- By Erri De Luca, translated by Jim Hicks
Editor’s note: The rapid rise of arrogant, authoritarian power across the globe today is evident for all to see. In his recent blog post, Erri De Luca reflects on the criminal behavior of European leaders who promote policies on immigration which condemn thousands of innocents to die each year in the Mediterranean Sea. No one need be reminded how similarly heartless behavior today dominates the headlines in our America.
The Gospel According to Matthew tells of the Massacre of the Innocents. In an attempt to forestall a prophecy foretelling the birth of a king, Herod had all newborn children in the vicinity killed.
His precautionary measure failed, since the family unit he sought had been given political exile in Egypt—a country that didn’t differentiate between economic need and other hardships, a country that was prospering in its labors, thanks to their guests.
Herod became the brand name for a power willing to commit any crime whatsoever for personal gain.
For years now, in our own country there has been an ongoing massacre of innocents left to drown in the sea. These cases of drowning are described as shipwrecks, without specifying that they occur during calm seas where the absence of aid is premeditated. Everyone who was there for voluntary and humanitarian reasons has been harassed relentlessly—to the point where, as I write this note, no one is left.
In recent days, increasing animosity has been shown towards anyone, rescued or not, if they entrust their hopes for salvation to a Mediterranean crossing.
This animosity has risen to the level of scorn for the children who drown, a situation that brought to my mind Herod, its prototype. His infamous massacre went unpunished because power was in his hands.
Whether or not it is absolute, power does not spare children. Until recently, however, it hadn’t laughed at its massacre with a sneer on its face. The current case isn’t political, it’s certifiable. These people exhibit disturbances in their behavior due to an involuntary association with the human species. They would likely prefer to avoid such associations, but unfortunately this isn’t a roster you can resign from. Humanity will have to keep them.
And so, in our public sector, little Herods are popping up all over.
Massacres of innocents and their mothers in the Mediterranean are 'managed shipwrecks.' Our Herods murder by drowning.
Nonetheless, I doubt that, unlike their precursor, they will have a long career.
Erri De Luca is an Italian novelist, essayist, poet, and translator.
Jim Hicks is the executive editor of the Massachusetts Review