Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When Will They Come For You?

Has the culture of America been so changed by 9-11 that the sixteen year olds can justify something that the most of the rest of us condemn?

Which takes precedence, the security of the community or the rights of the individual?  George Santayana said that those who ignore history are bound to repeat it.  How many generations does it take before the injustice of a situation becomes rationalized as the sense of what is just and unjust evolves and perhaps not for the better. 

This notion was powerfully brought home to me today at school.  Because I am an assistant for a Sophomore student at Gig Harbor High School, I sit in high school classes along with the students and sometimes it is difficult for me to keep my mouth shut for, although I seem to be a perpetual high school student, I am a 61 year old high school student who has been around the block a couple of times so when the question above came up in conjunction with the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII and a majority of the students in class felt that it was justified, I was horrified. Those who felt the internment was wrong were not particularly vocal leaving me to think about the Germans who did not speak up when their Jewish neighbors began to disappear.

I have a friend whose Japanese American parents were interned during WWII. What sort of message is our culture going to be sending to the survivors of that ugliness and their descendants?  This attitude is frightening to me!

Has the culture of America been so changed by 9-11 that the sixteen year olds can justify something that the most of the rest of us condemn?  Are we doomed to have history repeat itself because of our fear of the Middle Eastern Boogie Man? Following 9-11 I feared for my son whose father was born in Iran.  I was worried that history would repeat itself and that he and his father would be rounded up with others of Middle Eastern decent and put in internment centers. I was prepared to see that they both made it to Canada.  Fortunately that fear was never fulfilled, but today I realized that we need to worry about the future.  If today’s young people can justify taking away the civil liberties of Japanese Americans in the past, to what extremes will their fear lead them in the future? 

First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

"First They Came for the Jews"
By Pastor Niemoller


Pat Kurz said...

I once commented to my German-American father that if Germans could have been as readily identified as the Japanese, he might have been interned. It did not go over well. He turned livid and loudly insisted, "People were scared! People were scared!" and demanded I leave the house.

Stephanie Frieze said...

I was flabbergasted when those few students who thought internment was a bad idea were not outraged! Apparently "homeland security" has become the new culture. I'm so depressed.

Jamie said...

Rupert Murdoch, Jack Bauer, Fox News. Where is our next William O. Douglas coming from? Is Rome burning, I think not. Great people are doing extraordinary things, kindnesses, work; yet we are bombarded by the negative. tune out, read a classic, listen to wonderful music. If you want to turn on your TV, watch sports and old cartoons, they still make sense.

Stephanie Frieze said...

We are part of the Baby Boom generation who despite the fact that we were raised under the pall of the atomic age still said no to injustice. We KNOW the importance of the Constitution, but I'm afraid of the mind set of the young people coming of age since 9-11.

Lorrene said...

The bottom line is ignorance. You do not need to be an adult to know some things are just plain wrong. I was a young teen when my family moved from a farm to the big city of Stillwater,OK. I was appalled when I saw all the signs that said, 'no colored's allowed' in restaurant and behind drinking fountains. Coloreds to the back of the bus was another sign. I could not find anyone that knew the answer as to why. That is just the way it is, I was told.

Stephanie Frieze said...

To give some perspective, the discussion in this English class was regarding how the American sense of justice has changed over time. I am still horrified at the reaction of this group of students, but am heartened that when I complained to another teacher about what had happened and she put the question of Japanese internment to HER class they were unanimously against it and mind you, this second class was a history class of "resource" students on IEPs. Apparently they have a better sense of justice than do the members of the "general ed" English class. I would really like to know if other teachers in other areas are seeing a shift in what is acceptible to to relinquish in the way of rights in order to to have "security."