Government Eyes Are Watching You: We Are All Prisoners of the Surveillance State

The Free Press WV

“We’re run by the Pentagon, we’re run by Madison Avenue, we’re run by television, and as long as we accept those things and don’t revolt we’ll have to go along with the stream to the eventual avalanche…. As long as we go out and buy stuff, we’re at their mercy… We all live in a little Village. Your Village may be different from other people’s Villages, but we are all prisoners.”— Patrick McGoohan

First broadcast in America 50 years ago, The Prisoner—a dystopian television series described as “James Bond meets George Orwell filtered through Franz Kafka”—confronted societal themes that are still relevant today: the rise of a police state, the freedom of the individual, round-the-clock surveillance, the corruption of government, totalitarianism, weaponization, group think, mass marketing, and the tendency of humankind to meekly accept their lot in life as a prisoner in a prison of their own making.

Perhaps the best visual debate ever on individuality and freedom, The Prisoner (17 episodes in all) centers around a British secret agent who abruptly resigns only to find himself imprisoned and interrogated in a mysterious, self-contained, cosmopolitan, seemingly tranquil retirement community known only as the Village. The Village is an idyllic setting with parks and green fields, recreational activities and even a butler.

While luxurious and resort-like, the Village is a virtual prison disguised as a seaside paradise: its inhabitants have no true freedom, they cannot leave the Village, they are under constant surveillance, their movements are tracked by surveillance drones, and they are stripped of their individuality and identified only by numbers.

The series’ protagonist, played by Patrick McGoohan, is Number Six.

Number Two, the Village administrator, acts as an agent for the unseen and all-powerful Number One, whose identity is not revealed until the final episode.

“I am not a number. I am a free man,” was the mantra chanted on each episode of The Prisoner, which was largely written and directed by McGoohan.

In the opening episode (“The Arrival”), Number Six meets Number Two, who explains to him that he is in The Village because information stored “inside” his head has made him too valuable to be allowed to roam free “outside.”

Throughout the series, Number Six is subjected to interrogation tactics, torture, hallucinogenic drugs, identity theft, mind control, dream manipulation, and various forms of social indoctrination and physical coercion in order to “persuade” him to comply, give up, give in and subjugate himself to the will of the powers-that-be.

Number Six refuses to comply.

In every episode, Number Six resists the Village’s indoctrination methods, struggles to maintain his own identity, and attempts to escape his captors. “I will not make any deals with you,” he pointedly remarks to Number Two. “I’ve resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own.”

Yet no matter how far Number Six manages to get in his efforts to escape, it’s never far enough.

Watched by surveillance cameras and other devices, Number Six’s getaways are continuously thwarted by ominous white balloon-like spheres known as “rovers.” Still, he refuses to give up. “Unlike me,” he says to his fellow prisoners, “many of you have accepted the situation of your imprisonment, and will die here like rotten cabbages.”

Number Six’s escapes become a surreal exercise in futility, each episode an unsettling, reoccurring nightmare that builds to the same frustrating denouement: there is no escape.

As journalist Scott Thill concludes for Wired, “Rebellion always comes at a price. During the acclaimed run of The Prisoner, Number Six is tortured, battered and even body-snatched: In the episode ‘Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling,’ his mind is transplanted to another man’s body. Number Six repeatedly escapes The Village only to be returned to it in the end, trapped like an animal, overcome by a restless energy he cannot expend, and betrayed by nearly everyone around him.”

The series is a chilling lesson about how difficult it is to gain one’s freedom in a society in which prison walls are disguised within the trappings of technological and scientific progress, national security and so-called democracy.

As Thill noted when McGoohan died in 2009, “The Prisoner was an allegory of the individual, aiming to find peace and freedom in a dystopia masquerading as a utopia.”

The Prisoner’s Village is also an apt allegory for the American Police State: it gives the illusion of freedom while functioning all the while like a prison: controlled, watchful, inflexible, punitive, deadly and inescapable.

The American Police State, much like The Prisoner’s Village, is a metaphorical panopticon, a circular prison in which the inmates are monitored by a single watchman situated in a central tower. Because the inmates cannot see the watchman, they are unable to tell whether or not they are being watched at any given time and must proceed under the assumption that they are always being watched.

Eighteenth century social theorist Jeremy Bentham envisioned the panopticon prison to be a cheaper and more effective means of “obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.”

Bentham’s panopticon, in which the prisoners are used as a source of cheap, menial labor, has become a model for the modern surveillance state in which the populace is constantly being watched, controlled and managed by the powers-that-be and funding its existence.

