This is the state of our political discourse: commentators are haggling over whether cages holding people without means to clean themselves, stay warm or lie down should really be called “concentration camps” or some more benign word.
We are quarreling over whether nasty language aimed specifically at people of color is actually “racist” or just harsh. (Our congressman calls it “patriotic”.)
It is as if what is going on – the treatment of people, the language, the scapegoating – is not the problem, just what to call it. This is a distraction. We are treating desperate people inhumanely, in conditions we would shut down if animals were suffering them. We are experiencing openly racist language aimed at people of color, and the blaming of problems on the most vulnerable people in our society.
In our squabbling over definitions, what we are not doing is being the place that recognizes that all people are created equal, and endowed by their creator – not the law, not custom, not largesse – but their creator, with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We are not being what we profess to be.
In our haggling over definitions, we are betraying our founding Declaration of who we are.