Russian literature fans will recall a moving spectacle from Dostoevsky’s novel “The House of the Dead”. As political prisoners are marched off under guard to Siberia, village folk are handing them food and other provisions that they will need on their long journey. The poor villagers are probably scraping the bottom of their own barrel in order to show Christian Orthodox compassion to those unfortunates. The allegedly nasty czarist guards do nothing to thwart these poignant expressions of humanity. Chances are (and Dostoevsky strongly suggests it) that they themselves feel considerable sympathy for their pitiful charges. Now, fast forward.
Albeit depicted in a semi-fictional account, the prisoner scene represents authentic Russia of almost two hundred years ago. Would anything of the sort be even conceivable in the equally authentic, thoroughly dechristianized West of today? Well, Julian Assange’s London District Court hearing in October largely answers that question (also here).
Most will vividly recall Madeleine Albright’s offhand remark in front of television cameras that snuffing out half a million Iraqi children was “a hard choice, but worth it.” As Gilbert Mercier points out in the wake of the latest Thanksgiving holiday celebration in America, “[i]n many ways, the US’ celebration of Thanksgiving is analogous to setting aside a day in Germany to celebrate the Holocaust. Thanksgiving is the American Holocaust. The original crimes of genocide and slavery are not limited to US early history but have found an extension in the policies of modern-day US. The systematic assault on other nations and cultures still goes on under various pretenses or outright lies. United States wars of empire are going on today more than ever before.”
That is arguably correct, but also projects an incomplete and perhaps even partially misleading picture. History is full of examples of cruelty directed toward others, exercised to secure some advantage and benefit for one’s own group or community. The peculiarity of the current situation, however, is precisely that “one’s own” seem to be disenfranchised and targeted as much as those who by definition are excluded from imperial benevolence, such as Iraqi children or the “merciless Indian savages,” as they are indelicately designated in the Declaration of Independence.
One wonders how Thomas J. Franzen, a thirty-seven year-old Illinois man who had never been arrested or committed a crime before being diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer that had spread to both his lungs and abdominal cavity, spent his Thanksgiving this year. Franzen committed the grave infraction of attempting to self-medicate, by ordering 176 ounces (5,000 grams) of cannabis infused chocolate from California to treat his cancer induced pain and suffering. There, it is apparently legal for medical purposes, but not so in Illinois. The kind Illinois prosecutor who handled the case said that “[i]n recognition of the seriousness of Mr. Franzen’s medical condition, our office reduced a 12-year mandatory minimum sentence to four years, of which he is required to serve only two years.” So far, the Thanksgiving turkey has not been heard from, but cancer patient Franzen ought certainly to feel grateful for the huge break, laced with prosecutorial compassion, that he got.
Immigration authorities, always on the lookout for illegals, seem to be even less endowed with the milk of human kindness than their colleagues in the judicial apparatus. While, under a pharisean provision of federal law, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is prohibited from arresting undocumented immigrants in certain “sensitive locations,” such as courthouses and hospitals, Physicians for Human Rights reports that agents frequently flout the law, even at community hospitals. In fact, PHR reports cases of egregious violations where medical advice was ignored and patients undergoing urgent treatment were arrested and their treatment was impeded, e.g.:
“Jose de Jesus Martinez was reportedly visiting his injured son in the intensive care unit of a San Antonio hospital when ICE agents entered and accosted him. Oscar Millan was reportedly arrested while attempting to pick up his newborn son from a hospital in Boston, and Joel Arrona was detained by ICE while driving his pregnant wife to a hospital for a cesarean section, leaving her to drive herself to the hospital alone to deliver her baby.”
One would think that the palpable absence of human compassion of the sort that was depicted in Russia’s treatment of political prisoners almost two centuries ago would be noticed and a remedy would eagerly be sought by bringing God’s word to hardened hearts. But alas, a preacher who tried to do precisely that on a Canadian street corner, instead of being heeded, was arrested for “disturbing the peace.” The edifying scene can be watched here.
Is there an emerging trend? It would appear so. A Christian boarding school, for instance, was recently raided by the police in California because it was found to lack the required state-mandated “Community Care Licencing” certificate. In a militantly secular system, especially if you are a religious believer in a position to influence impressionable youth, the certificate is proof of compliance with numerous politically correct norms, no matter that they are abhorrent to traditional religious values and institutions. In the instant case, one of the things the state requires is that licensed facilities allow students to have the right “to engage in spiritual and sexual exploration.” That is clearly a coded expression for you-know-what. The inflexible, would it be offensive or an exaggeration to say Soviet-style, law does not allow for religious exemptions in cases where a religious school, by complying, would be forced to violate its moral convictions. So rightly or wrongly, the raided River View Christian Academy director Phil Ludwig suspects that state investigators who came to shut down his religious outreach facility for helping troubled youth seemed to have a political “agenda.”
It is probable that the same relentless agenda, sparing none, high or low, was also at play in the bitter public denunciation of the First Lady, Melanie Trump, after she had the temerity to defy the politically correct etiquette by reading the Lord’s Prayer at one of her husband’s rallies. Viewed in that context, the experience of Florida high school students, who were denied permission to start a pro-life, anti-abortion group on campus, is normal. High school senior Gabrielle Gabbard revealed that far from praising the students for their noble initiative, Assistant Principal Catherine Crawford-Brown denounced it as “too political and too controversial.” Recalling Albright’s smug remark quoted earlier, there indeed seem to be places in this world where being “pro-life” is a distinctly controversial position.
Given the inverted system of values and the prevailing climate of lunacy, it is also not surprising that in San Francisco, a city where public defecation is a legally protected human right, eating a sandwich in public — on the contrary — is an arrestable criminal offense. Watch the unfolding arrest here.
But the vindictiveness of the hegemonic garrison society is not confined to public sandwich eaters. While not arrested, students in the lunch line at a Minnesota high school, who were discovered by a staff member at the register to have had outstanding lunch debts of more than $15, had their hot lunches taken off their trays, thrown in the trash and replaced with a cold lunch, as a fitting punishment for their financial irresponsibility.
Indicative as they are of individually directed meanness by the regnant hegemonic culture, once thought by the simpleminded to be nothing less than a “shining city on the hill,” these examples pale against the backdrop of the havoc and torment the system has wreaked on the collective scale. A new report has it that in the twenty-first century more than two million Americans in West Virginia, Alabama, Texas and the Navajo Nation Reservation are living without clean running water or indoor plumbing. It turns out that they are drinking from polluted streams, carrying buckets of the same water home for washing, and urinating and defecating outside with no wastewater treatment. The shining metropolis up on the hill is rather smelly, if one may say so.
The once dream city of Los Angeles seems to have turned into a rat-infested, typhoid generating nightmare, all at walking distance from the opulent mansions of its world renowned movie stars. Are the once great West Coast cities, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle merely dying, or are they already clinically dead? It’s a toss up.
The visible physical decline of the hegemonic empire has impacted its demeanor in the direction of unfettered nastiness, practiced externally and internally, in all its relations and dealings, in much the same way that cancer in its advanced stages brings out the worst traits in the individuals that it afflicts. That is small comfort, of course, to the countless victims outside the imperial perimeters, but they should perhaps be assured that the unfortunate nations under whose flag and in whose name the rampages are being enacted are not its beneficiaries.