Subject: ON HISTORICAL LESSONS AND OTHER EXISTENTIAL EXERCISES : FROM
THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS AND
13 May 2004
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
We at The Grenoble Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions
and Social Movements
are still receiving mail on the resistance and political repression inside the United States.
Various nationalist ideologies around the world are spewing doctrines
of national superiority and
metaphysical neutrality, while new prisons are being built every day to incarcerate those incorrigible
enemies of imperialism who have not been outright murdered. Meanwhile, the trivialization of
historical experience has become a main feature in the global entertainment industry, which has
imprisoned the rest of us to varying degrees.
The savants of the 1930s are again à la mode. Like our own era,
it was a period when corporations
around the world had hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the empire (Nazi Germany)
because of the high quarterly dividends. Foreign investment in American military industries was a
topic of discussion at our Third International Conference in Grenoble on "The Contemporary State
of American Political Culture".
Is anti-Americanism the new international capitalist ideology ? was one question raised last month, at the April Conference on the University of Grenoble campus. Isolate the resistance movement inside the United States, and at the same time enhance international investment opportunities in the U.S. military industries, which are blue chip stock options today. As one student of American Studies at the Grenoble Conference observed last month, the system is plastic --a "fail safe system" which cannot break, and nationalism is a wonderful way to fall asleep. . . .
Below, please read item A, the article forwarded to us by Professor Richard DuBoff, offering an unpleasant reminder of a rude awakening in the 1940s.
Item B is an article about a phenomenon
which is becoming a right of passage in the United States, i.e. the social
status of having experienced a prison term in contemporary America.
As always, if you would like to be removed from this mailing list, please
state so by return mail.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
from Professor Richard DuBoff :
The University of Pennsylvania
The Night and Fog Decree (Nacht-und-Nebel Erlass) was issued by the
Führer on December 7, 1941 to
seize "persons endangering German security," who were not to be executed immediately but were to vanish
without a trace. It was applied against members of the resistance in western Europe. About 7,000 people,
mostly French resistance fighters, were murdered in this operation.
The Führer and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces: [stamp] SECRET
Directives for the prosecution of offences committed within the occupied
territories against the German State or the occupying
power, of December 7th, 1941:
Within the occupied territories, communistic elements and other circles
hostile to Germany have increased their efforts against the nGerman State
and the occupying powers since the Russian campaign started. The amount
and the danger of these machinations oblige us to take severe measures
as a determent. . . . Prisoners taken to Germany are subjected to
military procedure only if particular military interests require this.
In case German or foreign authorities inquire about such prisoners, they
are to be told that they were arrested, but that the proceedings do not
allow any further information.
State of the Union Message, President George W. Bush, January 28, 2003:
"All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in
many countries. Many others have met a different fate. Let's put
it this way -- they are no longer a problem to the United States and our
friends and allies." (Applause)
from Professor Francis Feeley :
The University of Grenoble
US notches world's highest incarceration rate
by Gail Russell Chaddock
The Christian Science Monitor
(WASHINGTON)More than 5.6 million Americans are in prison or have served
time there, according to a new report by the
Justice Department released Sunday. That's 1 in 37 adults living in the United States, the highest incarceration level in the world.
It's the first time the US government has released estimates of the
extent of imprisonment, and the report's statistics have broad
implications for everything from state fiscal crises to how other nations view the American experience.
If current trends continue, it means that a black male in the United
States would have about a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison
during his lifetime. For a Hispanic male, it's 1 in 6; for a white male, 1 in 17.
The numbers come after many years of get-tough policies - and years when violent-crime rates have generally fallen. But to some observers, they point to broader failures in US society, particularly in regard to racial minorities and others who are economically disadvantaged.
"These new numbers are shocking enough, but what we don't see are the
ripple effects of what they mean: For the generation of black children
today, there's almost an inevitable aspect of going to prison," says Marc
Mauer, assistant director of The
Sentencing Project, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington. "We have the wealthiest society in human history, and we maintain the highest level of imprisonment. It's striking what that says about our approach to social problems and inequality."
Numbering in the millions.
Justice Department analysts say that experts in criminal justice have long known of the stark disparities in prison experience, but
they have never been as fully documented. By the end of year 2001, some 1,319,000 adults were confined in state or federal
prisons. An estimated 4,299,000 former prisoners are still alive, the new report concludes.
"What we are seeing is a substantial involvement of the public in the
criminal-justice system. It raises a lot of questions in the
national dialogue on everything from voting and sentencing to priorities related to state's expenditures," says Allen Beck, chief of
correction statistics at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, who directed the report.
Nor does the impact of incarceration end with the sentence. Former inmates
can be excluded from receiving public assistance,
living in public housing, or receiving financial aid for college. Ex-felons are prohibited from voting in many states. And with the
increased use of background checks - especially since 9/11 - they may be permanently locked out of jobs in many professions,
including education, child care, driving a bus, or working in a nursing home.
Enfranchisement for ex-felons.
More than 4 million prisoners or former prisoners are denied a right to vote; in 12 states, that ban is for life.
"That's why racial profiling has become such a priority issue for African-Americans,
because it is the gateway to just such a
statistic," says Yvonne Scruggs- Leftwich, chief operating officer of the Black Leadership Forum, in Washington. "It means that
large numbers in the African-American community are disenfranchised, sometimes permanently."
Some states are already scaling back prohibitions or limits on voting
affecting former inmates, including Maryland, Delaware,
New Mexico, and Texas.
In addition, critics say that efforts to purge voting rolls of former felons could lead to abuses, and effectively disenfranchise many minority voters.
"On the day of the 2000 [presidential] election, there were an estimated 600,000 former felons who had completed their sentence yet because of Florida's restrictive laws were unable to vote," says Mr. Mauer of the Sentencing Project.
The new report also informs - but does not settle - one of the toughest
debates in American politics: whether high rates of
imprisonment are related to a drop in crime rates over the past decade.
The prison population has quadrupled since 1980. Much of that surge
is the result of public policy, such as the war on drugs and mandatory
minimum sentencing. Nearly 1 in 4 of the inmates in federal and state prisons
are there because of drug-related
offenses, most of them nonviolent.
New drug policies have especially affected incarceration rates for women, which have increased at nearly double the rate for men since 1980. Nearly 1 in 3 women in prison today are serving sentences for drug-related crimes.
"A lot of people think that the reason crime rates have been dropping
over the past several years is, in part, because we're
incarcerating the people most likely to commit crimes," says Stephan Thernstrom, a historian at Harvard University.
Others say the drop has more to do with factors such as a generally
healthy economy in the 1990s, more opportunity for urban
youth, or better community policing.
But no one disagrees that prison experience will be a part of the lives
of more and more Americans. By 2010, the number of
American residents in prison or with prison experience is expected to jump to 7.7 million, or 3.4 percent of all adults, according
to the new report.
(c) Copyright 2004 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research at CEIMSA
Université de Grenoble-3