There are a variety of definitions of “dehumanization” but this one is as succinct as I have seen:
Dehumanization is the psychological process of demonizing the enemy, making them seem less than human and hence not worthy of humane treatment. This can lead to increased violence, human rights violations, war crimes, and genocide.
History is rife with this demonizing of people in order to justify treating them inhumanely. The Nazis dehumanized Jews calling them “rats” (and worse) which paved the way to the extermination of 4 million of them under Adolf Hitler’s regime. Hutus in Rwanda called Tutsi “cockroaches”, which they used to justify ethnic cleansing with astonishing cruelty. In America, slaves were described and treated as subhuman. Police have been referred to as “pigs” in order to justify violence against them.
Since the Bush administration, Muslims have been the victims of intense social dehumanization and one study showed that average Americans have internalized this characterization.
Under President Trump, immigrants are the group du jour facing widespread dehumanization and none more so than Mexican immigrants. The results are in the headlines this week as a rich white attorney put his bigotry on display in a profound way:
But the impact of Trump’s dehumanizing of Mexican immigrants goes beyond one such odious bigot like Aaron Schlossberg. It is allowing far too many Americans to turn a blind eye to immigration officials tearing families apart at our borders and even in our own communities. In order for ordinary Americans to allow this to continue with no reaction, no protest, and no response requires that the victims of these crimes against humanity aren’t viewed as part of that humanity. And our president is happy to help that process along.
Several days ago, President Trump referred to MS-13 gang members as “animals”. Thankfully, this pronouncement came as a shock, suggesting that Americans are not quite ready to be led to quietly accepting inhumane treatment of our fellow humans. However, the backlash against this statement didn’t deter President Trump. This morning he released a press release in which he calls MS-13 members “animals” ten times in as many paragraphs:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 21, 2018
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIOLENT ANIMALS OF MS-13
WHAT: The violent animals of MS-13 have committed heinous, violent attacks in communities across America.
Too many innocent Americans have fallen victim to the unthinkable violence of MS-13’s animals.
At the State of the Union in January 2018, President Trump brought as his guests Elizabeth Alvarado, Robert Mickens, Evelyn Rodriguez, and Freddy Cuevas, the parents of Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas. Police believe these young girls were chased down and brutally murdered by MS-13 gang members on Long Island, New York, in 2016. Suffolk County Police Commissioner stated that the “murders show a level of brutality that is close to unmatched.”
In Maryland, MS-13’s animals are accused of stabbing a man more than 100 times and then decapitating him, dismembering him, and ripping his heart out of his body. Police believe MS-13 members in Maryland also savagely beat a 15-year-old human trafficking victim. The MS-13 animals used a bat and took turns beating her nearly 30 times in total.
In Houston, Texas, two MS-13 members were charged after kidnapping and sexually assaulting one girl and murdering another. The two MS-13 animals laughed, smiled, and waved for cameras in court as they faced the charges.
New York communities have suffered tremendously from the abhorrent violence of MS-13. Nearly 40 percent of all murders in Suffolk County, New York between January 2016 and June 2017 were tied to MS-13.
In January 2017, MS-13 members were charged with killing and hacking up a teenager in Nassau County. MS-13’s animals reportedly saw the murder as a way to boost their standing in the gang. In April 2017, police believe four young men were brutally murdered by MS-13 animals on Long Island. One victim was a young man in town visiting family during an Easter week vacation. Just last month, in April 2018, MS-13 reportedly called for its members on Long Island to kill a cop for the sake of making a statement.
WHY: MS-13 is a transnational gang which follows the motto of “kill, rape, control” by committing shocking acts of violence in an attempt to instill fear and gain control.
MS-13 is a transnational gang that has brought violence, fear, and suffering to American communities. MS-13, short for Mara Salvatrucha, commits shocking acts of violence to instill fear, including machete attacks, executions, gang rape, human trafficking, and more. In their motto, the animals of MS-13 make clear their goal is to “kill, rape, control.” The gang has more than 10,000 members in the United States spreading violence and suffering.
Recent investigations have revealed MS-13 gang leaders based in El Salvador have been sending representatives into the United States illegally to connect the leaders with local gang members. These foreign-based gang leaders direct local members to become even more violent in an effort to control more territory.
President Trump’s entire Administration is working tirelessly to bring these violent animals to justice.
This exaggerated and completely over the top use of the term “animal” is no accident. It’s an intentional effort to dehumanize Mexican immigrants in the eyes of American citizens in order to justify the inhumane treatment of ALL Mexican immigrants by the Trump administration all across America. It is this dehumanization that allows otherwise compassionate, caring human beings to turn their backs when children are ripped from their parents arms at the border and sent to be warehoused on military bases. It allows otherwise empathetic and decent people to be unbothered when law abiding but undocumented immigrant parents are deported without warning, leaving behind distraught children and spouses who are often left without the means to take care of themselves.
This isn’t about “MS-13”. MS-13 gang members are certainly criminals but they are hardly representative of the undocumented immigrants in America. Most of these immigrants work brutal jobs no citizen would do for wages no citizen would stoop to working for and spend their entire lives in fear, hoping to avoid notice. They are frequently victims of crimes for which justice is never served whether it is violent crime against them by criminals or wage theft from unscrupulous, opportunistic employers.
Donald Trump has taken a page from the playbooks of Adolf Hitler and Stalin and other fascists who convinced ordinary people to accept outrageous, inhumane treatment of other human beings. When your grandchildren ask you, “What did you do when the Trump regime was rising to power?”, be able to say you fought back tooth and nail at every step and never allowed them to convince you that it’s acceptable to treat humans, ANY humans, as if they were animals. Let THAT be YOUR legacy.
[CC image credit: Thomas Hawk | Flickr]