As The World Turns

Sankar Chatterjee



           Federal court judge Honorable James Goldberg could not believe what he had been hearing from the lead government prosecutor Mr. Barry Smith, on the stand in front of him. This case was brought before the court by a human rights watchdog group. The group was representing several detained migrant families from neighboring poor nations. They had entered the country illegally fleeing poverty, violence, and religious persecution in their respective homelands. But before they could file petitions for asylum, the current xenophobic administration stopped them at the border and decided to punish the families. Thus their small children were separated forcibly, placing them in faraway detention centers. 

           Fortunately, the free press has still been operational in the land. A few brave journalists and photographers from the country’s leading newspapers, receiving anonymous tips, followed the events and then broke the story accompanied with secretly-taken photographs. A countrywide uproar ensued, forcing the government to begin the process of reuniting the children to their parents. And that is when many parents, themselves detained, started to complain that the children were in a state of daze, even not remembering the parents. On inquiring, the children mentioned the forced-administration of different kinds of medical pills in order to make them behave “properly.” Nobody had ever contacted the parents for their permission. Children also reported the absence of social workers.

           Now, in front of Judge Goldberg, Mr. Smith argued that instead of labeling the holding places as “detention centers,” they should be termed more like “summer camps.” He also acknowledged that indeed, “In the name of medicine, some sugar pills were given to some unruly children to calm them down, all sanctioned by camp-doctors.” Judge Goldberg, himself a Holocaust survivor, suddenly remembered the moment of his arrival at Auschwitz death camp. Coming out of the box-car, down the ramp of the platform, he was greeted by two viciously barking chained German shepherds. A few yards away, Dr. Josef Mengle, the “angel of death” was selecting his adult subjects as well as twin children for his macabre medical experiments. 

           Before this trial began, Judge Goldberg met some of the detained children inside his chamber. He had no doubt they had been treated with some kind of psychotropic medicines, thus altering their moods and mental balances. A few had gained weight, a well-known side-effect of those medicines.

           As Mr. Smith finished, Judge Goldberg allowed Mr. John Harris, the plaintiff lawyer, to take the stand. He produced a well-taped and reconstructed shredded document, recovered by one of the investigative journalists from the garbage bin located behind the detention facility. He handed the document over to the judge who then read it loudly for the court. It was a list of medicines dispensed from the center’s pharmacy over past few months. All of them were brand-named psychotropic drugs including Xoloft, Klonapine, and similar ones. A hush descended inside the court room.

           Judge Goldberg suddenly remembered the moment he was liberated from the death camp.  He uttered to himself, “And this was led by this same country!”



Sankar Chatterjee possesses the passion for traveling worldwide to immerse in new cultures and customs to discover the forgotten history of the societies while attempting to find the common thread that connects the humanity as a whole for its continuity. His most recent essays appeared in Foliate Oak, Wilderness House Literary Review, Door is a Jar, Subtle Fiction, The Write Launch, and Parentheses (in press), among others elsewhere.

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