Perhaps you remember the old saying, “I don’t care what you call me, but don’t call me late for dinner.” The truth of the matter, however, is that it is vitally important what you call me (and still, don’t call me late for dinner). A number of news articles and incidents have brought this home to me.
USA Today is reporting that President Trump has ramped up his rhetoric, and is now referring to undocumented immigrants as “animals”: Specifically, in a White House meeting, the President said, ““We have people coming into the country or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them, but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.”
Think about that last sentence. And then think about how we treat animals. We put them in cages without their permission. We euthanize them when they are terminal. We take their children away from them and give them to others to care for. This is how we treat animals. NPR reported back in 2011 how Germany during WWII refered to Jews as rats to dehumanize them. Referring to classes of people as animals opens the door to cruely, genocide, and other horrors.
Now put this into the context of the latest policy change of ICE: separating children from their parents at the border. That is the act of someone that sees an undocumented immigrant as an animal, who isn’t worthy of being a parent or capable of loving their children.
I’ve written before about the importance of treating people with respect, even if you disagree with their ideas. Even Conservatives will argue that human life has value — after all, I don’t see Conservatives arguing that abortion should be legal for undocumented immigrants. So why isn’t the entire country up in arms about this? Why don’t we insist that there is a minimum level of treatment any human on this planet deserves. People deserve to not be treated like animals, people deserve not to be forcibly separated from their children. Even if you feel you must refuse entry to this country, at least don’t separate families, provide humane living conditions, and treat people with respect during the process.
Mass murderers and serial killers start small, on animals, and work their way up. It desensitizes. Similarly, starting the treatment of undocumented “others” as animals is only a first step. Next comes similar treatment for documented others whose otherness we don’t like. I”ve already personally seen more hints of that against Jews; I’ve seen posts detailing that treatment against other minorities.
We fought against people who did that during WWII. We must never let that happen here, and so we must protest the treatment of undocumented immigrants as animals.