By M. Francis Mirro
This was going to be an argument. I was going to try and convince you that our government’s use of concentration camps (and I won’t call them anything but) is so egregious. I first had to make the case that they were, in fact, concentration camps. But that would only serve to dignify and legitimize a counter argument that what is occurring all over this country under this administration is somehow not wrong, that it is somehow an execution of some twisted draconian justice, that those overcrowded cages we’ve all seen aren’t American concentration camps in the 21st Century.
I’ll admit, you don’t often hear debates over internment camps. I assume that’s probably because most countries which venture to keep human in chicken coops don’t typically allow for free speech. Tell me, is all that separates the “Great Experiment” from the imperial tyrants we love to deplore, that we have the privilege to argue over the semantics of what to call our privately owned and operated people pens?
We, as a country, have become so obsessed with winning. Our politics are no longer focused on the betterment, the care, or even the basic management of the country. All that matters is winning, winning to maintain power, winning just for the sake of saying you won. One party and their rich friends win and average Americans cheer and chant because they feel as though they won.
But when everything is a zero sum game, and all that matters is that the other guy we’ve labeled an enemy loses, we end up talking about real kids in real cages like it’s a normal partisan issue. We forget that all of human history has been made by people acting together towards some common good. How many of you, regardless of your political affiliations, can look at cold and dying children locked behind bars and dare say it is serving a greater good?
When your families came from the shores of Italy, Germany, Ireland, Russia, etc. came to this country seeking exactly what these families are, asylum for fear of their lives, did we inter them and refuse even a toothbrush? Our history is marred by black marks such as these, from slavery and Jim Crow, the Chinese Exclusion Act and the quota system, the Trail of Tears and systemic massacre of Native American Indians and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
I could go on all day. I could talk about the legal asylum system as a basic human right, about ports of entry, about how horrible the situation they are running from must be to travel thousands of miles into the buzz saw of the U.S. immigration system. Or about America’s continued contribution to destabilizing Latin America and helping to facilitate the need for refugees. I was going to do all that, but it’s like yelling into a void. If our positions are so unmovable, our hate so defining, then the American Experiment is already a failed one, and this, what was supposed to be an argument, is now a eulogy.