Human Zoos in the Age of Trump

Colonialism

So many decades later, it’s easy enough to condemn such offenses. More difficult and painful is to ask what injustices are happening now that we take to be as normal as human zoos (or the disempowerment of women and child slavery) were just a few generations ago. Is it the thoughtless annihilation of immeasurable species, the plundering of nature, the loss of wisdom stored for millennia by ethnic groups that are fast disappearing? Is it the punitive incarceration of millions, so many lives wasted?

Is it our incredibly counterproductive “war on drugs” that unnecessarily ravages cities, nations, and lives? Or our inability to rid ourselves of the plague of nuclear proliferation, the brutality of widespread hunger, America’s endless wars, the detention centers for immigrants and their children in this country, the spectacle of undocumented minors shut up in cages and crying for their parents, or the overflowing refugee camps elsewhere in the world?

And what of so many children displaced in their war-torn lands or incarcerated in poverty? Where is the indignation about them? Who marches to have them released from their structural captivity? And who even noticed the 10,000 children murdered or maimed in armed conflicts in 2017 alone, deaths invisible to us if you didn’t happen to catch a brief news item quickly forgotten?

In reality, those human zoos of the not-so-distant past pose a terrifying question for us: What everyday horrors of our world will our descendants look back on with disgust in the future? How, they will wonder, could their ancestors have been so blind as to condone such transgressions against humaneness and humanity?

Ariel Dorfman, an emeritus professor of literature at Duke and a TomDispatch regular, is the author of the play Death and the Maiden, a recent book of essays Homeland Security Ate My Speech: Messages From the End of the World, and a new novel, Darwin’s Ghosts. He lives with his wife in Durham, North Carolina, and in their native Chile.

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