By Henry A. Giroux, From Truthout
The following essay is excerpted from the preface to Henry Giroux's "Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror" (Paradigm Publishers 2010).
Since the turn of the twenty-first century, we have lived through a historical period in which the United States relinquished its tenuous claim to democracy. The frames through which democracy apprehends others as human beings worthy of respect, dignity, and human rights were sacrificed to a mode of politics and culture that simply became an extension of war, both at home and abroad. At home, the punishing state increasingly replaced the welfare state, however ill conceived, as more and more individuals and groups were now treated as disposable populations, undeserving of those safety nets and basic protections that provide the conditions for living with a sense of security and dignity. Under such conditions, basic social supports were replaced by an accelerated production of prisons, the expansion of the criminal justice system into everyday life, and the further erosion of crucial civil liberties. Shared responsibilities gave way to shared fears, and the only distinction that seemed to resonate in the culture was between friends and patriots, on the one hand, and dissenters and enemies, on the other. State violence not only became acceptable, it was normalized as the government spied on its citizens, suspended the right of habeas corpus, sanctioned police brutality against those who questioned state power, relied on the state secrets privilege to hide its crimes, and increasingly reduced public spheres designed to protect children to containment centers and warehouses that modeled themselves after prisons.