In response to a July 20 letter admonishing commentary writer Ahmed Tharwat (“Trump drops pretense in a racist America,” July 16) and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for using the term “concentration camp” to refer to the, uh, concentration camps at our border with Mexico: As the descendant of Holocaust victims and survivors, I wholeheartedly support invoking this term to refer to these camps. Indeed, it’s a lesson from history, and a whisper from those who died, urging us to not let this happen again, this time on American soil.
Although the refugees currently being held are not being intentionally murdered, children, women and men have already died due to the camps’ unhealthy conditions, a lack of medical care and neglect. Children are ill, kept in dirty diapers; people don’t have enough to eat or clean water (in the blazing Texas summer); and supplies for basic hygiene are not provided. The refugees are kept as animals, in conditions that have given rise to “rescue” organizations for animals.
In addition, parents and children who are separated from one another, some as young as babies, are traumatized, frightened and left wondering if they will ever see their families again, similar to families separated in Nazi concentration camps. Their pain is no different.
And be clear: Nazi concentration camps didn’t spring up in a day; they were the culmination of years of political and cultural dehumanization of Jews, Roma, people with disabilities, LGBTQ and others. The Trump administration and its active and complicit supporters are engaging in the same kind of dehumanization of Central American refugees — through words, policies, and in the running of these camps. A parent who has lost their child in these squalid concentration camps has to live with the same grief, helplessness and horror that my people did under the Nazis. The use of the term “concentration camp” is entirely appropriate and a moral calling to all of us.
Donna Greenberg Koren, West St. Paul
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Regarding the letter opining that the camps where refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. have been placed are not concentration camps: Indeed, the best known concentration camps were those operated by the Nazis during the Holocaust. However, Merriam-Webster defines concentration camps as “places where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard.” This is precisely what the U.S. government has built in multiple places along the southern U.S. border.
In fact, this is not the first time the U.S. government forced people into concentration camps on U.S. soil. During World War II, more than 100,000 U.S. residents of Japanese descent were taken from their homes and placed in concentration camps. Before that, during its campaign to wipe out American Indian people, the U.S. government forced some 300,000 American Indians into concentration camps.
Further, contrary to what the letter writer asserted, neither Tharwat nor Ocasio-Cortez have suggested or stated that the concentration camps at our border are “like those in Nazi Germany.”
Paula Childers, Bloomington
Elk River detention center
Expanding the ICE jail will create jobs and keep system in order
It makes good sense to house illegal immigrants in county detention facilities while they await their outcome (“ICE jail expansion debated in Elk River,” July 22). In the article we see Sherburne County responding to fill a much-needed service. A better border wall would curtail the flow of illegals, but the Democrats in Congress are seeing that is not accomplished. Legal immigration is all anyone is asking for. This arrangement makes economic and logistical sense for ICE to rely on local facilities. Those who protest have little relevancy as they advocate for open borders and the loss of our nation’s sovereignty. Calling them “cages” is an attempt at demeaning the important partnership between governmental entities. Beyond just providing for local jobs and income, these facilities help facilitate the eventual adjudication of each case. Anything less is asking for chaos and an abandonment of our standards for citizenship.
Joe Polunc, Cologne, Minn.
America: Love it or leave it
It is because we love our country that we voted for the ‘Squad’
In our representative democracy, 435 districts throughout the country elect one person to represent them in our U.S. House. In my district, we elected Ilhan Omar, and I for one continue to support her to represent my values in Congress. We sent her there to push back hard to help save a government that has been taken to a dark place by a GOP that has abandoned morality and sold its soul to a lying con man.
Trump says if you don’t love our country, then leave. It is because we love our country that we here in Minneapolis, and the good people in New York, Boston and Detroit, elected the “Squad” as our representation. We have a vision for our country of inclusion, of racial and economic justice, of peace, civility and community.
We will keep voting and our representatives will continue to stand for us because it is our country too.
Ben Auckenthaler, Minneapolis
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All that is old is new again and it’s not pleasant. As a youth, I was appalled by the slogan, “America, love it or leave it.” As an old man, I am heartbroken.
I was taught at an early age to believe in the perfectibility of the human, that there existed an ideal way of life that would bring me happiness and serve my family and my nation well. I was told that I could attain this state through hard work, self-control and the occasional confession to my parish priest. I’ve long since abandoned that belief intellectually, contenting myself with a belief that while we require ideals in our lives, we will never achieve perfection.
I feel the same way about the society in which I live. American ideals, for the most part, are worthy goals. We have not and likely never will achieve them in total. But we must try to do so. That is why, at 18 and 68, I felt and feel it necessary to call out our failings rather than immerse myself in our successes.
Neither I nor anyone else in our society who feels as I do should be dismissed as haters or told to “go back” when we call attention to our national failings. It’s what Americans are not only entitled to do but should be expected to do. It’s our duty, to ourselves and the nation’s future.
So, go ahead. Disagree with me. Call out America’s successes, but also acknowledge its shortcomings. Speak your piece not from your emotions but from your reason. Make America truly great.
James Hamilton, St. Paul
Keep your eye on the ball
At 70 years of age I have earned the right to use the adage “when I was your age … .” So, when I was your age, I took personal responsibility for my safety. I looked both ways before crossing the street (no flashing pedestrian crossing signs to protect me), I didn’t touch a hot stove and I always paid attention at professional baseball games. Somehow a lot of us baby boomers survived into our upper-middle-age years. In what I consider our overprotective society, the July 22 editorial (“Protect baseball fans from foul-ball risks”) may have taken this insulation from personal responsibility to an extreme. By my calculation the odds of getting hit or injured by a foul ball is 0.00002635 (1,750 injuries among more than 66 million attendees at major league games in 2018). Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I don’t think that percentage justifies change to protect people who aren’t paying attention.
Bruce Lemke, Orono