Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Decent Christians imprison neighbors if they are scary

Consider us ardent fan-boys of Sociological Images, a blog that almost always makes us think, and when it doesn't, it makes us wish we had.  This time, the SI ladies pointed out a WWII-era U.S. War Department propaganda video that bleakly outs a government trying its darnedest to portray the imprisonment of 100,000+ Japanese American men, women, and children as the beneficent, caring, actions of a government protecting its citizens from the menace of Japanese provocateurs living among us.

Six thoughts came to our mind as we watched the film.  That sort of thing doesn't happen often, so we decided to write them down:

1.  Internment was an adventure.

Did you really think that the Japanese Americans who were forced to sell their businesses, abandon their property, and leave their homes to live in desert dormitories were upset by this?  Shucks no, they saw it as their patriotic duty to support the war effort!  These gentle and well-mannered Americans appreciated the generous assistance that their government provided to move their families into new homes where they could work, play, and raise their children safely away from the temptation to make war on their homeland.  Did you ever move to a new city because Pop got a great new job?  Yeah, it was kind of like that.

2.  Everyone had a good time.
We are sure that the Army filmographers had no trouble convincing heartsick prisoners the happy travelers to smile and wave at the cameras as they happily boarded trains for a swell adventure.
3.  At least we weren't as bad as those guys.

These kinds of films gave the rest of us a chance to get off the hook: "What?!  My government is depriving honest-to-gosh Americans of their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?  No way!  Oh... I see, this doesn't look so bad.  Look, they're smiling.  Isn't that little boy cute?  Could you pass the turkey, honey?"  We are reminded of another citizenry of the era that looked the other way as their government imprisoned, tortured, and killed millions.  As far as we know, the U.S. didn't torture and kill so much as it imprisoned and deprived.  But, you get the point.

4.  America sets the standard again.

Our national pride stood at full attention when the narrator breathlessly proclaimed that, "...we are setting a standard for the rest of the world in the treatment of people who may have loyalties to an enemy nation.  We are protecting ourselves without violating the laws of Christian decency."  Translation: "If an American citizen belongs to a race of people who hale from a threatening nation, it is our patriotic duty to deprive them of their liberty, their property, their careers, and their dignity because they might make trouble."  If this is Christian decency, we wonder if those who suffered internment might not have liked to try the decency of some other religion.

What about other enemies of the decent Americans in WWII?  Were they forced into concentration camps?  Not so much:  If you looked like the people who were making the laws, you could stay in your home.  German Americans should thank their lucky lederhosen for their all-American looks.  Die Deutschen were just an epicanthic fold away from being carted off and locked up in desert barracks.

5.  Thank goodness that's over
All of that happened a long time ago when the world was a crazier place.  It is comforting to think that our enlightened and evolved civility no longer tolerates mistreatment of individuals on the basis of national origin.  What?  Oh... that's right.  And this.  Whoops.  Maybe we aren't all that different after all.  There are always a few groups who are ripe for the picking (on).

Films like this allow us to tell ourselves pretty stories about liberty and justice for all while torturing our dehumanized enemies and terrorizing other people who look like them prove that we are a decent and brave country defending freedom and liberty in the world.

6.  Next?

The Japanese invasion of America's west coast thankfully never materialized, but our politicians and media continue to warn against invasions across our borders.  What will be our response to the Hispanic invasion?  Vigilante groups, oppressive and vindictive laws, and the steady drumbeat of paranoid media propaganda aimed at dehumanizing immigrants already permeates the national dialog.  What type of behavior will this dialog inspire?

What's that sound?

It is a bleak day indeed when people are deprived of their freedom for the sake of protecting freedom's ring.  Hispanics, blacks, muslims... anyone with skin that is darker than an Alaskan governor's should be especially on their toes.

We hear hammers in the desert.

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