Reader Danielm80 pointed out this important essay, which reader Bluejay suggests needs its own post… and I agree. It might seem at first to be out of the wheelhouse of a film-criticism site, even one at which the critic — that is, yours truly — often discusses film in the larger cultural and political context. But it isn’t. Not least because I have been floored by the utter lack of empathy, compassion, and simple, basic human kindness and decency that I have been seeing the comments here lately. The shit that I have been putting up with for years as a critic who is feminist and progressive has gotten much worse, because our society has gotten so much meaner and coarser in recent years.
When you watch a stadium filled with white people chanting “Send her back!” about a US Congresswomen and our President silently endorses it, what comes up for you?
I urge you to read his entire response, which is thoughtful and incisive. But here’s a taste. He begins by saying, “Honestly? This.” And by this he means:
And then he goes on:
This photo was taken sometime between May and December 1944. These people are enjoying a bit of “down time” before going back to work. At Auschwitz.
Not because I think what we’re doing is like what the Nazis were doing in 1944, but because this looks so normal. These people didn’t think of themselves as “evil,” any more than the people chanting at the Trump rally do.
Here’s the point: the Holocaust didn’t drop out of a clear blue sky in 1941. The concentration camps had been operating since 1933.
From there, he offers a brief history of the camps and the very slow ramping up that was required to go from, “Oh, these places aren’t so bad, certainly not anywhere anyone was intended to die in” to the intentional death factories they eventually became. It took time for people to adjust to each incremental step along the way. It was a slow eroding of human dignity… on the part of those who implemented the Holocaust.
[T]he Nazis were not all Eichmann and Mengele. Their horror was possible because of the many, many people who went along with what they were doing or at least were willing to look the other way. And it didn’t start with Chelmno and Sobibor. It started with people being willing to vote for Nazis out of fear of the communists and responding to their appeals to “true Germans.”
Jones then discusses some of the slow dehumanization that those working at the current US border camps are doing to themselves in order to survive their own crimes, as well as the excuses for the existence of the camps in the first place. But
[T]hose [people and excuses] are all justifying inhuman behavior. I’m not saying the people running the camps or the people in the government are Nazis; every historical moment is different. But they’re using many of the same tools the Nazis used. And the same tools are being used against the Uighur in China. And the Rohingya in Myanmar.
Please do read the whole thing… and think about what Jones has written.