I haven’t written publicly about the brouhaha that erupted when Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez referred to the detention facilities on the southern border as “concentration camps.”
But my personal feeling is that if she was guilty of any sin with that reference it wasn’t maligning the memory of the Holocaust, but rather consciously using a phrase that she likely knew would seize attention – although she did so in the cause of concern for asylum seekers.
But was that really wrong?
A thought experiment to entertain:
Imagine if it were Jews, not Guatemalans, who were fleeing abject poverty and violence in their country and arriving at the US border, and who were relegated to guarded camps, without adequate provisions and with even small children separated from their parents. And then some activist Jewish public figure used the term “concentration camp” to refer to the outrage. Would he be roundly condemned for having desecrated the memory of the victims of the Holocaust?
Maybe he would. But I very much doubt it.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was not equating the current situation at the border with the Holocaust. She was just using rhetoric that (as she and others have noted) was not inaccurate (since “concentration camps” is a phrase used for any such confinement, including of Japanese citizens during WW II) and which she hoped would call attention to the plight of refugees today.
Anyone who believes she is insensitive to Jewish concerns or Israel is welcome to view her use of the phrase as an outrage. To me, though, the real outrage is how readily some of us fall into the cesspool of political brawling and knee-jerk accusations that have come to characterize our country of late.