Friday, March 11, 2011

Caught in the middle....again

In 1941 the government of the United States grabbed the broad brush and in the ultimate example of a knee-jerk reaction, painted every person of Japanese ancestry as complicit in the attack on Pearl Harbor.  American citizens, some of whom were second and third generation citizens, were rounded up, their rights completely trampled, and given short notice to move to internment camps.  Property was confiscated, or forced to be sold at pennies on the dollar.  It was actually only slightly different than the actions taken in Germany against the Jews.

Eventually, two or three things happened.  Very slowly there was some recognition that some(most) of these people were actually Americans, who just happened to be ethnically Japanese.  Some were allowed to join the military, or in some cases, re-join!  Ultimately the 442 RCT, fighting primarily in Italy, became the most highly decorated unit in the Army.  Was that because they took extreme risks to prove "white America" had been wrong?  Possibly, but let's just acknowledge that they did their share.

Much later, decades later, the government finally got around to acknowledging that most actions taken had been wrong, and blatantly illegal.  It was too little, and far too late, should have been a learning experience.  For some it might have been, but, unfortunately not for all.

Today we are holding hearings in Congress that are far too reminscent of McCarthy and his ilk.  The target this time isn't the Communists.  This time the "group" that is being painted with the broadest of brushes isn't the Japanese.  This time, it's Muslims.  Other than that, history is repeating itself.

There is no question that the United States suffered a devestating attack, once again a surprise assault that caused much damage and loss of life.  This time those targeted were truly innocent civilians, which doesn't change anything, but it's worth acknowledging.  This time, once the truth was discovered, it was again easy to place the blame on on a single group.  However, it was not a racial segment, but rather a religion.

There are two great truths about 911.  The first is that it was carried out by a splinter group that represented no nation, nor even a specific religion.  They had their own agenda, and while others throughout the world might have welcomed the attack, they did not participate in it.  Hitler might or might not have welcomed the actions of Japan, but he didn't actively help them.  In fact, he would have been much happier if they had attacked Russia.

The second great truth about 911 is that it became far too easy to blame the religion rather than the perpetrators.  In our collective rush to demonize all Muslims, we've never paused to look at the truth.  We marched hell-bent into Iraq... because...well, because somebody in power wanted to, and then doctored the evidence to make it seem reasonable.  In hindsight, we were absolutely wrong in every justification was offered, but the damage is done.

There is, however, one place, happening today where we could do something right...and we're not.  The so-called King hearings only serve to make matters worse.  They again demonize a religion while purporting to find out about "radical Islam."  Terrorism isn't that narrow, and if we look at the most recent attacks in the United States, we'll see that.  The shootings in Arizona, the attempt to bomb and MLK parade in Spokane, and many other "terrorist acts" aren't related to any religion, and not remotely related to Islam.

Sadly, whatever lessons we could have learned from 1941 have been ignored or forgotten in our rush to find a new enemy.  That's something we should not idly ignore.

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