I woke up this morning to news that the President's advisers met to discuss heightened military involvement at the border, including tent cities for migrants that would be run by the military itself.
These are concentration camps by definition: a place where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard.
My dad spent some of the first years of his life in such a camp with his family. But even if you don't have direct experience with these atrocities - even if you don't viscerally remember your grandmother's wailing from the nightmares she suffered from every night - intellectually you've got to know that this is something that can't stand. And while it feels like it's one more thing on top of a long list of things that won't stand, it's also a leveling up of the threat. They want us to feel fatigue. They want us to feel like all of this is normal now. And we can't feel that way.
But what can we do?
I mean, we can vote, of course. We can take to the streets. And we should do those things.
In fact, if we do build and run concentration camps, we should bring the country to a standstill.
In my working life, I've operated and advised startups and other businesses. One of the core pieces of advice that it's important for any business owner to internalize is to have a bias towards action. It's potentially possible to talk and research and theorize forever, but that is death. What you have to do more than anything is get out there and execute on your vision, set yourself to learn continuously from how people interact with you, and constantly change based on that feedback, even if the information you receive is imperfect.
At its worst, Twitter can be an outrage trap. It is a useful source of information, and a good way to find like-minded people. But the outrage that is poured into social media is effectively thrown into a void. Servers have a location called /dev/null; redirect the output of a program to that location and you'll never hear from it again. Social media, when not paired with action, is /dev/null.
But we know when it is paired with action - for the women's march, for Black Lives Matter, for protests against illegal surveillance, for the school walkouts, for SOPA and PIPA - it can be effective. All of those movements transcended activist communities and became more or less mainstream. Say you want about the pussy hats, they're a part of the mainstream national consciousness now. That's an incredibly impressive feat for a protest movement.
If the US builds concentration camps at the border, every one of us should strike. Whether we lock human beings up in camps should not be a partisan issue. Everyone with an ounce of dignity, or an ounce of historical understanding, should walk out of work. Every website should be blanked out. Every store should be shut. Every American should be resolute until those camps are closed. And we need to let our government know that this is how we will act if they are opened.
I don't think we quite have the platforms to support this kind of organization. And I'm sure that we'll somehow see camps spun to be a positive thing by the government and its sympathetic media, as has happened every single time they have been used in the past. But that this is even on the table should be a national shame, regardless of political affiliation. And if this is a country that genuinely believes in freedom and liberty - an idea that unfortunately seems ludicrous given our current political situation and climate - we need to use our constitutionally guaranteed rights to show those in power how we feel.