Nowhere to run and nowhere to hide: this is the new mantra of the architects of the police state and their corporate collaborators (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, YouTube, Instagram, etc.).

Government eyes are watching you.

They see your every move: what you read, how much you spend, where you go, with whom you interact, when you wake up in the morning, what you’re watching on television and reading on the internet.

Every move you make is being monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to control you when and if it becomes necessary to bring you in line.

When the government sees all and knows all and has an abundance of laws to render even the most seemingly upstanding citizen a criminal and lawbreaker, then the old adage that you’ve got nothing to worry about if you’ve got nothing to hide no longer applies.

Apart from the obvious dangers posed by a government that feels justified and empowered to spy on its people and use its ever-expanding arsenal of weapons and technology to monitor and control them, we’re approaching a time in which we will be forced to choose between obeying the dictates of the government—i.e., the law, or whatever a government official deems the law to be—and maintaining our individuality, integrity and independence.

When people talk about privacy, they mistakenly assume it protects only that which is hidden behind a wall or under one’s clothing. The courts have fostered this misunderstanding with their constantly shifting delineation of what constitutes an “expectation of privacy.” And technology has furthered muddied the waters.

However, privacy is so much more than what you do or say behind locked doors. It is a way of living one’s life firm in the belief that you are the master of your life, and barring any immediate danger to another person (which is far different from the carefully crafted threats to national security the government uses to justify its actions), it’s no one’s business what you read, what you say, where you go, whom you spend your time with, and how you spend your money.

Unfortunately, George Orwell’s 1984—where “you had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized”—has now become our reality.

We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers.

Consider that on any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears.

A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior.

This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

Stingray devices mounted on police cars to warrantlessly track cell phones, Doppler radar devices that can detect human breathing and movement within in a home, license plate readers that can record up to 1800 license plates per minutesidewalk and “public space” cameras coupled with facial recognition and behavior-sensing technology that lay the groundwork for police “pre-crime” programspolice body cameras that turn police officers into roving surveillance cameras, the internet of things: all of these technologies add up to a society in which there’s little room for indiscretions, imperfections, or acts of independence—especially not when the government can listen in on your phone calls, monitor your driving habits, track your movements, scrutinize your purchases and peer through the walls of your home.

As French philosopher Michel Foucault concluded in his 1975 book Discipline and Punish, “Visibility is a trap.”

This is the electronic concentration camp—the panopticon prison—the Village—in which we are now caged.

It is a prison from which there will be no escape if the government gets it way.

As Glenn Greenwald notes:

“The way things are supposed to work is that we’re supposed to know virtually everything about what [government officials] do: that’s why they’re called public servants. They’re supposed to know virtually nothing about what we do: that’s why we’re called private individuals. This dynamic - the hallmark of a healthy and free society - has been radically reversed. Now, they know everything about what we do, and are constantly building systems to know more. Meanwhile, we know less and less about what they do, as they build walls of secrecy behind which they function. That’s the imbalance that needs to come to an end. No democracy can be healthy and functional if the most consequential acts of those who wield political power are completely unknown to those to whom they are supposed to be accountable.”

Unfortunately, we seem to be trapped in the Village with no hope of escape.

That we are prisoners—and, in fact, never stopped being prisoners—should come as no surprise to those who haven’t been taking the escapist blue pill, who haven’t fallen for the Deep State’s phony rhetoric, and who haven’t been lured in by the promise of a political savior.

So how do we break out?

For starters, wake up. Resist the urge to comply.

The struggle to remain “oneself in a society increasingly obsessed with conformity to mass consumerism,” writes Steven Paul Davies, means that superficiality and image trump truth and the individual. The result is the group mind and the tyranny of mob-think—especially in a day and age when most people are addicted to screen devices controlled and administered by the government and its corporate allies.

Think for yourself. Be an individual. As McGoohan commented in 1968, “At this moment individuals are being drained of their personalities and being brainwashed into slaves… As long as people feel something, that’s the great thing. It’s when they are walking around not thinking and not feeling, that’s tough. When you get a mob like that, you can turn them into the sort of gang that Hitler had.”

In a media-dominated age in which the lines between entertainment, politics and news reporting are blurred, it is extremely difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. We are so bombarded with images, dictates, rules and punishments and stamped with numbers from the day we are born that it is a wonder we ever ponder a concept such as freedom. As McGoohan declared, “Freedom is a myth.”

