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This is America

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I urge everyone to force themselves to watch this segment from Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show.

A few points:

(1) Many of the parents who are having young children and infants literally ripped out of their arms by fascist ICE agents — yes I realize they’re “only following orders” –are NOT trying to sneak across any border.  They’re presenting themselves at a port of entry and asking for political asylum, as is their legal right to do under American law. Their children are then kidnapped by ICE.

(2) Donald Trump is of course simply lying when he claims a systematic policy of separating young children from their parents is something that predated his administration.  The Obama administration’s immigration policy was very bad in very many ways, but it never devolved into gratuitous barbarism and cruelty, which is precisely what the Trump administration is all about, on this and so many other issues.

(3) People who decide that what’s most important at a moment when the US government is destroying families  forever by kidnapping — and then often losing all track of! — small children is to score leftier than thou internet debating points are  making themselves 100% complicit in this barbarism.

(4) Masha Gessen:

Hostage-taking is an instrument of terror. Capturing family members, especially children, is a tried-and-true instrument of totalitarian terror. Memoirs of Stalinist terror are full of stories of strong men and women disintegrating when their loved ones are threatened: this is the moment when a person will confess to anything. The single most searing literary document of Stalinist terror is “Requiem,” a cycle of poems written by Anna Akhmatova while her son, Lev Gumilev, was in prison. But, in the official Soviet imagination, it was the Nazis who tortured adults by torturing children. In “Seventeen Moments of Spring,” a fantastically popular miniseries about a Soviet spy in Nazi Germany, a German officer carries a newborn out into the cold of winter in an effort to compel a confession out of his mother, who is forced to listen to her baby cry.

Last weekend, independent Russian-language media published hundreds of photographs from protests that preceded Monday’s inauguration of Vladimir Putin, who has claimed the office of President for the fourth time. In many of the pictures, Russian police were detaining children: primarily, preteen boys were having their arms twisted behind their backs by police, being dragged and shoved into paddy wagons. According to OVDInfo, a Web site that has been tracking arrests since anti-Putin protests began, six and a half years ago, a hundred and fifty-eight minors were detained by police during the protests, accounting for just less than ten per cent of the day’s arrests.

Ella Paneyakh, a Russian sociologist who studies law-enforcement practices, observed in a Facebook post that the police had clearly been directed to target children. A possible explanation, she suggested, is that social services, which will process the minors, is even less accountable than the regular courts are. While Russian activists have learned to make the work of the courts difficult, filing appeals and regularly going all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, there is no role for defense attorneys and no apparent appeals process in the social-services system. The threat is clear: children who have been detained at protests may be removed from their families. At least one parent has already been charged with negligence as a result of his son’s detention at one of the demonstrations last weekend.

Another possible explanation is that Putin and the system he has created have consistently, if not necessarily with conscious intent, restored key mechanisms of Soviet control. The spectacle of children being arrested sends a stronger message than any amount of police violence against adults could do. The threat that children might be removed from their families is likely to compel parents to keep their kids at home next time—and to stay home themselves.

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