The news coming out of America this week has been even more sickening than usual, and since 2016, that’s really saying something. By now, everyone has seen the pictures of children in cages, separated from their parents and put through trauma that, even though the policy of splitting up families has now been grudgingly revoked, will have a permanent impact. (The UK isn’t doing much better in this regard, by the way – see the recent news stories on suicides amongst refugee teens and children because of the appalling treatment they’ve faced).
As many people have already said, these aren’t warning signs that a state might be turning towards fascism – this is what a state does when it’s already there. Over the week, I’ve been thinking constantly about this document on the 8 Stages of Genocide by Genocide Watch. It seems that we’re somewhere on Stages Five to Six.
We have to stop it getting to Stage Seven. The decision to not split up children and their families is, in some ways, a good one – but “illegal” people are still being segregated into camps, in accordance with Stage Six, Preparation. I am so, so scared that it won’t be long before a guard in one of those camps gets “scared for their life” by a brown person being slightly non-compliant, and starts shooting.
I’ve spent much of the week feeling completely helpless, but dwelling on that is an indulgence. There are things I can do – things that everyone can do – to stand against this.
Here are some organisations that are doing the work to make things better for refugees – if you can, donate, support their events, or spread the word about their campaigns.
(If you have any more suggestions, let me know in the comments and I’ll list them here).
Protest. If you can, march. There are anti-Trump rallies happening all over the UK on the 13th, and I’ll be heading along to one of them to show Trump that the only time he’s going to draw a big crowd is when it’s full of people who hate him.
Listen. For god’s sake, LISTEN to the people who are being targeted by the rise of the far-right. Asylum seekers, black people and other people of colour, trans people, lesbian, gay and bi people, disabled people, Muslims, homeless people, and particularly the women and NB people from those groups. If, like me, you’re mostly operating from a position of privilege, don’t hide behind that and hope things will be okay for you. It’s so tempting to do so. It’s also the worst thing you can do. Listen and believe the people who are on the front lines of this attack, and use your privilege as a shield for them instead of yourself (here’s one potential guide as to how).
And remember that this is not normal. That none of the backtracks or concessions made are “okay”. That incarcerating families together is not an act of compassion after caging children. That calling people “vermin”, or “parasites”, or claiming that they’re “infesting” a space you’ve claimed as “yours”, isn’t just words, it’s part of the process of preparing a society for genocide. Remember that you cannot reason with people who want other humans destroyed, that you can’t debate them out of it, that all you can do is resist, or lay down and let them do it. Don’t lay down and let them do it.
There’s a quote from Terry Pratchett that has stuck with me since I first read it:
“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”
“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”
“It’s a lot more complicated than that–”
“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”
“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes–”
“But they starts with thinking about people as things…”
–from Carpe Jugulum, by Terry Pratchett.
Don’t let hate go unchallenged. Don’t let anyone get away with treating people as things. We can still avoid Stage Seven.