In the end, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we are all prisoners of our own mind. 

In fact, it is in the mind that prisons are created for us. And in the lockdown of political correctness, it becomes extremely difficult to speak or act individually without being ostracized. Thus, so often we are forced to retreat inwardly into our minds, a prison without bars from which we cannot escape, and into the world of video games and television and the Internet.

We have come full circle from Bentham’s Panopticon to McGoohan’s Village to Huxley’s Brave New World.

As cultural theorist Neil Postman observed:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared we would become a captive audience. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared that we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate would ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

You want to be free? Break out of the circle.

~~  John W. Whitehead ~~

Jeanette Riffle: School’s Out, School’s Out, Teacher Wore Her Paddle Out

The Free Press WV

Does that sound familiar? That was one of the chants that I remember in elementary when I was growing up. The school house would get hot by afternoon.  I was always glad for school to be out and then anxious for Vacation Bible School. Those classes were held in the cool of the morning and we got iced cold Kool Aid and cookies on break to refresh us. Dad was at work and   Grandmother Stewart drove us to my childhood church of Mt. Pisgah Baptist at Stumptown, WV.  My grandmother and her sister, Bess Smith Vanhorn, taught a class, served refreshments and just helped where needed. One year grandmother made me a yellow Swiss dot sleeveless dress to wear to VBS. I was a young teen by that time. I remember it smelled like coconut.

Great Aunt Bess and her husband, Onnie Vanhorn, had the ministry there. They were good with the children. Now, both their grandson’s, Richard and Leary Vanhorn, are preachers, now.

Mom let us go barefoot at home after Easter, if it was warm enough. I remember taking an old quilt out in the back yard under a tree and looking up at the sky on a nice June day, with my crayons and a coloring book.  Now and then you would see a jet plane go over but not very often. Not like today. Mom taught my oldest brother and I how to make mud pies by mixing dirt with a little water and filling old zinc canning lids with it.  We decorated them with little pebbles or violets. We set them in the sun to bake and pretended like we had made some pies.

The woods behind our house was a good place to explore and swing on grape vines. My brothers played, “Cowboys and Indians” or” Robinhood and His Merry Men.” We had the playhouse to go to when there weren’t any renters there. It was a two bedroom house down the path from ours, with a living room, kitchen and wash room. There was a porch on the right side of it. Sometimes we would take off walking up Chesnut Lick to visit Mom’s friend, Ruth Hardman and her two children, Gail and Kay. There was so much to do in summer. I liked the old barn to the left of the playhouse. I got a scare one Saturday morning out there, though. I think I was about five. I ran out there after breakfast to see the cow and when I opened the side door, the sun shined in on a man sleeping in the hay. The cow was in the next room of the barn. I could see her. She was probably hungry for her hay.  He had run her off so he could have the hay to sleep in for the night. The bright sunlight awakened that man and I ran back to the house to get Dad. By the time he got out there, the man had left so fast that he forgot his cigarette lighter in the hay. That’s why farmers didn’t want tramps or men traveling on foot, sleeping in their barn. They were afraid of them burning the barn down. My husband was telling me of his uncle, Ralph Perrine, running a man off one time for smoking in their barn.

We had the hobo, which was a way of life for them, and then we had the guys that were just traveling on foot trying to get somewhere, because they didn’t have a car.

Until next time, take care and God bless!

Benito Trump

The Free Press WV

As a boy who grew up on skates in Minnesota with my Dad as hockey coach, I vividly recall that he frequently echoed the old adage, “The best defense is a good offense.” Someone evidently told that to Donald Trump too, and we see it play out constantly.

Our swampy guy in the White House is more surreal by the day. Along the lines of Benito Mussolini, he is claiming to clean up corruption—his primary campaign promise—even as he practices it on a daily basis.

He is under investigation, of course, for a campaign that colluded with Russian and probably Middle Eastern operatives to manipulate the American electorate via false flag social media posts. The Fake News strategy. His campaigners, from Paul Manafort (erstwhile campaign chair, now slated to go on trial for several corruption charges) to his son, Donald Jr., are serial liars about dealings with Russian operatives.

Who are actual American heroes? That is a debater, but some folks like John McCain, former POW, tortured, and currently dying from brain cancer. Trump disses him every chance he gets. Others might say Green Beret Sgt. La David Johnson, already dead, killed in an ambush in Niger last October, and Trump tells his widow, “He knew what he signed up for.” For some of us, civil rights hero John Lewis—arguably the most squeaky clean politician in US history—is an icon, but naturally Trump, who never worked for anyone’s civil rights, who never went to jail to protect the rights of the oppressed, who never served in uniform to rightly or wrongly protect the US, tweeted that Lewis was “Sad.”

