Conspiracy Theory: You Cannot Live


Jewish refugees from Czechoslovakia being marched away by British police at Croydon airport in March 1939. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

I’m a big fan of conspiracy theories. They are based mostly on what Mark Twain calls a set of “corn-pone” opinions: “You tell me whar a man gits his corn-pone, en I’ll tell you what his ‘pinions is.”[i] I find it endlessly fascinating to contemplate why a man or woman would entertain a belief that is patently false (the United States, for example, staged the moon landing in a Hollywood set), and yet reject an occurrence that is demonstrably true (the water in Flint, Michigan is full of lead).

To my increasing horror, I have begun to weave a personal conspiracy theory—probably as a result of losing my mind after listening to too many Republican presidential primary debates. Since my theory—if it ever becomes fact—signals a great danger for many of us, pray bear with me lest we suffer the same fate of Trojans who did not listen to Cassandra.

Donald Trump has said that if elected president, he will build a wall along the Mexico border and deport 11 million “illegal” immigrants residing in the country. Recently, Ted Cruz said that he too will round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. When Trump is asked how this will be done, he does not provide specific details beyond the affirmation that it will be done “humanely.” Cruz says he will track them down using a “biometric” system and deport them.

I have no problem believing Trump or Cruz can achieve their goal; there is ample precedent in US history. Follow me as I construct—based on previous events—a possible future scenario for the job:

  1. Rounding people up is not a problem. We have been extremely successful, during the last two decades, rounding up and incarcerating a large segment of our African-American population. Also, during the 19th century, the US Army was very effective in rounding up Native American nations and confining them to reservations.

Sioux boys as they were dressed on arrival at the Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania, 5 October 1879. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

  1. And don’t tell me that it won’t happen because Americans will not tear families apart and cannot bear to see children cry. Anyone familiar with the shameful history of Indian children being forcibly removed from their homes to attend government Indian schools knows better. The graveyard at the Carlisle Indian School holds many graves of children who died from disease away from their families in the West.

Gila River Relocation Center, Rivers, Arizona. Butte Camp View, 14 March 1944. (Credit: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

  1. After you round people up, and before they are sent on their way (we’re talking millions of people), they must be kept in a secure holding location for a period of time. I live next to one such place; readers of our book Hunt the Devil will be familiar with Bob Ivie’s masterful evocation (Chapter 4, “Dictators”) of the Gila River Internment Camp, where Japanese families (“legal” American citizens, if you please!) were imprisoned during World War II.
  2. Deport them how? On buses? On railroad cattle cars? Not all “deportees” are from Mexico or Central America. How many boats will we need sailing to China and how many airplanes flying to Europe? Above all (an issue always important to tax-conscious conservatives and thrifty Americans), who will pay for all this?

No serious person can see how all this will be accomplished; the candidates do not provide answers and their cheering crowds do not care how it will be done—they are simply glad, for the moment, to hear their brazen aspiration openly declared. But I have heard the angry shouts of revolutionary mobs chasing exiles out of Cuba, and I have seen Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah. Listen to one of the voices captured in Lanzmann’s masterful portrait of the Holocaust:

What transpired when the “final solution” was adopted … was a turning point in history. Even here I would suggest a logical progression, one that came to fruition in what might be called closure, because from the earliest days, from the fourth century, the sixth century, the missionaries of Christianity had said in effect to the Jews: “You may not live among us as Jews.” The secular rulers who followed them from the late Middle Ages then decided: “You may not live among us,” and the Nazis finally decreed: “You may not live.” Conversion was followed by expulsion, and the third was the territorial solution, which was of course the solution carried out in the territories under German command, excluding emigration: death.[ii]

First you demand conversion from Jews; then you round them up and send them out of your territory on trains to Eastern Europe; then you arrive at a Final Solution. In America, we first demanded conversion to Christianity from Indians; then we removed the eastern tribes across the Mississippi; then we adopted a policy of genocide for national expansion. After all, these relocations, are messy, expensive, time-consuming, and there are no walls high enough to stop desperate, hungry people from attempting to climb over.


Entrance to Dachau Concentration Camp, 6 July 2014. (Credit: Rennett Stowe)

Don’t anybody tell me that Trump or Cruz will distinguish between “legal” and “illegal” immigrants. The warrior Chato, who helped the US Army track Geronimo, was sent to prison in Florida along with Geronimo’s final band of insurgents when the Apache wars were over.

Just in case Trump gets elected, I have begun to sell my personal property so I don’t have to give it away in a fire sale like Japanese-Americans were forced to do in the 1940s. And I am listening carefully—even though I dislike firearms—to conservatives who claim that European Jews would not have perished in the Holocaust if they had owned guns. I remember that Big Foot’s band was massacred at Wounded Knee only after his warriors surrendered their arms.



“Red Cloud’s Camp at Dawn” by Jules Tavernier, 1874, oil on canvas. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

[i] Mark Twain, “Corn-Pone Opinions,” in Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches and Essays 1891-1910 (New York: The Library of America, 1992).

[ii] Raul Hilberg, quoted in Claude Lanzmann, Shoah: An Oral History of the Holocaust (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985).

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