Category Archives: Personal

On Dehumanization

I want to write about Legion (it’s all about an abusive dad, guys!!) and Ursula Le Guin (she hates technology, guys!!) But there is nothing to say, really, while babies, toddlers, kids, and their parents are victims of this spectacle of political cruelty.

  1. These families are seeking asylum, which is legal
  2. They seek asylum because they are already traumatized by violent conditions in their homes
  3. They enter a country expecting kindness–or at least a stable fucking legal process–and instead face horror perhaps equal to what they tried to escape.

I used to think that racist and misogynist cruelty depended on the abuser having already dehumanized their* victim. This conception of abuse was the only way I could make sense of my own trauma: my abuser must not have seen me as human, because what human could hurt another human so much, so often, so deeply, so intentionally, if they were fully immersed in that person’s humanity?

Then this article, which has haunted me since November, has transformed how I think about cruelty.

A victim’s humanity is the point. If an abuser did not engage with the rich, beautiful humanness of their victim, their cruelty would be less there’s-really-no-other-way-to-put-this meaningful. From the article outlining this transformative model of cruelty:

Timothy Snyder offers a haunting description in “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning”:

The next morning the “scrubbing parties” began. Members of the Austrian SA, working from lists, from personal knowledge, and from the knowledge of passersby, identified Jews and forced them to kneel and clean the streets with brushes. This was a ritual humiliation. Jews, often doctors and lawyers or other professionals, were suddenly on their knees performing menial labor in front of jeering crowds. Ernest P. remembered the spectacle of the “scrubbing parties” as “amusement for the Austrian population.” A journalist described “the fluffy Viennese blondes, fighting one another to get closer to the elevating spectacle of the ashen-faced Jewish surgeon on hands and knees before a half-dozen young hooligans with Swastika armlets and dog-whips.” Meanwhile, Jewish girls were sexually abused, and older Jewish men were forced to perform public physical exercise.

The Jews who were forced to scrub the streets—not to mention those subjected to far worse degradations—were not thought of as lacking human emotions. Indeed, if the Jews had been thought to be indifferent to their treatment, there would have been nothing to watch here; the crowd had gathered because it wanted to see them suffer. 

I read and click out and re-open and skim and shut down so many reports of the cruelty imposed on these children and families. I don’t need to rehearse any of that here. Nonetheless, every time I think about those kids, which is often, I return to this image of the Jewish surgeons crawling on the ground in their suits. I think of white people bringing picnics to lynchings.

And I return to what we knew from the first day of this administration: cruelty is its foundation. Mocking, defiling, fracturing the humanity of others (people with disabilities, black people engaging in free speech, women, immigrants from the Global South, people with expertise, etc etc etc) is the base upon which they construct every action.

We can shout at them all the ways this policy will destroy lives. We can list out the long long list of what we know about attachment, trauma, the deep need children have for a loving, attentive caregiver. We can throw the entire fucking UCLA med school curriculum at his head. That would only encourage him and his goons.

Our facts, our passion, our desperation about the lives these policies destroy are like cans of hairspray thrown onto the bonfire. Destroying lives is the point. Enflaming liberal ire is the point. Spreading hate is the point.

Sure, the US has destroyed families for white supremacist political expediency since its founding–Black families, native families, immigrant families. Even Obama wasn’t cool about migrant family reunification.

We now have an opportunity now to repudiate all of that disgusting history.

Let’s each one of us do a little more than we think we can to stop this horror.

 

*Post script/announcement, speaking of the ennobled humanity of our beautiful allies: Thinker for Hire now embraces the gender-agnostic singular them. It took me too long. Thanks.

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Come-uppensating

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH William Saletan over a decade later admits that, oh yeah, “race” science is not science. I read his original Bell Curve post back then and was so alarmed that I stuck it in my dissertation as a footnote on the perils of oversciencing society. And have since refused to read a single fucking word by that man.

His mea culpa is decent, but it still trucks in the dubious tendency of science discourse to delegitimize other ways of learning and knowing. Continue reading

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Keep Your Heads Up, Friends

1000-1500 kids are about to walk past my office building to the state capitol to demand that government value their lives at least as much as they value guns. I hope they can bring this fight to help kids in Flint have clean fucking water for the first time in years.

Some of the best articles I’ve read recently, all verging on the political:

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Sometimes People Get Sick

Eliot Kukla wrote a beautiful meditation on the ways that our vulnerabilities and weaknesses define us.

Approximately 0.6 percent of American adults identify as transgender, just under 0.2 percent of the world population is Jewish, and 100 percent of us will get sick, yet it is being chronically sick that makes me feel like an outsider. That’s how much our society fears and rejects the core human experience of being ill, of having a body that gets sick, that ages, that is not controllable.

The United States’ mandate to be forever strong and self-sufficient belies the reality of human experience: we are neither.  Continue reading

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Apocalinks + Sangria!

Climate change may be turning plants into “junk food”–more sugars, fewer proteins and micronutrients, wheat and rice bulked up like Hans and Franz.

giphy

Over the weekend at a party that was genuinely lovely despite impending Trumpocalypse, I tangled myself in a drunken assertion that Stockhom Syndrome doesn’t exist. In the context of terrifying, lying political leaders who govern regular schmoes trying to get by. I was flailing at this argument with two people who had more expertise than I on the topic, including a dear friend with a doctorate in clinical psychology. Sangria for the win. Continue reading

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Your GOPPer Mom

I’m heading west this weekend for another heroic 36 hours not talking about politics. Lefty thinkpieces about your racist uncle, your DT-voting parents, your post-C-ville family ties don’t help much when you have one non-abusive, basically accepting parent who’s getting older, whom you very much want to get along with, and who maintains a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell stance on her 2016 pick-a-card-any-card blue state throwaway GOP vote.  

Adam Kotsko’s sensitive discussion of political dissent within families actually helps. What if the smug liberal elite that so many parents/grandparents have heard mocked for decades in conservative media are their kids and grandkids? How must they feel?  

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