Welcome to third grade. When someone offers criticism, do not respond with facts about that criticism, respond with lies and smears and attacks on unrelated matters. We are ruled by a pre-adolescent spoiled rich boy—and his base can’t let it go, can’t face his glaring lies and crimes.
Crimes? Yup. He has all the immunity afforded to a president (even if his election was a pack of fraudulent practices), or he might well be in prison right now.
• He pays hush money to a porn actress to keep her quiet right before the 2016 election. Illegal.
• He lies to the FBI. Against the law.
• He is very likely a multiple predatory sex offender.
• He has a long history of lawbreaking in his landlord career.
• The Big Irony: all the crimes he accused Hillary Clinton of committing, he committed.

And now he is basically demanding to flip reality and start a Department of Justice investigation into whether or not the FBI infiltrated and embedded in his campaign. Many call that flatly illegal, that is, to seek to learn the identity of any intelligence agent tasked with investigating Trump/Russian collusion or conspiracy. Senator Mark Warner and others call it criminal, and note that Trump Jr. likely broke laws in his meetings with Middle Eastern and Russian social media manipulators (the Fake News brigade, working for Trump and against Clinton). It is certainly unprecedented and beneath normal conduct.

He gets away with it all, even profits, even gains in power over others. The bad guy wins and enough good people choose to stay silent or elect to not make waves to enable his abuse of America.

Will we stand up to the Swampiest one ever? His venal style, his sophomoric reactions, and his criminal conduct are so reminiscent of Nixon, the president who ordered break-ins, who is on tape calling Mexicans “wetbacks,” and who left office as the impeachment sword was about to fall. We live in a democracy and so we get what we deserve, but I hope we earn back a far better leader very soon. If Trump is planning to obviate the Mueller investigation we may all need to prove that our best defense is a good offense, even if that means nonviolently shutting down the government until we get some relief.

Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

Caging Children, Separating Families: Has the War on Immigration Gone Too Far?

The Free Press WV

“Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.” ― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

Sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand.

This is one of those moments.

There are some acts so wrong-headed, so immoral, and so inhumane that they simply cannot be defended on any grounds.

Be warned: the White House’s new “zero tolerance policy” for separating undocumented parents from their children at the border as a way of discouraging illegal immigration is pushing us into dangerous territory morally and otherwise.

Dragging young children kicking and crying and screaming from their parents, separating those children from their parents indefinitely, locking those children up in cages (“dog kennels”) like animals, and subjecting them to the predators of the American police state: these are acts that no decent people should tolerate from their government.

In McAllen, Texas, undocumented migrant children are being held in cages made out of wire and net. These children are sleeping on concrete floors with thin foil “space blankets” for a mattress.

In Brownsville, Texas, reportedly more than 1,000 children who have been separated from their parents are being held in a former Walmart facility with blacked-out windows that has been transformed into a detention center and is being run by a government contractor.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal got a chance to speak briefly with some of the migrant women being held at a federal detention facility near Seattle who had been forcibly separated from their children. Jayapal recounts:

Thirty to 40 percent of these women came with children who had been forcibly taken away from them. None got a chance to say goodbye to their children—they were forcibly taken away. One said she was deceived, because they were in detention together. Then the CBP officers told her she was going out to get her photograph taken. When she came back, she was put in a different room, and she never got to see the child again. Some of them said they could hear their children screaming for them in the next room. The children ranged anywhere from one to teenagers.

Bear in mind, there is no bedtime story for these children.

There are no parents nearby to protect them from the things that go bump in the night.

There is no assurance that they will ever be reunited with their parents again.

You who are reading this, hold tight to your own children. They won’t be yours for long if the government is allowed to prevail in its view that children of undocumented “criminals” automatically become wards of the state.

The government’s rationale goes like this: illegal immigrants are criminals who should be jailed; criminals in jail don’t get to keep their kids; therefore, illegal immigrants shouldn’t get to keep their kids, either.

Wait and see. 

Allow the government to inflict this kind of terror on other people’s children, and it won’t be long before you and yours find yourselves in the government’s crosshairs.

Allow the government to strip naturalized persons of their citizenship under trumped up pretexts (yet another tactic being proposed by the White House), and it won’t be long before your own citizenship hangs in the balance.

