There Is American History We Must Not Be Allowed To Repeat

In their Sunday, November 29, 2009 edition, the News-Review, which serves Douglas County in Oregon, published a story by Barrett Rainey in which he wrote about the similarities between the racism and hysteria that Muslims and Arab Americans are facing today in the United States with the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

In his story, Rainey wrote, in part:

Why bring up that tragic national stain now? Why talk about one of our nation’s worst moments? Because in coffee shops from Douglas County to fancy bars on Capitol Hill to the national media, you can hear people talking about Muslims in this country. Any Muslim.

In the wake of the Fort Hood massacre, allegedly done by a man born in Virginia who happens to worship God as a Muslim, conversations are again turning to people who are “different” or are part of a “foreign” religion and whether “they” can be trusted or whether “they” should be in the military or whether “they” can be Muslim and still be American. Or “How would you feel if a young Muslim man sat next to you on an airplane or the bus?”

These “conversations”—and some of my e-mails—are beginning to sound like the history books detailing our national mood in 1939-41 American coffee shops. And Capitol Hill. You don’t hear racism or religion directly now so much as you hear “difference.” They are “different.” “Their religion is not American,” as if the roots of Catholicism, Judaism or even Methodists and Presbyterians are.

It’s small talk now. But you hear it on radio and TV talk shows and the Internet. Nothing open or directly accusatory. Nothing overt. Just talk.

But to those of us who know the last such “talk” turned into a national executive order affecting the lives and futures of thousands of people who had done nothing wrong but be born of Japanese ancestry, it is too familiar. To those who have studied the history of that last tragic political rush-to-judgment, there are unsettling parallels.

To read the full story, click on: There Is American History We Must Not Be Allowed To Repeat.


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