Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Metaphor For Our Times

Yesterday, I posted on a NY Times article dealing with the often deplorable conditions immigrant detainees face when held by Homeland Security (here) and I concluded the post with, "Sounds a little like Guantanamo Bay, doesn't it?"

Today, the NY Times followed up on that article with an editorial on the Senate immigration bill, especially the amendment to the bill offered by Sen. Lindsay Graham. The editorial is headlined, "Gitmos Across America."

Sixty-two immigrants have died since 2004 while being held in a secretive detention system, a patchwork of federal centers, private prisons and local jails. Advocacy groups and lawyers say that the system not only denies detainees the most basic rights but also lacks the oversight and regulations that apply to federal prisons. Instead of fixing this broken system, the Senate bill that is lumbering toward final passage — after surviving a crucial procedural vote yesterday — is overloaded with provisions that will make it even harsher and more unfair.

One of the worst amendments comes from Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. It would impose mandatory detention of all people who overstay their visas. It’s a huge overreach that threatens to swamp the detention system, filling already-strapped prisons at great expense and inevitably leading to more abuses and deaths. And because it takes away the power of officials to decide who poses a genuine threat and who doesn’t, it would undermine efforts to catch and deport the truly dangerous. ...

Noncitizens are subject to our laws and to being deported if they do bad things. But this doesn’t mean the country must detain or deport everybody, or relinquish basic decency or even basic sense to achieve some imagined ideal of toughness.

While I'd love to believe that I was prescient, or that a NY Times editorialist reads this blog as often as I read the NY Times, I am a rational person and I believe neither. Instead, I think a new metaphor has emerged, much like "Viet Nam" became a metaphor for a military operation that has devolved into a quagmire.

Guantanamo Bay (or "Gitmo") represents one of the many horrifying facets of the Bush administration, a place that is "secretive", one that "not only denies detainees the most basic rights but also lacks the oversight and regulations that apply to federal prisons." It is a place of non-persons in the same way that Soviet gulags were.

The tragedy is that the metaphor is an apt one for this period in our history. How shameful is that?

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Anonymous WDRussell said...

I guess that explains why the prison industry is the only growth industry we still have in this nation.

8:51 AM  

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