Kids are Dying in US Camps & the US Holocaust Museum is Wrong

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Guys, I’m going off-script. I mean, not really, there will be a transcript because I know some of you hate watching videos. But what I mean is that this video isn’t about science or critical thinking. Well, I guess you can say it’s about critical thinking because critical thinking can be applied to anything, but the point is: this is straight up about human rights, and about how I can’t have any kind of platform and not use it to shout that the United States is running concentration camps and we have to do something to stop it.

Surly Amy made a great post on Skepchick if you need the background on what’s happening but essentially, families immigrate to the United States and US officials have separated the children and teens and locked them up in shocking, unlivable conditions. We’re talking 10-year olds caring for toddlers who don’t have diapers and are just peeing on the floor, where they’re all expected to sleep with no cushions and with the lights on all night. We’re talking about a lack of nutritious food. There are flu and lice epidemics. Multiple kids have died. These kids who have no idea what’s happening or if they’re ever going to see their families again. And Immigration and Customs Enforcement, aka ICE, could move these kids out and place them with their own family members in the United States but they choose not to. Why? It could just be apathy, or it could be because they want this. They want migrants to see these children being tortured so they won’t come here. They want them to know that the horrible life they’re trying to escape will only be worse here in the United States. Forget what the Statue of Liberty says about it.

Actually, I’d prefer you not forget because it’s so beautifully ironic: the Statue of Liberty is a mother, as defined in The New Collossus, the poem that graces her pedestal. Here is the poem in full:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

She’s a mother, welcoming the children who are seen as human trash, because this land offers a better life for them. The Mother of Exiles. And now, 140 years later, we are taking those exiles and locking them in cages. Literal children. 

It took me ages to write this video because just thinking that this is happening made me well up with tears and I had to take a break. I’m privileged to be able to take a break. I live in a beautiful home in a beautiful city without a real care in the world, while children are dying, unsupervised, without ever knowing if they’d see their parents again, with no one to hold them or comfort them or even lie to them and say “everything’s going to be alright.”

I won’t be one of those people who did nothing while the events that led up to the Holocaust happened under my nose. And yes, that is what’s happening. I don’t care if you call them concentration camps or detention camps. No, no one is gassing kids to death, yet, but the people bickering over the phrase “concentration camps” are only helping to distract and hide the horror of them. And yes, I’m including the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, which “rejects efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary.” Because, you know, what’s the point of remembering a horrific event if not to prevent it from happening in the future? I think George Santana had something to say about that.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum’s position may be surprising to you if you don’t already know that it is fully under the control of the current presidential administration, with the board members being mostly presidential appointees, with a handful of congresspeople thrown in. That’s always been the case, and it’s run into an issue with that before — in 2017 the museum commissioned a study that basically found that Obama didn’t do anything wrong in Syria. When academics pointed out the huge conflict of interest, they pulled the study down.

So yeah, it’s not quite as unbiased as, say, the myriad scholars of history who agree that these camps more than qualify for the “concentration camp” label, which by the way is not to be confused with “extermination camp.” 

Are we currently witnessing a Holocaust like the one we saw in the 1940s? No. But even the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s historian and archivist recognized the parallels between Trump’s migrant policies and the refugee crises of the 1930s and ‘40s. 

The fight over whether to call them concentration camps is pure polemics specifically designed to distract you from what is happening. 

One of the more frustrating things about having this debate on whether or not we are heading down a road to a Holocaust-like event is that if “our side,” the one that doesn’t want children dying in cages, “wins,” then conservatives will say, “See? No Holocaust happened! We were right.” If we “lose,” no one will notice until it’s too late, because if we accept children dying alone in cages, what will we accept next? At what point will society say, “Okay, that particular human rights abuse is too far”? We must stop it now. In the future they’ll say we were overreacting but at least that future won’t have dead migrant children in it.

Want to help? There are lots of good links on Surly Amy’s post. You can also check out Al Otro Lodo, who provide legal services for families separated at the border, and more worthy organizations listed here and here.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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