard working, contributing people, tearing families and communities apart. We continue to build camps where violent abuse, racism, torture and forced labor are common. We continue to send refugees, some here legally, having been granted asylum, back to certain death in war-torn and crime-ridden countries. Some like Guled Muhumed who arrived as a child of refugees fleeing war in Somalia, don't have any knowledge of the countries they may be deported to. As reported in The Intercept, as a high school administrator and youth counselor, Muhumed spearheaded a program in his community to turn refugee children, particularly young Somalis, away from drugs, crime, and radicalism. He has spoken out publicly against the terrorist groups that wield considerable power in Somalia. That the U.S. government has treated him like a national security threat while working hard to deport him to the country where those groups operate is all the more ironic and terrifying.

Laila Jama, Muhumed’s wife, who also came to the U.S. as a refugee child from Somalia but eventually became a citizen, is pregnant with twins and due to give birth in the next two weeks. She described how, over the last six months, she has made herself an expert on immigration law. That education, she said, has led her to conclude that the U.S. system of detention and deportation, when applied without discretion, is unfathomably harsh, especially if you come from an African country like Somalia. The Muhumeds are not alone, nor is their plight unique.

Texas-based legal advocacy groups report that about 80 immigrant men from Somalia, Kenya, and Sudan were sent to a remote, for-profit detention center in West Texas to await deportation. In the week that followed, the men were pepper-sprayed, beaten, threatened, taunted with racial slurs, and subjected to sexual abuse. The treatment they endured amounted to multiple violations of federal law and grave human rights abuses. This is not an aberration. It is in fact increasingly the norm.

We are also seeing a continuation of racist police violence as oppressed minorities continue to be slaughtered by police with impunity. It remains “justifiable” in our country for police to shoot unarmed Black people.

In the past few years I have written several articles on racist police violence as well as interviews with immigrants in an attempt to counter racist scape-goating and to humanize refugees – to show that most, if not all refugee immigrants are the direct result of our own national policies around the world. Yet immigrants in our country, like minorities, continue to be scapegoated for failed economic and foreign polices that exacerbate poverty and export the mass murder of war. There are attempts to pit minorities against immigrants, but all oppressed people share the brunt of the crimes of racism and exploitation and all of our fates are interconnected and shared. The terror of police violence, ICE roundups, persecution, and shameful human rights abuses are a continuation of past racist pogroms leading ultimately to genocides. This is the reality our embedded corporate press chooses to not to cover.

Days of remembrance are upon us: Yom Ha Shoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, as well as Israel’s Independence Day followed by Palestinian Nakba Day  – remembering the terror of ethnic cleansing and a continuing violent persecution and apartheid suffered by Palestinian refugees. I write this a day after Israeli soldiers opened fire on peaceful protesters in Gaza killing 18 and wounding and around 1700. What we need to remember is not so much the details of abuse, torment and murder that mark holocausts and racist oppressions but how they happen – the step by step advance from civilization to barbarism and mass murder.

These days of remembrance are not days of mourning so much as they are a prescient warning. From the rise of racist “alt right” fascists to Trump's offensive rants and deadly roundups, we must be awake to the obvious. We as a nation are on an all too familiar path. These tracks lead to death camps – camps we already have and are building which can very easily cross that permeable line from abuse and “work makes you free” to a “final solution.” Many of us are alive now because decent people took much greater risks than you or I face to protect the persecuted. We do not have to let it go that far. We can and must stand against the hatred and the growth of barbarism, before it is too late. 

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