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!
Recently a couple of my Facebook friends have used Prager University to support their political points. Once in reference to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and once in reference to the electoral college. In response I would make the three following points:
- Prager University is not a University but rather a right-wing propaganda mill. As such it has no credibility in academic discourse.
- The United States is a federal republic and a constitutional representative democracy. To say it is one and not the other is simply wrong.
- The electoral college was driven in part by slavery. The 3/5’s compromise was enacted to count slaves as 3/5’s of a person in order to give slaveholding states more power based on population, although these slaves couldn’t vote. The Three-Fifths Compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution which reads: Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
The electoral college is a shameful holdover from these times. It is said to protect minorities, but in modern times this means protecting whites from being ruled by people of color. Either way it is based on a racist outlook, is morally reprehensible, and must be abolished in order to provide free and fair elections by the majority of the people. One has to go no further than former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, who said that white people would be hurt if Maine joins other states in an effort to reduce the impact of the Electoral College. “Actually, what would happen if they do what they say they’re going do is white people will not have anything to say,” LePage said during an interview with WVOM radio. “It’s only going to be the minorities that would elect. It would be California, Texas, Florida.”
Five times a candidate has won the popular vote and lost the election. Andrew Jackson in 1824 (to John Quincy Adams); Samuel Tilden in 1876 (to Rutherford B. Hayes); Grover Cleveland in 1888 (to Benjamin Harrison); Al Gore in 2000 (to George W. Bush); Hillary Clinton in 2016 (to Donald J. Trump).