This semester I am teaching a course I’m calling “Thinking with Arendt.” The question of the course follows from Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: if failing to think enables us to do great evil, what is it about thinking that leads us to live well? A corollary of this question is what are the ways that we think about other people that allow us to dehumanize them to the point where we can justify actively killing them or letting them go to their deaths? I’ve been teaching Eichmann as discussions about US immigration policy and border security are underway ahead of a deadline today for funding the federal government and I’m finding that second question particularly pressing.
First, I should say that it continues to boggle my mind that people in the interior of the United States talk about the need for a border wall, when there IS A BORDER WALL at much of the parts of the border that can be walled. Above is a photograph of part of the wall at the Hidalgo County Pumphouse that I took when I was living in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. The wall purposefully does not cover the whole border because it is meant to funnel people crossing to places where the border patrol can focus. The existence of the wall in the face of the discussions of it demonstrate the extent to which people in the interior are far removed from the reality of the border. People who live at the border don’t want a wall and they have long been mad about the way the current wall has destroyed ecosystems and public spaces. Read more