The image above is, of course, taken from The Twilight Zone of happy memory. It occurs to me that American television hasn't done any better than this series, especially when it tries to imitate it. The concept has been used since then often enough, but it's too familiar now to have any real effect.
Nonetheless, there's reason enough to believe that we earth creatures should be locked away for our own safety and that of others inhabiting this planet, and in fact for the safety of the planet itself. We're a singularly destructive species and are far more destructive than any other animal. Some of us are locked away, of course. We do that to our own kind. We do a great deal to our own kind. Being so minded, we don't hesitate to inflict pain and confinement on the other miserable occupants of this world.
What distinguishes us from the other animals which kill, maim and destroy here is not merely our greater ability to do so, however. It's the fact that unlike them, when we do harm we're not driven by instinct or hunger or the effort to survive in most cases. We want to inflict harm and intentionally destroy others; we take pleasure in it or are indifferent to it. We are, in a word, cruel.
Although Stoics have popularly been thought callous and indifferent, it should be clear that a true Stoic can't be cruel. In order to be cruel, a person must be disturbed by or desire things outside/his her control. In fact, just about every negative feeling or action has its basis in our attachment to such things. We hate others for what they are or do or think or say, although they are not within our control. We desire or fear things not in out control, and therefore steal or seek to possess them as most efficiently we can or avoid or destroy them. We require that others do what we want them to do, despite the fact they're not in our control. None of this would take place if we sought only to do the best we can with what is in our control.
We can concern ourselves unduly with things outside our control without being cruel, however. Cruelty requires something more of us. Not only do we want to control what isn't in our control, we want to do so in a way which we know will inflict unnecessary harm or pain because it pleases us or because we don't care that unnecessary harm and pain will occur as a result of our action. The cruel person isn't just misguided. The cruel person is evil.
Cruelty has always been a human trait, but there are times when we are, in general, more cruel than in others. The Nazis are thought to have been impressively cruel, for example. Were they cruel merely because they were evil? It may be they were convinced they were part of a master race and that the elimination of undesirables was for the greater good, or that certain peoples were inherently evil. Sometimes, the religious have acted cruelly. People of other religions or having no religion were burned and tortured for that reason by those who thought it necessary or appropriate. Does this mean they were evil? Or is it better to say they did evil things? Are people cruel if they believe the suffering of others is necessary in some peculiar sense?
Such fanaticism may be a cause of indifference to suffering imposed, but it doesn't follow that the suffering is pleasurable to those who impose it. What would seem needed in addition for a person to be cruel is the knowledge that the suffering they cause others is not necessary. The cruel person causes suffering for no reason but his/her own pleasure, or merely for the sake of causing others to suffer.
Is the apparent policy of the current government of our Glorious Republic to separate parents seeking to enter God's favorite county illegally from their children cruel? It plainly isn't necessary to prevent them from doing so; there are other means to do that--the Great Wall of the U.S. has yet to be built, but it is presumably an option. The separation obviously causes suffering. The law already provides penalties. This therefore is something more than imposing the penalties set out in the law for an illegal act. This is a punishment we've decided to impose in addition to those penalties.
These are questions which should be asked, issues which should be considered, by an honorable people.