We’re paying attention to the wrong aspect of the Area 51 raid

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Sofia Uriagereka-Herburger

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In the past weeks, we’ve seen a veritable flood of media coverage surrounding the ever-mysterious Area 51, the heavily guarded USAF base in rural Nevada, which has long been rumored to be the site of alien activity. The most important element of the whole debacle was one rooted in revolutionary theory—there is a line from the Facebook post that opened the Area 51 floodgates, “they can’t stop all of us at once,” which forms the idea that eventually the sum total of the people is much stronger and more powerful than those intent on keeping them powerless.

This summer was also dominated by a far more horrifying story, one that spoke of immigrant children behind bars and impossibly tall fences, living without soap, without food, without running water, without any of the warmth that is owed to all children. Half of America watched with bated breath, as this country examined itself carefully, thoughtfully, and changed nothing. 

When faced with such a grave violation of human rights, we become split into different roles: witnesses, orchestrators, bystanders, martyrs, and victims. There are, of course, those in support of the mass incarceration and deportation of undocumented immigrants, people so decidedly cruel that convincing them of their own role in this is unlikely.

Then there are those who are rightfully horrified, refreshing news sites and twitter feeds, waiting for some confirmation that this is just a hoax, or the longest nightmare they have ever had, that babies do not die, sick and still, held by no one, inside the American borders they know so well. We arrive at the idea of storming government bases only as a joke, only tuning in to see what crazy thing men from Florida and conspiracy theorists in tinfoil hats will do. It is a stunning marker of the lack of progress the US has undergone, that the idea that a people’s militant reaction to an oppressive mechanism is something unthinkable.

We are faced with acknowledging the way the world sometimes looks at America: as a sort of cesspool for the unhinged, and the way we all have to look at ourselves now, as either willing participants or active dissenters of what will go down as one of the largest and most heinous abuses of human rights on domestic soil. 

The Area 51 raid idea made the government paranoid (evidenced by their meetings in the Pentagon to discuss if it would be a potential threat) for two reasons: firstly, because the people genuinely intending to carry it out were flat out of their minds, and secondly, because it edged dangerously close to the idea that if enough people were to storm another kind of camp, say, what is well on its way to becoming a US-backed concentration camp, there would be no stopping all of them. 

At some level, it has already begun; Willem Van Spronsen, a 69-year-old active Antifa member, was shot to death by police in a counter raid on an ICE detention center in Tacoma, Washington. Van Spronsen was part of a radical anarchist group staging an attack on the jail and detention center, feeling that it was their moral duty to do all they could to free those held for the manufactured crime of ‘illegal’ immigration. Van Spronsen was killed protecting a 17-year-old member of the group who was being attacked by a policeman. 

In a post-Reagan, post-Cold War world, it seems impossible to band together and demand, through numbers or by force, that the brave people who have left their homes (many because of our government’s illegal interference with their own) and crossed our false borders, seeking a better life, be permitted just that. But as we turn back to history, which we must always do to understand the present, it becomes evident while the strength provided through numbers does not guarantee a lack of risk, there are causes worth risking everything for.