I can’t stop thinking about this passage from Masha Gessen’s essay, The Unimaginable Reality of American Concentration Camps:
We learn to think of history as something that has already happened, to other people. Our own moment, filled as it is with minutiae destined to be forgotten, always looks smaller in comparison. As for history, the greater the event, the more mythologized it becomes. Despite our best intentions, the myth becomes a caricature of sorts. Hitler, or Stalin, comes to look like a two-dimensional villain—someone whom contemporaries could not have seen as a human being. The Holocaust, or the Gulag, are such monstrous events that the very idea of rendering them in any sort of gray scale seems monstrous, too. This has the effect of making them, essentially, unimaginable. In crafting the story of something that should never have been allowed to happen, we forge the story of something that couldn’t possibly have happened. Or, to use a phrase only slightly out of context, something that can’t happen here.
Of course it is happening here. Right this minute thousands of children are being held, without their parents, in federal custody. The detention centers that house them have been inadequately prepared to provide even the most basic resources of beds or soap or toothbrushes or diapers.
In the face of government-sanctioned cruelty and human rights abuses, what do we do? Here are four things:
Log your complaint against the abuses happening at the Southern border with the folks elected to represent you. If you need a script, here’s a place to start:
I’m concerned about the reports coming out of detention centers along our southern border. I’m asking that [my representative] (1) remove children from Customs and Border Patrol detention, immediately, and (2) pass legislation mandating national uniform standards for the care of detained children.*
*These demands come via journalist Jessica Yellin and her interview with from W. Warren Binford, law professor and one of the attorneys who visited with migrant children at detainment centers in Texas.
Here’s a shortlist of non-profit organizations involved in active work to stop the abuses happening at the southern border of the United States and to support the refugee children and families at risk in the care of our government. (For an expanded list of organizations, The Texas Tribune recently updated a 2018 story with additional organizations working to care for the influx of immigrants crossing the Texas-Mexico border.)
As some of you might remember, this time last year this community raised more than $24,000 to send to RAICES. I’m looking into a more streamlined and simple way to collect the spare change and modest sums that made up the majority of that donation. Stay tuned…
On Friday, July 12, 2019 attend a Lights for Liberty Vigil to End Human Detention Camps. Events to protest the inhumane conditions faced by refugees are being planned at detention centers and in cities and towns across the country. Plan to join an organized vigil in your community or organize one of your own.
Knowledge is power. Don’t turn away from the stories, even when they take your breath and turn your stomach.
+ Everything We Know About the Inhumane Conditions at Migrant Detention Camps, New York Magazine