Last week, I entered bizarro world for a time. It started shortly after I posted on Facebook about the concentration camps on the border.
For several years now, I’ve been quiet about politics on Facebook. I used to be more active, sharing everything, stirring the pot a bit to get conversations going. I got even more active after we kicked Richard and Tracy out of our lives, because Richard had actually argued with me over posting things he didn’t like. For a long time, it felt like I could say anything I wanted without worrying about him harassing me over it.
But then others of my FB friends started to act like him. The political situation got worse and worse in the state because of Walker’s crazy totalitarian actions, then in the country as black people began to speak out more on what they go through every day, and white people got offended. My husband was one of those, and I didn’t want to see him yelling at people or posting something offensive. He used to be more moderate, but he started listening more to the right-wing. I had to stop watching the Daily Show with him because he kept yelling at the screen when they said something he didn’t like–but which I agreed with, making it feel like he was criticizing me, too.
Also, more friends and family started friending me, and many were Republican. My brother-in-law also has a tendency to unfriend his own family when they say things too “liberal” for his taste (he’s a proud Dittohead).
And then members of my church started joining my Facebook, lots and lots of them. I don’t know how they all feel about politics etc., but I know at least some of them are very conservative about things like LGBT.
So I stopped talking politics on FB. Or anything controversial. So I didn’t say much at all on FB, really. But my blog was safer, so I spoke out over there. Then got my Twitter account.
Well, a couple of weeks ago, I felt like I had to post some things that could stir up trouble. One, on June 15, was a video of that black family in Phoenix who got abused by cops. Normally I was too scared even to mention such things, but I felt this, finally, would prove to white nay-sayers that prejudice is real. Also, on June 14 I posted the Esquire article explaining that the border camps are actually concentration camps.
I thought I might get some pushback on the Esquire article, because people kept denying that migrants are being mistreated, but surprisingly didn’t. Then on the 17th, I posted a tweet thread by Elizabeth C. McLaughlin and a couple of articles to back up what the thread claimed, one about the dog pounds and one about the freezers. I posted these because McLaughlin’s thread said “Don’t look away” and “Fascism is here,” and described the conditions in the camps, as well as rumors that
ICE facilities with beds and food are EMPTY, because the Trump administration is moving refugees into military-run concentration camps where they can do ANYTHING THEY CHOOSE without oversight, media scrutiny or advocate access….Unlike ICE facilities, which allow site inspectors inside, there will be no inspection of military-run camps. The military will be able to deny access to anyone it chooses. No media. No oversight. Lawyers will not be allowed in. Human rights monitors will not be allowed in. The camps will also be protected airspace, meaning that no drones can fly over them to take pictures of what’s going on inside.
I hadn’t found proof of the last one yet, but had already heard about (and written my Congresspeople about) migrant children being moved to Fort Sill, which already got people worried that Fort Sill would become a concentration camp again. (It held Japanese-Americans in WWII.) Then I found this article from CBS, which confirmed the lack of oversight in military-run camps:
The Fort Sill site will be the second location out of more than 160 shelters nationwide to be located on federal land, and as a result it will not be subject to state child welfare inspections. The only other site not overseen by state authorities is the nation’s largest such facility, in Homestead, Florida.
McLaughlin kept repeating, “Please share. Lives are in the balance.” On June 20, she added,
A lot of folks on this thread have doubted the existence of my “friend.” Please meet my friend
@TobyGialluca— a lawyer, a warrior and a heroine, and who is finally able to be public about the horrors of what she has seen inside US concentration camps.
This was also shortly after reading about a detention center where migrants were standing on toilets just to be able to breathe in the overcrowding. Then I read a tweet thread describing a Rolling Stone article on guards using racial slurs against migrants, including the Nazi term “subhuman.”
On the 17th, I trolled Trump (who said ICE was about to remove millions of illegal aliens) with the comment,
Removed? To go where, exactly? Concentration camps? Are the death camps next???
McLaughlin’s thread was also the reason why, in the wee hours of June 18, I posted on my blog, Call it what it is: concentration camps. We are turning into Nazi Germany.
Then on the afternoon of June 18, I read Jonathan Katz’s Call immigration detention centers what they really are: concentration camps. I had found it on Twitter that day. So I shared it on Facebook.
I think I vaguely noticed on June 18 that Senator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) had just said or tweeted something about this. But you’ll note that I and others were sending up the alarm bells before then, urgently spreading the word that these are concentration camps, to get people to realize the fascist path we’re heading down, and rise up against the camps to get them shut down.
So I was shocked–especially after little but “likes” on my posts all weekend–when the mother of a longtime friend attacked me. Not just disagreed with–downright attacked me. First she told me to educate myself on what the Nazis did.
Wait–What? World War II enthusiast here. I’ve read Anne Frank twice; seen all sorts of WWII movies, especially ones about POW camps or concentration camps; even watched films made of the Nazi camps in German class. My German teacher was Polish, lived through the Occupation, and made sure we knew about WWII. I was obsessed with WWII in high school, and wrote a story about it. I saw Schindler’s List in the theater, and then again later. And for the past four years, I’ve been doing in-depth research on WWII for a novel, including books, Google and videos.
I frickin’ know all about the Nazi concentration camps, dang it.
I had just read the articles explaining concentration camps and their history. I got upset with her attacking me and making me sound ignorant when I was anything but–especially when experts on concentration camps and the Holocaust–and George Takei–were also saying that these are indeed concentration camps. It was insulting.
