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The Cages We Built

by Stephanie Keesee about a year ago in opinion
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Americas Concentration Camps

The media can dress up the situation to sound as humane and as it wants but there is no denying that right now our country looks like an uncontrolled child of Nazi Germany.

We have people who are being segregated, thrown into camps, sentenced for their very existence, denied proper medical care, forcibly being sterilized, and abused. How is this not like Nazi Germany?

The recipe for genocide is one that starts with propaganda produced by those in power telling the citizens of a community that there is an imminent threat to the country, their wellbeing, their status, and finances in the form of a people group who can be separated by a physical characteristic, cultural practice, or religion. This propaganda starts subtly at first with suggestions that somehow the group of people are less deserving of what the rest of the citizens have.

Do not believe me? Go read “The Lucifer Effect” by Phillip Zimbardo which describes what happened in Rwanda and how a group of people who were neighbors, friends and family turned on one another to the extent of mutilation, murder, rape, and destruction.

Many think that the Hutu turned on the Tutsi of their own accord but what really happened was carefully constructed propaganda. On one side the Hutus were told the Tutsi wanted to take what they had, and the Tutsi were told the Hutu hated them and sought to destroy them. The Hutu were given privilege by those in power and the Tutsi were oppressed creating an uprising and reaction from the Tutsi out of survival. The Hutu then reacted with violent genocide. Survivors would go on to explain that they could not understand how they were able to commit such atrocities because prior to the conflict the citizens were unified.

We are the Hutu and they are the Tutsi. There is no difference between myself and a person in one of those camps. None.

Forced sterilization is a form of genocide because when you perform such an action you are cutting off an entire ancestral line and the implications carry on for hundreds of years.

We have had the same pattern occur right in front of us in the last 15 years. America used to have several dedicated cities for refugees and be considered a haven for those who wish to move and enjoy the “joys of capitalistic opportunity”. Please apply as much sarcasm as possible here.

Media has blamed immigrants for our country’s problems for years. They have not ruined our country.

None of us cared when we began seeing propaganda talking about “illegal aliens” and their “damage to the American job market.” No one noticed when our media was flooded with fear mongering claims that all our jobs were being given to people overseas or to immigrants paid under the table.

I noticed, I listened to the stories of the people it was happening to.

They told me about how they had been in America for 10 years consistently doing all the things they were supposed to. Consistently trying to get citizenship and being denied. The reasons ranged from the test being more complex than even a college educated American could pass to not having the time to take classes necessary to study for the insanely difficult test. Most had families they were supporting back home. Many had families in America they had started. They went to church, they paid their taxes, they jumped through all the hoops. Many could not access social services due to the amount of money they made or complications with their status or discrimination experienced within the community when attempting to access services. Others could not participate in any programs for fear of their status being reported and worked multiple jobs to survive. Still fueling the American economy!

Most of those I met held degrees or certificates that in their country of origin gave them a significant social standing that could not be utilized in America because we refused to recognize their education. Yet, they were willing to work whatever job they could because of economic reasons or due to not desiring to return to conditions in their country of origin due to opportunity here.

The patriotism and enthusiasm for our country was nothing short of amazing to me.

Subtle changes were made to the law to target those who were from other countries that considers themselves and in action were indeed citizens of our communities.

Then came the changes in the laws that changed immigration status based on someone’s birth certificate resulting in families being broken, people being deported and gave law enforcement a legal way to target and remove hard working members of our communities from our midst sending some of them back to dangerous, oppressive environments.

These people were not criminals, we changed the law on them to make them in breech of it. Exactly the same thing done in the days of slavery when America invited everyone over to work and then changed the laws to enslave all black community members ensuring all would be taken into chattel slavery.

Yet the character being portrayed in the media was this heinous liar who snuck into the country committing all sorts of crimes sucking up all our tax money.

James Baldwin summed up what is happening right now as we destroy the very people who were the foundation of America’s economic prosperity.

“There is nothing in the evidence offered by the book of the American republic, which allows me really to argue with the cat who says to me, “They needed us to pick the cotton, and now they don’t need us anymore. Now they don’t need us, they’re gonna kill us all off, just like they did the Indians”

JAMES BALDWIN

An analogous situation occurred in Nazi Germany. The propaganda started with targeting subtly, through various forms of media groups that were considered lesser with the theme that the groups were a threat to the pride and vitality of Germany. This was done on the heels of a profoundly serious economic crisis. The propaganda asserted that if Germans would support those in power with removing those that were a threat to the nation from the country then the country would prosper.

A particular piece of propaganda portrayed Romani and Jewish citizens as dangerous criminals creating chaos in the community which sounds a lot like the propaganda we have been fed about immigrants. Churches and schools were the primary sources of spreading this propaganda into the community. By the time the Nazis began to round people up the German people had become so convinced that these “invaders” and “criminals” were the source of the country’s economic hardship that they participated enthusiastically in doing so.

The immigrant community cried out for our help and NO ONE listened. Instead we jumped on the wagon because propaganda told us that our American privilege, country, and economy were being threatened.

Meanwhile the people who were our neighbors, co-workers, employees, friends, church members and community members were rounded up and shipped out of the country or worse, detained for indefinite periods of time.

War raged on the boarder and all manner of insane activity happened. Mass graves in abundance and so many deaths of adults and children. Women have been disappearing; being trafficked.

Then we want to act surprised when a white supremacist tells us there will be a boarder erected.

We want to act surprised when these same people are thrown into cages, abused and now forcibly sterilized.

Well I have news for you, this did not happen overnight and each American had a hand in building those cages.

WE built those cages when we stayed silent as families were broken. WE built those cages when we did not advocate for the immigrant community who cried out for justice when their tests became impossible and police began targeting them. We built those cages when we began treating our neighbors as enemies.

We can get mad at those in power all we want but in truth we have all taken part in the oppression, dehumanization, and abuse of our citizens by calling them “illegal.”

If we are not careful this situation will only grow worse and if we do not begin to come to the aid of our citizens they could be the next target for genocide because when America begins to suffer financially it uses slaves to relieve that pressure. Right now, those in these concentration camps are in a vulnerable position to be used for such relief and all the red flags for a genocide, slavery and mass oppression are present

It is our responsibility, and it starts with changing how we view immigration.

Immigrants are American citizens regardless of their status.

Our priority right now in the BIPOC, LGBTQIA, Feminist, Humanist, Environmentalist, Liberal and any other sort of human rights centered community needs to be coming together to protest and take action against what is happening to our fellow human beings.

I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot afford

to believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group.

And I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these

forces of discrimination, .wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they

appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.

-Audrey Lorde ‘There is no Hierarchy of Oppression’

If history has shown anything that we can learn from, it is the fact that supremacy in any form, does not stop with one group. Left unchecked it can cost billions of lives. If they lock them in cages, make no mistake, they are willing to lock you up as well once your existence becomes a convenient target to accomplish whatever ends their desires are focused on.

Because they are us. We are them.

What the Germans and the Hutus discovered after the fact was that those they destroyed were no different from themselves. I suspect decades from now America will look back on this moment and realize the monstrosity that our greed and selfishness has created. By then, it will be too late; we have already lost lives. Futures have already been crushed in the form of the removal of the sacred cradle of life itself.

Photo by Jimmy Chan from Pexels

opinion

About the author

Stephanie Keesee

I write poetry, short stories in the genres of children's fiction, adult sci-fi/fantasy and horror. On occasion I may write cultural commentaries, inspirational articles, how to articles and fashion related articles.

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