No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were.
Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
-- John Donne, Meditation XVII (1624)
The president has signed the law to wall off Mexico from the United States. This sends the same friendly message to Mexico as if you were to string up concertina wire, surveillance cameras and an electric fence between your house and your neighbor's. It is George Bush's “thank you” message to Mexico's pro-American outgoing president, Vicente Fox, who staked his domestic political prestige on his “friendship” with GW to avert the construction of The Wall. We could have warned you, Mr. Fox -- George has no “friends” except those he can use, and a soon-to-be former President of Mexico is not worth the effort.
The border project, which could eventually cost up to $9 billion, is a boondoggle for military contractors, like Boeing. The “high technology” physical and electronic barrier will initially stretch for 700 miles and, if fully implemented, would eventually girdle the entire southern border of the United States. It is America's version of East Germany's Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China and Israel's Wall of Palestinian Partition.
Although some of the more curmudgeonly xenophobes that inhabit the 50 States will cheer The Wall's construction, Wall Street itself is aghast at what the Administration has done. Agribusiness, the construction industry, assembly line manufacturers and service industries all depend on illegal immigrant labor, both to supply cheap and exploitable labor and to depress the salaries of domestic wage earners... that is, to depress the wages of many of the same curmudgeonly xenophobes who are doing the cheering. What Wall Street wanted was not a “wall” to suppress illegal immigration, but a euphemistically termed “guest worker” program that would allow businesses to legally exploit a second class labor pool (that would also keep down domestic wages) ... and then throw the migrant “guest workers” out of the country when they were injured or used up.
This is an
“improved” feudalism with a globalized, capitalist twist: the slave wage
concept is the same, but the serfs are “commodities” who do not
live permanently on the land.
For those who live north of the Mex-American Wall, something else should be troubling us beyond the simple meanness of the endeavor to lock everyone else out. For whom else will The Wall be built? Indeed, it might keep out poor people of color trying to get into the United States to eke out a living. But walls work two ways, and whatever serves to keep “outsiders” outside also serves to keep those on the other side “inside”. It begs the unsettling question that some think about only subconsciously: where would you go if you felt threatened by your own government and how would you get there?
Those who consider this a paranoid conjecture should recall that between 1932 and 1939 in Weimar Germany, there was only a narrow window for those marked for rounding-up to flee the country, even if only with the clothes on their backs. Many were those who thought that their own country, Germany, among the most “civilized” in history, could not do to them what it eventually did, and they died for their shortsightedness.
Millions around the globe have experienced first hand what it is like to live someplace that you cannot leave. But many Americans are spoiled. Unless you were a Native American forced onto reservations at the point of a bayonet, or African-American living under slavery or Jim Crow “laws”, or an immigrant from China or the Philippines during the days of the “Wild West”, or Japanese and living in the Western States during the Second World War, or a refugee from U.S. sponsored civil war in Central America, or an immigrant from somewhere in the Middle East, you have not yet had to think about Concentration Camps and Totalitarian Governments and being rounded up for detention of indefinite duration.
In 1935, Sinclair Lewis published the novel It Can't Happen Here. It is a chronicle of life in the United States should the unthinkable happen and totalitarian, theocratic government rule our lives. Why can't it happen here even though it has happened elsewhere? And if it did, what would you do? You could “internally” immigrate, until your heterodoxy was discovered; and then, where would you go, and how would you get there?
For whom did the U.S. build the prison camp at Guantanamo? Although it is a concentration camp for the unlawfully detained, it is also a psychological tool: its existence reminds non-Americans anywhere that Uncle Sam has the power to kidnap them, fly them around the world, torture them and forget about them, should they get “out of line.”
But Guantanamo was built for someone else, too. It was built for you and me.
Not that Americans would be literally incarcerated in Guantanamo -- that is not necessary because, under the new laws enacted with bipartisan support of Republican and Democratic “lawmakers”, American citizens may no longer have recourse to the protection of Habeas Corpus once determined to be “an enemy of the people.” What is to prevent you from being flown to any number of “black sites” for interrogation or simple “disappearance”? Who would know? Who would or could do anything about it? Guantanamo is more than a prison camp. It is a 21st Century American state of mind, a none-too-subtle message to the American people that its own government is ruthless enough to take extreme measures like torture and indefinite imprisonment without charge.
Guantanamo is not a “secret” Hell Hole; rather, it was intended to be a very public and notorious one. You and I are supposed to know about it and how brazenly our own government flaunts Constitutional Rights, Civil Rights and international codes of conduct.
Guantanamo is this administration's message to America's citizens to keep their mouths shut, to keep their heads down, to keep rowing the galley. Guantanamo is the psychological and political message to America like the message Crassus sent to the Roman Empire in 71 BC when he crucified 6,000 of Spartacus’s rebellious slaves and very publicly hung their bodies along the Appian Way for all to take warning.
What is the America that its feudal caste wants to create?
Despite the emphasis on “values” and the rhetoric of faith and religion, they would groom America as a competitive, pitiless, pragmatic, domineering, imperial nation of conquistadors... consistent with the dark side of American history since the days of Columbus.
Many on the far right of the political spectrum, the anti-democratic caste of Elite Gentlemen, believe that Americans have become “soft”, too soft to retain global dominance. They do not care that an American peace activist like Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while protecting the home and hearth of the downtrodden; they do not care that an American journalist and activist Brad Will was gunned down in Oaxaca, Mexico by police and government agents. The Elite Gentlemen of America's ruling caste have no need of “good” people nor of heroes nor heroines nor of those who advocate goodwill and justice to all humankind. They simply need better soldiers. They need stronger, more productive, leaner, meaner, harder-pulling rowers in the galleys. Just like you beat a dog to make it mean, they intend to beat the American people -- psychologically, economically, sociologically, politically, legally -- to make them as mean, and as loyal to their owners, as mean dogs are.
If crime is up, it is good. If road rage is increasing, it is good. If the social fabric is fraying, it is good. If the people are scared about the future, if they are hungry, ignorant, losing their retirement benefits, losing their health care, feeling suspicious about their neighbors and their friends, it is good. It is the boot camp treatment, the regimentation and militarization of the nation. It is the intentional toughening of society. If Americans learn to Hate, to Scapegoat, to act out of Faith rather than Reason, to trust and heed only The Official Word, to cultivate Fear and Rage and then direct it On Command, this is good.
We are becoming walled in as people, as knowledge and information are walled out. We are in a prison of the mind if not a real prison.
Ask not for whom The Wall is built, America. It's built for you.
Zbignew Zingh can be reached at: Zbig@ersarts.com. This article is CopyLeft, and free to distribute, reprint, repost, sing at a recital, spray paint, scribble in a toilet stall, etc. to your heart’s content, with proper author citation. Find out more about Copyleft and read other great articles at: www.ersarts.com. copyleft 2006.
Other Articles by Zbignew Zingh