Allow the government to treat whomever it pleases with disrespect and an utter disregard for the rule of law, and it won’t be long before your rights are also being disrespected.

Whether you’re talking about weapons of war used abroad or police state tactics deployed against enemy combatants, these methods always come home to roost.

So if you’re inclined to advance this double standard because you believe you have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide, beware: there’s always a boomerang effect.

Whatever dangerous practices you allow the government to carry out now—whether it’s in the name of national security or protecting America’s borders or making America great again—rest assured, these same practices can and will be used against you when the government decides to set its sights on you.

Indeed, it’s just a short hop, skip and a jump from the government stripping undocumented “criminals” of their parental rights to the government meting out the same treatment to American citizens.

After all, in this era of overcriminalization in the American police state, we are all guilty of breaking at least three laws a day without even knowing it.

We are all at risk.

With good reason, the policy of caging children has been widely denounced, with the United Nations human rights office calling for the U.S. to immediately halt the practice.

All along the border, parents without proof of U.S. residency and/or citizenship are finding their families snatched up and shoved into an already overburdened system that sees them not as human beings but as numbers in a system, quotas and units.

Between October 2017 and April 2018, more than 700 hundred families were torn apart with parents being separated from their children. This includes more than a hundred children under the age of four.

Nearly 700 children were separated from their parents between May 6-19, 2018.

There are now over 10,000 migrant children in government custody in 100 U.S. shelters in 14 states

All 10,000 of these children have been forcibly separated from their parents.

These 100 shelters are already “at 95% capacity and are expected to add thousands of bed spaces in the coming weeks.” The government has also considered housing these children on military bases.

Historically, the U.S. has granted asylum to victims of domestic abuse and gang violence, especially women with children.

That clemency is being upended by a hard-line approach to immigration that treats anyone who approaches our borders for sanctuary—whether or not they have a legitimate case to plead—as criminals.

Just recently, in a severe break with U.S. policy, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered immigration judges to stop granting asylum to most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence, a move that will block tens of thousands of individuals from looking to America as a safe haven.

So much for the words of welcome etched at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

Clearly, the American Police State is no home for the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Worse, it is fast becoming a living nightmare for those who hoped for a chance at a better life for their children and instead now find themselves at the mercy of government bureaucrats, politicians and contractors whose profit margins depend on keeping larger numbers of people incarcerated.

Thanks to the Trump Administration’s “100% prosecution” policy, these families are being torn apart without any chance at a due process hearing to assess their plea for asylum or any hope of keeping their children in their custody and under their protection.

In fact, the government is labeling any child who arrives at the border with an undocumented family member as “unaccompanied.”

What this means is that, for all intents and purposes, that child will become the property of the U.S. government to do with as it wills the moment its family crosses the border.

We all know what happens to children who are left alone to fend for themselves: there are predators of every sort, many of them on the government’s payroll, looking to prey upon the young and vulnerable.

In too many cases, these children are being trafficked, lost by the system, and rendered beyond the reach of their families. As the New Yorker recounts, “Reports have surfaced of children, some as young as toddlers, being wrested from family members, and of parents being deported before they could locate their children, who remain stranded in the U.S.”

To Jeff Sessions, the government’s policy is cut and dried: “If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them,” he warned. “If you don’t want your child to be separated, then don’t bring him across the border illegally.”

It’s easy to say, perhaps.

For those with a moral conscience and a less self-righteous attitude, it’s harder to put such a dehumanizing policy into practice.

It’s particularly hard to swallow the government’s claim that it is doing all of this in the best interest of the migrant children. Remember, this is the same government that “lost” 1,475 migrant children within its care over a three-month period, in some cases handing them off to human traffickers.

Under President Obama’s watch, migrant children were allegedly beaten, threatened with sexual violence and repeatedly assaulted while under the care of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials. According to Newsweek, “Border authorities were accused of kicking a child in the ribs and forcing a 16-year-old girl to ‘spread her legs’ for an aggressive body search. Other children accused officers of punching a child in the head three times, running over a 17-year-old boy and denying medical care to a pregnant teen, who later had a stillbirth.”

The government’s track record doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in its ability to act in loco parentis for these children.

While illegal immigration is a problem that must be addressed, forcibly separating migrant children from their parents, transferring custody of them to the U.S. government, and caging them indefinitely in dog kennels cannot be the solution.

The law of reciprocity applies here.

I’m referring to the Golden Rule, which is found in nearly every world religion, including Judaism and Christianity. It means that we should treat others as we would have them treat us.

