Camp is Always a Bad Idea: An Op-Ed


Photo Credit: Joshua Rubin

A ways back in my more naive college days (namely the year 2005), when pseudo-documentaries like Loose Change were passed around more than marijuana and Youtube was in its infancy, I looked to attach myself to almost anything that was against the W. Bush administration. I remember very vividly watching some clips of Alex Jones, being just as nutty and just as insulting to the senses, lambaste Bush for what he surmised as an upcoming return of concentration camps. No one race was announced as being persecuted, but plenty of plastic bins were observed as being potential caskets… Clearly, Jones was never my kind of guy to follow, raising more eyebrows and queries than one mind could reasonably handle.

Flash-forward to today, Jones is a notorious pariah (well, a more pronounced one) and refuses to call out an administration for doing all the dirty conspiracy stuff he’s been spouting and fear-mongering about for years. I suspect he’s either too dumb or too in love (maybe both). Whatever the case might be, our current President – a celebrity known for being born into money and for saying and doing nasty things for decades – one Donald Trump has initiated cruel policy after policy with regards to an illegal immigration crisis that’s most manufactured, all leading to today’s debate on whether to call these detention centers “concentration camps” or not. 

They are concentration camps, matching the literal definition exactly. 

Trump will claim, in an attempt to deflect, that previous leader Obama did the same thing he’s doing. It’s not entirely accurate, though some reports during that time have come about. If I remember correctly, there was a young girl who went up to First Lady Michelle Obama, asking if her family would be deported. Sure, Trump isn’t the only one to deal with this issue, but he’s certainly the one dealing with it in the most awful way possible. And people are going along with it.

Justice Department lawyer Sarah Fabian infamously and most cold-heartedly went before a court to argue against the sanitary needs of children being kept in cages. Somehow, I’m reminded of experiments that showed an individuals capacity for doing wrong if the orders came from someone or something above. The Milgram Experiments, I believe. Now, while psychologists think the conclusions reached were misunderstood, the fact remains that people were still willing to do harm as long as responsibility was laid elsewhere. 

Perhaps my favorite President at one time, F.D.R., was responsible for the Japanese Internment Camps of WWII. I’ve often been told that such an act could only happen under that scenario, that I would “never understand” the anxiety of the times. Same reasoning for dropping the A-Bombs, basically. I just don’t “get it”. I think that, once images of starved corpses and malnourished masses behind barbed wire came out of Europe, I “got it”. Anytime we round people up into concentration camps, it’s bad. Period. End of story.

F.D.R.’s blind spot was more like a blight than anything, one that ever since 5th Grade – when I learned of him and his policies – I’ve never been able to forget or reconcile in any way. The soldiers and officers who worked at these camps probably made similar comparisons to news coming out of the war abroad but convinced themselves this was all for the best. That what was happening there couldn’t happen here. Except that it kinda was. And they were all part of it. 

A new #TrumpCamp at Fort Sill, a former Internment Camp, is being prepped for use as I write -the fascist Conservative inverse of F.D.R. in many ways, but also a wealthy white male American looking to wield power. To wield intimidation. To wield cruelty. 

Franklin Roosevelt’s “Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself” speech was grand, but even he fell victim to its warnings. Even he gave in and caved to bad acts. Maybe it’s easy for me to suggest this of the greatest generation from my seat so far into the future, but I am suggesting it none the less. Pearl Harbor, 9/11, a Border Wall: Somehow, W. Bush didn’t succumb to rounding up Muslims. He did start a war. He did destabilize a region and kickoff a conflict that will go on for decades. He did torture many and imprison more without much or any due process. He…

How come impeachment hasn’t happened since Clinton? My middle school self looks to my college self which looks to my current self, and we’re all shaking our heads. While we discuss the nuances of labels and names, kids are being separated from families, and are living in sickening conditions. Call them what they are and call them out for what they’re doing: They’re concentration camps, and anytime we have them, bad things happen. Plastic bins for storing bodies safely from radioactive frogs is but a step away. 


Bill Arceneaux has been an independent writer and film critic in the New Orleans area since 2011, working with outlets like Film Threat, DIG Baton Rouge, Crosstown Conversations, and Occupy. He is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and is Rotten Tomatoes approved. Follow him on Twitter: @billreviews

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