The Fourth of July has come and passed and children are still separated from their families. Much has been said about how the policy of tearing families apart, and detaining young children in what can only be described as cages is an affront to the ideals of our nation. The whole business is utterly cruel. While the policy itself has been suspended by the Trump administration and a deadline for the return of the children has been set by the courts, the fact that it even happened in the first place is ridiculous. Former first ladies, Holocaust survivors and international leaders have all harshly criticized the policy, and their concerns resonate with a majority of Americans.
For my part, I think the separation of families is a national embarrassment. While securing the border may very well be a legitimate concern, locking children up in cages away from their families is a punishment that doesn’t fit the crime. Such draconian measures solve nothing, only serving to cause unnecessary pain and division. It’s not hard to understand the rage of the protestors who have taken to the streets in an attempt at fighting the actions taken by the government.
With such widespread anger, it’s not much of a surprise that many commentators have directly resorted to Hitler and Holocaust comparisons in their denunciations. Former CIA director Michael Hayden has likened the detention centers to the Auschwitz concentration camp, tweeting that “Other governments have separated mothers and children,” along with a picture of the notorious death factory.
Former RNC chairman Michael Steele echoed Hayden’s sentiments and warned parents that their kids could be next. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough was harshly reprimanded by the White House itself for evoking images of Nazi gas chambers and mass murder when criticizing Sarah Sanders's comments in defense of the controversial policy.
While I do strongly oppose the situation at the border, I stop short of comparing it to the Nazi death camps and think that any earnest attempt at conflating the detention of children to mass murder is grossly inappropriate.
The situation at the border is bad enough on its own terms; it needn’t be compared in a hyperbolic way to the calculated murder of millions of innocents in what remains one of the darkest periods in history. To do so is akin to equating kidnapping with mass murder. The former is undeniably bad, but it simply can’t be equated with the permanent pain and loss of life of the latter.
Incessant Hitler and Nazi comparisons have been in vogue in American political discourse for a good while now. Even progressives like Obama and milquetoast pseudo-conservatives like Paul Ryan have been compared to Hitler without a trace of irony. These hilariously overwrought comparisons serve to do nothing but cheapen the image of the Holocaust and belittle the suffering involved. While the comparison is a lot more appropriate in the context of keeping children in cages away from their parents than it is in the context of whatever it was Obama critics were angry over, it’s still inappropriate.
Something can be bad without being on the same level as the Holocaust. A more analogous episode from history would be the U.S.’s internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II, something that is universally condemned in retrospect but that no one seriously compares to the horrors that occurred at places like Dachau and Auschwitz.
If you feel that what’s happening at our border is unjust, then by all means speak out against it; just don’t compare to an actual genocide.