An anonymous person wrote in on my last blog and brought up FDR’s imprisonment of Japanese Americans at Manzanar during WWII. I’m not certain if the person was trying to draw comparisons between the treatment of those who were held at Manzanar and the treatment of suspected terrorists under the Bush Administration or if they were saying that in times of war, extraordinary circumstances make it necessary to suspend due process and civil liberties. I’ll do my best to explain my position.
First of all, thanks for writing and bringing up the comparison with Manzanar. I do hold FDR in high regard for many reasons, but Manzanar is not one of them. In fact, I believe that Manzanar is still widely regarded as a dark stain upon the history of our country, a time when we let our irrational fears get the better of us, much like the Salem witch trials, and perhaps as we’re doing now. I have never heard or read any convincing arguments that imprisoning Japanese Americans in relocation camps during WWII aided in winning that war or yielded any intelligence that helped us win the war. When we speak of Manzanar, we usually speak of it shamefully. So, yes, I would say that FDR lost the thread there, if not the plot.
We should be able to learn from history and not repeat the same mistakes. Do we really want to be apologizing for our actions a few years down the line as we’ve had to do in the case of Manzanar?
There is no one party nor single leader who has all the right answers. Hopefully, we are able to distinguish their good ideas from their bad ones. We can’t afford the luxury of voting someone into public service and then letting them take the wheel while we go bake a batch of cookies. We’ve got to keep one eye on the cookies and the other on the White House. Like any boss who expects her employees to do a good job, we need to let them know that we’re watching them. In a true democracy, the people are the deciders and they decide what is best.
Tonight, I saw a video on YouTube that made me feel hopeful, hopeful that we are not the complacent, apathetic nation many feared we had become. Maybe it’s just the eternal optimist in me, but I sense that change is in the air. I’m starting to hear more dissenting voices in the mainstream media, more questioning of authority - even from those who were formerly supporters of the administration. Perhaps my optimism is unfounded, but I feel compelled to clutch at these threads of hope because there has been so little of it for the past six years.
Here’s the video. I think there is a little ember that needs to be fanned here.