AOC is already the subject of a disgusting smear campaign by the GOP, but I didn’t know about the furor over her comments on this until my friend’s mom said, “Oh, so you’ve been listening to AOC, I see!” Then she dismissed everything I said because AOC had also said it. I told her this was a logical fallacy, and that I only just heard that AOC said anything at all about it, but she still didn’t listen.
Her insults and dismissals continued. She said things like, “Have you been there? I’d like to see pictures if you have.” I said I hadn’t been there (I didn’t even know where “there” was or have the means to do that), but pics are all over the Net. She said AOC hasn’t been there either, so she doesn’t actually know what’s there. So she refused to believe the accounts of people who HAVE been there, or THEIR pictures, just because I hadn’t been there and neither had AOC???!!!
I was about ready to scream. I decided to stop responding lest I say something that would make my friend, her daughter, angry. But she kept coming at me.
One friend said that she’s a horrible person so he’s going to block her without even knowing her.
Another friend asked her if SHE had been to the camps.
An old high school classmate posted that he didn’t agree they were bad, that most of the migrants were glad to be there because conditions were much better than where they’d been. Well, your agreement or disagreement does not affect the facts or the truth.
This infuriated me so much, that the truth would be dismissed just because some right-winger and/or Trump told her not to trust the “fake news,” while kids are suffering and dying–that I started posting more links.
Lots and lots of links, pulling up my sources from the past few days, proving that this is not some fever dream of AOC’s.
They were not posted on her wall, but on my own, for all my friends and family to see, because this is important and they all need to know so they can act. I also deleted all the responses she and others had made on my share of the Katz article.
But the friend’s mom refused to listen to facts. She didn’t notice that I had disengaged with her, refusing to respond to anything she wrote. She’d post ignorant cartoon memes about Nazi camps on my timeline as “proof” that it’s wrong to call them concentration camps. She’d make snarky comments on my posts.
I shared an Amnesty International article describing horrid treatment some migrants had received, which also laid out the facts of the border situation, immigration laws, and international laws on how refugees and asylum seekers must be treated. It also described a heartbreaking story of a woman told she had no rights here or to stay with her son. But my friend’s mom shared it on her wall with the note that no, she has no rights here, and should go back where she came from.
She kept making comments to me. She’d say I should learn Spanish and tell them not to come here. She’d say they were committing a crime by coming here (which is false). I read as much as I could, educating myself on the situation, only to have her dismiss it all and try to shame and harass me into agreeing with her.
Meanwhile, the night of the 18th, I was so upset at what she said that–despite going to bed very late–I could not get to sleep. I believe I only got a few hours of sleep total. I was in mental and emotional turmoil. John Pavlovitz tweeted something about this on the 19th, your anguish and PTSD as you learn the true colors of your Republican friends/family.
Now, several things had been going on when this all happened. First, for years, people have assumed I feel a certain way about issues, because I avoid politics on Facebook and in person. I put a gay character in my book; a fellow Writer’s Club member was surprised, because she had made assumptions about me. Another member posted stuff about abortion on my wall, assuming I’d agree with him, which I did not. Somebody who barely knew me was shocked that I listen to Rammstein.
Then some blogger called my friend Giacomo Sanfilippo, who writes Orthodoxy in Dialogue, and other like-minded bloggers “wolves in sheep’s clothing” for countering church leaders on such issues as gay rights. Since I’ve been blogging about this even longer, I was a bit miffed at not being mentioned, but this blogger basically included me in his sweep of liberal-minded people in Orthodoxy.
I’d also been seeing so much right-wing crap on my Facebook wall, overhearing it when visiting family, and burning up inside at things my husband would say about politics, while I tried desperately to avoid engaging. Just a few days before, I went to my husband’s wall for a photo, and found some disturbing and misleading meme about AOC.
Somebody telling me that the concentration camps are not concentration camps, and that there are no human rights violations there, and that if there are they are deserved because they are criminals who should not be here, was the catalyst.
I was sick of being quiet about how I really feel. So I finally blew up all over Facebook, basically by sharing links about everything from the concentration camps, to LGBT rights, to Black Lives Matter.
I shared lots of articles from Orthodoxy in Dialogue, the most controversial ones, about abortion and LGBT rights and Nazis in the church.
I wrote, “Please support. The struggle is real” on my share of BLM. The friend’s mom wrote, “All lives matter!” So I deleted that racist dismissal.
I deleted all her snarks, all her comments, all her cartoon memes.
Funny thing–She was the only one making them.
Then she stopped. I thought she had finally realized my shares were the truth, not make-believe, and was processing it, getting past the cognitive dissonance.
Then a day or two later, she came back. Started posting snark on my posts again. I shared a petition about human rights violations in Gitmo; she came back with, “Are you sharing research for a book?” WTF does that even MEAN?
Hubby tells me that yeah, she’s an extremist, that he sees it on his wall.
I finally unfriended her. And Facebook is quiet again. Even though I keep posting how I REALLY feel about everything, even Trump and the Wisconsin GOP. Still waiting for somebody to complain to my priest, but nothing yet. Nobody said anything at church, except to ask who was giving me trouble, since I’d deleted all this person’s posts.
Toby Gialluca tweeted on the 24th,
Everyone asks how I cope with the human suffering and abuse I witnessed at the CBP facilities. I struggle to find the words to convey what I have seen. It was a defining event in my life. There was my life before, and my life now. I will never be the same.
But I guess it’s all fake news, right? They can leave any time they want, right? It’s great there, right?