The banality of evil

Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem was subtitled A Report on the Banality of Evil — and she spent the rest of her life defending it.

Her point was simply this: Eichmann was a nebbish nobody, rather than the larger-than-life monster his crimes would suggest, and she believed his objection that he was simply following orders was sincere. That’s what good people do — right? Follow the orders of the lawfully ordained authority? Isn’t that, as our Attorney General recently reminded us, what the Bible — (allegedly) the supreme moral authority — says one should do?

If, instead of executing Jews, Eichmann had been ordered to make certain that every Jew in Germany received a cake on his birthday, why, he would have done that with the same unthinking, morally neutral efficiency. What Eichmann did was monstrous, but he was not himself a monster — he was disengaged and neutral; he had surrendered whatever manhood he ever had and debased himself to the level of a machine part that performs a task. (Like Abraham, come to think of it.)

And that, exactly, is what Arendt meant by the banality of evil — unthinking moral neutrality.

We now have a contemporary example of the banality of evil.

Girl with Down syndrome separated from mom at border

A 10-year-old Mexican girl with Down syndrome was separated from her mother while entering the US and put into a federal facility, Mexico’s foreign minister said Tuesday while denouncing the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” border policy.

Luis Videgaray said at least 21 Mexican kids have been separated from their parents in recent weeks, including the “heartbreaking case” of the 10-year-old girl — whose father is a legal US resident, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This should never have happened, though I don’t doubt that the ICE agent who oversaw this would say he was just following orders. Arendt would weep, as should we all.

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Not in my name, Mr. Trump

Mother Jones links to a pay-walled Wall Street Journal story that, if true, is a benchmark for squalid.

“There’s one particular heartbreaking case,” Mr. Videgaray said, referring to a ten-year-old girl with Down’s syndrome who was recently separated from her mother and 10-year old brother as they attempted to enter the U.S. The girl was sent to a facility in McAllen, while her mother was sent to Brownsville.

This shameless, craven Congress must be put out, so that Trump can be put out.

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Quote for the day

Families are ripped apart and children are left weeping by the fences constructed by government officials blindly following a regulation.

This illustrates something crucial about this administration. It is not populated by conservatives. It is populated by anti-liberal trolls. There’s a difference.

David Brooks

Exactly so. There is no longer a conservative party; there are left-leaners, and there are vandals.

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Immigration and the ‘war on drugs’

The most infuriating aspect of the past week of talk-talk-talk about the chaos on our southern border is that I haven’t heard anybody ask, Why are all these people abandoning their familiar homes, friends and families to come here?

A big reason is that the “war on drugs” has made criminal trafficking in narcotics fantastically profitable, with the result that Mexico, and numerous other countries throughout Central America, are teetering on the edge of being failed states.

Ironically, Richard Nixon’s original vision of the war on drugs emphasized shriveling the demand side, treating addiction as a medical problem, with the expectation that demand would dry-up and trafficking would cease. Unhappily, that has been forgotten, with the result that we spend billions attempting to interdict drugs — and weak governments have been destabilized by ruthless gangs chasing big money.

So their citizens flee to the country whose shortsighted policies contributed so much to making their own country uninhabitable, where they are put in cages. Nuts.

We need to get over the Puritan need to punish somebody for sin, and reclaim the original vision of the war on drugs: Drive down demand by treating addiction as a medical problem. We will be a generation, if we start today, before the tide of refugees wanes.

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Science-y tweet of the day

This also means that, since Jesus’ ascent to Heaven began only 2000-years ago, we ought to be able to use the Hubble Space Telescope to find Him and see how the trip is going.

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