Representative Alexandria Occasion-Cortez, of New York, recently called the U.S. detention camps for migrants “concentration camps.” She caused quite a stir by so saying. I have been saying the same thing for months. I feel that it is a complete moral outrage for the American government to detain these men, women, and children in these camps.
Now we are arguing over the terminology. In my view a thing ought to be called what it is. And these camps are clearly concentration camps. The meet the technical definition. Historian Andrea Pitzer has made the same assertion in her piece in Esquire magazine: “The United States has created a concentration system.” She argues that mass detention of civilians without a trail was what made these concentration camps. The full text of AOC’s tweet reads as follows: “This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States, for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying. This is not hyperbole. It is the conclusion of expert analysis.”
Strange bedfellows Liz Cheney and Bill Maher condemned the remarks as being emotionally laden with memories and connotations of the holocaust. Masha Gessen, writing in the New Yorker, says this is a failure of imagination. We don’t’ want or cannot imagine a world where we as a people would be evil enough to place human beings in the same predicament as the Nazis did in WWII. Well, I agree with Green and I disagree with Bill Maher. Maher every once in a while, strikes a sour note and sings out of tune. It is surprising coming from a fellow who wears his political incorrectness on his sleeve like a red badge of courage.
These camps meet the technical definition of concentration camps, and so what if it brings up images and memories of the holocaust? It doesn’t devalue it. Rather, it shrieks out a warning, do not go there! It should be a warning that this is what we are capable of, the same thing the Nazis did in WWII. This what Hannah Arendt describes as the banality of evil.
We have to have the moral imagination to realize what we are doing is wrong and can lead to greater evil. We need to make a course correction now!