At the end of World War II, as Allied Forces uncovered the reality and horrors of concentration camps, it became apparent that many nearby residents claimed ignorance of the very existence of these camps.
To help ensure against future generations repeating these atrocities, in many instances local citizens were forced to walk through the nearest camp to see firsthand the piles of personal effects and corpses, the gas chambers, etc.
In the years after the war, Milton S. Mayer, an American journalist, spent time in Germany interviewing several former low-level Nazis. He wrote a book - “They Thought They Were Free” - chronicling his findings. Only one of the interviewees seemed to fully grasp and take responsibility for what had happened. In essence, that person said the whole mess evolved into a disaster because people chose to ignore the warning signs.
Here is a quote from Mayer’s book:
“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.”
Which brings to mind the old adage of how to boil a frog: turn up the heat gradually.
Most people are familiar with the quote attributed to Martin Niemoller:
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
“Because I was not a socialist.
“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
“Because I was not a trade unionist.
“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
“Because I was not a Jew.
“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
I think I have made my point. Now it is time to connect the dots.
Recently, in Mississippi, hundreds of immigrants suspected of not having proper paperwork, were detained by ICE agents. Many of them have children who were left to fend for themselves, with no idea where their parent(s) were taken.
Some, perhaps many of these people have been in the United States for 20 or more years, working in jobs most Americans do not want, for sub-standard pay. They are very quiet, law-abiding residents.
How do we justify spending millions of dollars (that could be spent actually protecting us from real dangers) on what is essentially terrorism being conducted by our government, here on American soil?
The potential cost of continuing with these raids extends to economic disruption (jobs suddenly vacated), families thrown into deep trauma, etc. And consider this: can you think of a more effective way to encourage justifiably angry victims from considering joining subversive organizations committed to revenge? What a recruitment strategy.
Have we arrived in some evil version of “Alice in Wonderland?” I find it interesting that the recent raid was conducted in Mississippi, which is not a state known for its concern for justice, compassion, and equality. If I wanted to institute a policy of regular ICE raids I would start someplace where people are less likely to “make a stink!”
At this point some readers, if they have not already “tossed me aside” in anger, are probably saying, “Yeah, but these people are “illegal.” We can’t just allow people to flagrantly break the law.”
You know what? I agree. I just don’t think the solution is to conduct raids and inflict incredible damage in so many ways. I do not pretend to have a “magic solution.” It is the job of elected officials to figure out ways to address at least some of the mess we are in.
Just because they have neglected their job is not a reason to punish people who, in nearly every case, came here to find safety and a better life.
Most Americans have ancestors who did the same thing. The difference is for a long period of our history there were few or no laws governing immigration because they were not needed. Times have changed, and our systems have not kept up with the changes.
I have a friend who knows several wonderful people who are here “illegally.” They have been here a long time, have children and grandchildren who were born here, and have lived upright lives, making a significant contribution to American society.
The thought of any of them being subjected to the kind of treatment we are hearing about is deeply upsetting. I can no longer choose to ignore. And I urge anyone who shares my concerns to prepare to speak out in words and actions.
We already have blood on our hands because of our inaction.
Steve Adelsman is a resident of Cottonwood.