Yesterday (24/05/2018) I posted an article regarding Trump’s use of the term “animals” to describe members of MS-13, a gang in the United States started by illegal immigrants in the 1980s. In this article I explained the dangers of Trump using this term and that it may justify people’s actions against immigrants, both legal and illegal, and that it may allow people to express their views more openly. I also explained the similarities between Trump using the term “animals” to describe people and Gregory Stanton’s work ‘The 8 Stages of Genocide’, and that some of the stages highlighted within it can potentially be seen in America today.
Within 24 hours of posting my piece, my point was proven. I had a comment on my article that highlighted what I feared. Here is the comment in full:
“Things like MS-13 and the various Russian mobs aren’t humans; they’re just diseased, dangerous vermin that need to be put down whenever and wherever they’re found. Wasting Americans’ tax monies on capturing, trying, and incarcerating these things is an insult to Americans.
But, of course, your sort take that and stretch it to all immigrants so that you can paint Americans as racists. Yet, if you were even close to right in your anti-American beliefs, you’d already be lampshades since we’ve no need of your labor.”
Now, it is blindingly obvious that the point I made in my article has been missed. I explicitly laid out the dangers of referring to people as being less than human. When you dehumanise them it makes it easier to carry out atrocious acts. The implications of the phrase “need to be put down” by said commentator suggests that my fears have been realised. The term “to put down” is most often used when referring to the euthanasia of pets and the use of it in this comment shows that some believe that these people are not human, and ultimately deserve to be treated as animals. Yes, members of MS-13 are criminals, but that does not mean they shouldn’t be treated as humans and follow the correct lawful procedures to bring them to justice. Under international law, more specifically the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), it is stated in Article 10 that “everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him”. This was defined even further in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the right to a fair trial is protected in Articles 14 and 16, and is bound by international law and must be adhered to by those states that are party to it. Although the US is technically a part of this group they have debated the Covenant on a number of occasions and continue to do so. This is not a problem; the problem arises when basic human rights are ignored in court. Referring to these people as “animals” and “vermin” is the beginning. Dehumanising them in this way makes it easier for people to target them. It becomes more about “us VS them” and justifies any potential violent acts against them.
In my article I made the point that it is dangerous that Trump referred to a small minority group of illegal immigrants as animals as it has the potential for the term to be applied to immigrants in general. Here is the relevant comment I made: “Despite the President using the term to refer to members of MS-13, it runs the risk of all immigrants being tarnished with the same brush, being referred to by ardent Trump supporters and right wing ultras in the same way.” I don’t believe that Americans are racist, however I do believe that there is a danger for some, again a minority, to take Trump’s statement too far, and too broadly. I’m not anti-American either, America is a great country full of great people, but, Trump’s presidency is tearing the country apart. It is creating rifts in US society, as well as with the international community, some of which will take years to heal.
Finally, it is comments like this that prove that there is a need for my, and others’ “labor”. The right to free speech is incredibly important when discussing topics such as this. These subjects, by their very nature, are divisive. Without an active discourse, with healthy interactions from both sides, we run the risk of descending into an environment that wouldn’t look out of place in an autocratic state in the 1930s. I will continue to write about these tough topics, as I believe that it is important for people to remain informed, I also encourage those that disagree with what I say to comment on my pieces, as this is how free speech and debate works. One cannot just shout louder than the other in the name of debating, and say they won because one was loudest.