Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On History Repeating Itself With Scarcely A Mumble

Japanese Internees

I have been reading the late lamented Studs Terkel's "The Good War", his book about (as he spells it) World War Two. The quote marks, says Terkel, are part of the book's title, because that's what some people called it, but the phrase, of itself and without quote marks, is an oxymoron. Have I mentioned how much I miss the lively, vibrant Terkel in his long and well-lived life? Few people elicited my unreserved admiration as he did.

Horse Stables as Internee Residences
In an early chapter, Terkel interviews Japanese-Americans who in various ways and degrees experienced the internment. Japanese-Americans' businesses were seized; some were surveilled individually by FBI agents (not all willing agents, as it turns out) and many... far too many... American citizens were arrested and interned in camps of various sorts; one described in the book was a stables, complete with all the smells and utter lack of personal privacy. Families were broken up, men and older boys confined in one place and their wives and daughters in another. The resemblance to slavery, another historical practice of our "home of the free and the brave," was all too graphic and obvious. Some 110,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese legal residents on the American Pacific coast were interned; a much smaller number of those in the Hawaiian Islands, where a large fraction of the total population were of Japanese ancestry, were also interned. Internment took place in other states as well, applied "unequally" as described by the wiki. Military rule was instituted; civil liberties were largely squelched... both with the blessing of the Supreme Court. No American apology was forthcoming until October 1993, when President Bill Clinton at long last issued one.

Fast-forward to September 2001, and refocus on Houston, TX, on an apartment complex housing an odd blogger/musician/etc. and his mate. A family living near me were Muslim, scarcely a surprise in a city boasting one of the best and largest medical centers in the nation... we have all kinds of nationalities and religious affiliations among our residents, many of them students in advanced fields, and most Houstonians like it that way.

Guantánamo Detainees
I will call the couple "Mary and Joseph," mainly to annoy any jeebus-botherers who may be lurking about. They had two lovely, very young children. Both had good jobs in Houston. Within a few weeks of 9/11/2001, it became apparent to them that things were not going to return to normal in America for our Muslim residents. Fortunately for them, unfortunately for us, Joseph was Canadian by birth. When the handwriting was on the wall and John Ashcroft & Co. were at their most strident, even before Guantánamo was known for what it is today, the couple decided that life in America was about to become very difficult for Muslims, be they citizens or (especially) not, even basically apolitical Muslims like themselves. Rumors of possible internment, ultimately never realized in mass quantities, were all too plausible at the time. Nasty remarks were occasionally leveled at the children, who were probably just old enough to understand what was going on. So Joseph contacted his family in Canada, and the whole family packed up and moved home, rather than face what America had in store for Muslims. I don't blame them one bit. The whole incident was America's loss.

How many more times will America alienate... word chosen very deliberately... members of its population who do not suit the current majority's opinion? If, say, Rmoney were to become president, what would he order done to the 47% he spoke so ill of, and how far would his exclusionary policies reach, among Americans and generally desirable noncitizen aliens?

Our nation's ancestors surely turn in their graves every time an American government undertakes to divide, suppress and exclude some of us from the body politic. I believe we owe those ancestors a debt, payment of which means putting a stop to all the exclusion so popular in certain political circles. Either it stops, or America goes to ground, at least the America descended from those founders. Rmoney and crew may be prepared for that. I most emphatically am not.


  1. Mitt Romney pleasing Israel donors


  2. The Republican candidate can still win?
    (from LeMonde._International)
    According to several surveys, although many Americans expect the famous televised duels to decide, the outgoing president benefits from Republican candidate's blunders and ensures his lead.
    (Automatic translation into English)

  3. Thank you, karmanot... it is certainly heartfelt.

    There is no rational basis whatsoever for treating responsible, hardworking, family-oriented people like Mary and Joseph and their children the way the Bush crew treated Muslims in the early days after 9/11. It is a stain on the honor of our nation that such treatment was meted out to ANYONE in America for the worst of reasons. Guilt by association os NOT part of the American ethic... but it attaches to Muslims here today. And I am by no means confident it will not return.

  4. Enfant, I suppose the Republican candidate can still win, but my best guess is that the Republicans, seeing the incompetency of their candidate (as a politician, however much they support his policies), will make a serious attempt to STEAL the presidency by a combination of voter harassment, voter suppression, electronic vote-stealing and spurious legal action.

    They clearly did that in 2000. They may have done it in 2004; evidence continues to come to light. In 2008, Obama's majority was so definitive that they couldn't steal enough to take the office. And 2012? Well, first, with Citizens United, they've got "more money than God," and a new mechanism (voter ID) to prevent or challenge likely Obama voters. So the attempt is clearly underway to steal the office.

    You may wonder why I am so often very angry on this blog. This is the basis of my anger: the GOP has no honor. None. They would destroy the nation, not just its elections, to assure that they would take power. I have no sympathy for that attitude: I can see no evidence in history of a political movement so determined to rule America at any cost. Along with many Americans, I will stop them if I can.

  5. Oops, Enfant, I missed your cartoon reference.

    Mittens is a personal friend of Bibi Netanyahu. There's a standard line in American English describing the message of people like Bibi, "Let's you and him fight"; that is what Likud is constantly saying to America. Once, long ago, I was sympathetic to Israel. Today, it is difficult, to say the least, to offer them unqualified support. Some Israelis I have known would much rather have peace, but as long as Bibi can scrape together a coalition, I doubt there will be peace.

  6. France braces for protests after satirical magazine publishes nude Prophet Mohammed cartoons


    Firebombing of kosher store outside Paris injures four

  7. Enfant - how sensible of them. "A French magazine desecrated the Prophet Mohammed, therefore, let's bomb French Jews!" Religious bigotry shows the same logical turn of mind it has always exhibited... [/snark]

    I have to admit that I don't understand why American or French or Dutch publications deliberately publish material guaranteed to provoke terrorist acts in response. It's like the "reverend" Jones who burns a Koran every so often in the US, inevitably with a terrorist response.

    Yes, yes, of course, they have the right of free speech, which entails the right of stupid speech, mean-spirited speech, speech guaranteed to provoke violence, etc. etc. But... why do that? Is there not enough violence in the world without deliberate provocation?

    Deeply stupid, deeply selfish people annoy the bejezus out of me.



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