In other words, if you don’t want to be locked up in a prison cell or a detention camp—if you don’t want to be discriminated against because of the color of your race, religion, politics or anything else that sets you apart from the rest—if you don’t want your loved ones shot at, strip searched, tasered, beaten and treated like slaves—if you don’t want to have to be constantly on guard against government eyes watching what you do, where you go and what you say—if you don’t want to be tortured, waterboarded or forced to perform degrading acts—if you don’t want your children to be forcibly separated from you, caged and lost—then don’t allow these evils to be inflicted on anyone else, no matter how tempting the reason or how fervently you believe in the cause.

Too often, those who claim to be pro-life and pro-family are only pro-life and pro-family when it suits their politics and when the lives and families in question are deemed worthy enough of protecting.

Certainly, such an attitude flies in the face of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, whose parents—immigrants seeking asylum with a child in tow—risked their lives to keep their family together. That child would grow up to command his followers to care for the “least of these” (the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, and imprisoned).

Christian theology aside, you don’t have to be religious to recognize the need for caution, compassion and common sense in how the government administers its immigration policies.

Those who cannot remember the past, warned philosopher George Santayana, are condemned to repeat it.

We are walking a dangerous path right now.

Those screams of the migrant children being wrenched out of their mothers’ arms is a warning.

As U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal explains, the mothers being held in detention centers didn’t realize what was happening when they were torn from their children. “In most cases, they were taken into a different room like, ‘Here we’re going take your photograph.’ Then after the photo was taken, they were taken to a different room from their child. So they never got to say goodbye.”

There have been other mothers in other detention centers in other police states who didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late. They, too, never got to say goodbye.

Eva Kor was 10 years old in 1944 when she and her twin sister were ripped from their mother’s arms and forcibly separated from their older sisters and parents, who were sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. “All I remember is her arms stretched out in despair as she was pulled away. I never even got to say goodbye,” Kor recounted.

This is how evil triumphs.

The slippery slope to the gas chambers starts when good people remain silent in the face of evil.

The horrors of the Nazi concentration camps weren’t kept secret from the German people. They were well-publicized. As The Guardian reports:

The mass of ordinary Germans did know about the evolving terror of Hitler’s Holocaust… They knew concentration camps were full of Jewish people who were stigmatised as sub-human and race-defilers. They knew that these, like other groups and minorities, were being killed out of hand. They knew that Adolf Hitler had repeatedly forecast the extermination of every Jew on German soil. They knew these details because they had read about them. They knew because the camps and the measures which led up to them had been prominently and proudly reported step by step in thousands of officially-inspired German media articles and posters… The reports, in newspapers and magazines all over the country were phases in a public process of “desensitisation” which worked all too well, culminating in the killing of 6m Jews….

Likewise, the mass of ordinary Americans are fully aware of the Trump Administration’s efforts to stigmatize and dehumanize any and all who do not fit with the government’s plans for this country.

So when Sessions suggests that the government’s child separation policy is just the government doing its job to fight illegal immigration, don’t buy it.

This is not about illegal immigration.

It’s about power and control.

It’s about testing the waters to see how far the American people will allow the government to go in re-shaping the country in the image of a totalitarian police state.

It’s about how much evil “we the people” will tolerate before we find our conscience and our voice.

Hannah Arendt, a Holocaust survivor who reported on the war crimes trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann, a senior officer who organized Hitler’s death camps, denounced Eichmann not because he was evil per se but because he was a bureaucrat who unquestioningly carried out orders that were immoral, inhumane and evil. His defense? He was just doing his job.

This willingness to obey immoral instructions unthinkingly, to march in lockstep with tyrants, to mindlessly perpetuate acts of terror and inhumanity, and to justify it all as just “doing one’s job,” Arendt concluded in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, was the banality of evil.

The question we should be asking is not whether a particular government’s actions are legal but whether they are moral and just.

As Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out 55 years ago in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” “everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.”

In other words, there comes a time when law and order are in direct opposition to justice.

It’s time to draw that line in the sand.

What we are experiencing right now are the first stages of a desensitization campaign aimed at lulling us into a false sense of security.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, there is worse to come.

The treatment being meted out to undocumented migrants and their children is only the beginning.

This is the start of the slippery slope.

Martin Niemöller understood this. A Lutheran minister and early Nazi supporter who was later imprisoned for opposing Hitler’s regime, Niemoller warned:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

~~  John W. Whitehead ~~

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