The Fog Of History: Semantic Antics

Choosing sides between Liz Cheney and Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez isn’t difficult. The latter called Trump’s migrant detention centers, concentration camps, and the former denounced this characterization. It’s a bit rich coming from a woman whose father is a torture fan but that’s life in the Trump era. It’s a theatre of the absurd more confusing than the crazy house/hall of mirrors scene in The Lady From Shanghai:

There’s a nightmare of the Trump regime’s creation at our Southern border. I’m glad it’s back in the spotlight but the semantic antics on the right are diverting attention onto their current bete noire: AOC. The implication is that calling a concentration camp what it actually is makes AOC some sort of Holocaust denier/minimizer; a David Irving with better dance moves. This is, of course, toxic nonsense.

Many scholars of the period have pointed out the difference between Nazi concentration camps and death camps. One could justly call the camps in which Japanese American citizens were unjustly detained concentration camps. This circular discussion reminds me of an absurd scene in another classic 1940’s film, To Be Or Not To Be:

The bottom line is that the United States government is holding migrants in camps wherein conditions are so appalling that they’ve resulted in 24 deaths. Adding horrifying insult to egregious injury is that children are being separated from their parents; in many instances permanently. That’s what matters, not what you call the camps. Words are important but people’s lives are infinitely more so.

Adding to the crazy house aspect of this debate is that babies are being locked in cages in the name of the rule of law. It’s beyond hypocritical coming from an administration that’s engaged in obstruction of justice on myriad fronts. It’s a small leap from myriad to the hall of mirrors in the crazy house.

Crazy House Mirror Maze

Image by Greg Biermann.

There are three articles about the Cheney-AOC debate that I highly recommend:

Dahlia Lithwick & Susan Mathews: The AOC-Liz Cheney “Concentration Camp” Fight Might Just Be A Distraction.

Andrea Pitzer:  How The Trump Administration’s Border Camps Fit Into The History Of Concentration Camps.

Eric Levtiz: With Trump’s Migrant Camps, The History We Should Fear Repeating Is Our Own.

Levitz issues a reminder about America’s inglorious history at our Southern border:

…progressives shouldn’t need to invoke the Holocaust to place migrant-detention centers in their proper context. The border separating the United States from lands dominated by nonwhite peoples has been a site of white-nationalist violence since the founding of our republic. America’s southern border is itself an artifact of a war of conquest that our government launched against Mexico — an invasion that Ulysses S. Grant called “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.” According to General Winfield Scott, commander of U.S. forces during that war, American troops committed atrocities against Mexican civilians so egregious they would “make Heaven weep, & every American, of Christian morals blush for his country. Murder, robbery, & rape on mothers & daughters, in the presence of the tied up males of the families, have been common along the Rio Grande.” In the decades that followed, Klansmen, citizen’s militias, and the uniformed officers of the Texas Rangers regularly lynched Latinos whom they regarded as invaders or threats to America’s racial order and purity. This is the history that Trumpism emerged from; these are the atrocities it threatens to repeat. Before Americans likened the violence at our borders to the Nazis, the Nazis likened their conquest of Eastern Europe to the violence at our frontiers.

History has a funny way of repeating itself although the results themselves are rarely funny ha-ha. We’re currently trapped in a crazy house hall of mirrors and blinded by the fog of history. All the semantic antics in the world will not change that; only the voters can. Make it so.

Pondering the wingnutty reaction to AOC has given me an earworm. The last word goes to Bryan Ferry:

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