TRUMP ADMINISTRATION BIOPOLITICS: Child gulags in ‘telluric’ America

by Devon G. Peña, NACCS Scholar 2013

Devon G. Peña, NACCS Scholar 2013

“Autochthonous defenders of the home soil, who died for our altars and our hearths, the national and patriotic heroes who went into the woods, all elemental, telluric force in reaction to foreign invasion.”

—Carl Schmitt, The Theory of the Partisan, 52.

The Washington Post ran a story last week (May 15) about how the Trump administration is implementing a policy separating children from their parents or other relatives if they are caught trying to enter the U.S. without the standing to do so legally. The headline read: “Trump administration preparing to hold immigrant children on military bases.” It was featured under the topical by-line “NATIONAL SECURITY”, a problematic choice I will return to because it merits criticism about the role of the mainstream media in normalizing Trumpian national security policies.

Many of these families are from indigenous and working-class communities in Central America and Mexico and are fleeing the effects of decades of U.S. foreign, military, and trade policies associated with the violence of neoliberal shock doctrines in place since the early 1970s.

The idea of splitting up families apprehended and detained during unauthorized border crossings is one facet of an over-reaching and over-arching fully-militarized policy of direct repression of people in transmotion based on an ultra-nationalist ideology that declares white people must defend their imagined homeland from threatening (criminal, unintelligent, unassimilable) others. This from the descendants of the true invaders and settler colonists.

It must be noted this draconian measure has a longer history. During the Obama Administration in 2012, there were cases of young children in foster care for two years or longer, while parent(s) languished in federal detainment facilities awaiting deportation for being in the country without legal status (see the report by Ryan J. Stanton in the Ann Arbor News, April 15, 2012).

We can go deeper and mention the history of Native American children forced into missionary boarding schools to be stripped of their language and cultural memory. Xicanxs also faced forced deculturation in Americanization classrooms, often staged in the broom closet for “special ed” kids. It would seem white America has a problem with a nasty history of basically kidnapping or segregating and then mistreating other people’s children. Surely the courts will find this constitutes cruel and unusual punishment to the children and their relatives? We will have to wait and see how the policy unfolds and is challenged.

I wish to make two points about the split-the-children-from-their-parents policy: First, a point about the deplorable base of racists, white supremacists, and other telluric partisans mobilized by Trumpian racism: They may be ‘nativists’ but they sure as hell are not native.

We must end the self-righteous legitimizing narrative and brand it as false before the public discourse and popular imagination. This will starve the white supremacists of the type of resentiment they need to thrive. Everyone needs to remind white people how many are descendants of violent and interloping settler colonial populations and other less fortunate arrivants whose genealogies are not indigenous to the Western Hemisphere, unlike Mexicans, Guatemalans, and others with millennial indigenous roots across the entire continent and who now face the terror of the status of illegality.

Now about the Washington Post topic by-line of NATIONAL SECURITY. The only way I can see this as a national security issue is by noting how the regime in the White House is violating the constitutional rights of children and their relatives. This a threat to the prospects for security in democracy in a settler colonial nation-state bent on exercising the constituted power of white supremacists. The by-line follows the Trumpian logic of misconstructing immigration law reduced to a policy analog of national security. This has been part of a decades-old discursive strategy seeking to criminalize all immigrants by misrecognizing them as the moral equivalents of terrorists in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. This is especially painful and harmful to displaced indigenoustransborder travelers who are only guilty of trying to escape death squads, narco-drug cartels, and other forms of structural violence unleashed by neoliberal shock doctrine policies of all recent U.S. administrations including Obama and Clinton had she won (never forget Berta Caceres).

Our social justice movements must foment awareness of these facts and punctuate the narrative by focusing attention on the legal and political consequences of the criminalization of those displaced by the American empire.

Second, this sort of draconian action has happened before. The case of the legal targeting of children as part of the pogroms of the Nazis in Germany is instructive to the point that it renders the question – is Trumpian ideology a form of fascism? – moot. This does not mean the U.S. is fascist. It does suggest we have an Executive intent on being a charismatic strong man like the killer Duterte he so admires and is a threat to any future, strongly indigenized, democratic prospects.

On being the new ‘Rhineland Bastards’

Ina Friedman is among the historians and social scientists focused on the “other victims” of Nazi laws. She notes how it was not just Jewish children who were affected but rather “…the lives of black children, who were the offspring of German women and African soldiers stationed in the Rhineland after World War I. Many of these so-called ‘Rhineland Bastards’ were picked up from the streets or from classrooms and sterilized, often without anesthesia. Due to the application of the “Law for the Prevention of Off-spring with Hereditary Defects,” which was passed in 1933, approximately 400 of these children were deprived of their right to reproduce.”

Following the Kristallnacht pogrom (commonly known as “The Night of Broken Glass”) on November 9-10, 1938, Nazi legislation barred Jews from all public schools and universities, as well as from cinemas, theaters, and sports facilities. In many cities, Jews were forbidden to enter designated “Aryan” zones. Sound familiar? (as recounted in The Holocaust Encyclopedia).

Let us therefore resolve to understand how #BlackLivesMatter, #Not1More, and similar movements are justified forms of civil disobedience against the real existing threat of daily lived violence at the hands of white telluric partisans, who are like the Schmitt irregulars, white men like Zimmerman who murdered Trayvon and got away with it because grandma had her way with stand you ground laws in Florida.

Illustrating this will further empower our indigenous social justice movements to challenge as unfounded, the claims over the policing and regulation of citizenship as articulated by fake telluric partisans with their questionable status as righteous natives. By overthrowing the nativist mythos and revealing the settler colonial origins of Trumpian white nationalism we may take a vital step across racially-politicized and polarized differences to advance movement toward a rethinking and indigenized  remaking of the very meaning of citizenship and territory. There really is nothing more repugnant than the children of invaders assuming the position of the elemental telluric force. The only telluric partisans in this conflict are the indigenous peoples of this hemisphere.

It is worth recalling Carl Schmitt in The Theory of the Partisan on the nature of the telluric partisan for it reveals how compelling the need is for us to challenge the delusion of nativity used by the deplorable base of white nationalists to justify the violence encouraged by the current strongman in the White House:

The partisan has then a real, but not an absolute enemy. That proceeds from his political character. Another boundary of enmity follows from the telluric character of the partisan. He defends a patch of earth to which he has an autochthonic relation. His basic position remains defensive despite his increasing mobility. He comports himself just as St. Joan of Arc did before her ecclesiastical court of judgment. She was not a partisan; she fought the English in a regular way. When asked a theological trick question by the judge—whether she claimed God hated the English—she responded: “Whether God loved or hated the English, I do not know, I only know that they must be driven out of France.”We have a choice: Allow the friend and enemy distinction to continue functioning as a primary driver of white nationalist politics, or reclaim our status as the true telluric partisans who really are the natives in this world-transformative dispute. We are the Helots among the Spartans at the gates of Athens, all elemental and fiercely grounded in our, for now, transborder homeland.

Original Article Appeared in Mexmigration

Summer 2018 – Vol. 43 No. 1

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