Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Trump's ban on Muslims - there is precedent

Jewish on the USS St Louis trying to emigrate from Germany in 1939.   No one would take them in.
Source:  archives.jdc.org
So much has been said about and Donald Trump has been reviled because of his statements made about banning all Muslims from entering the U.S., with no exceptions, in the face of the San Bernardino murders and shootings by radicalized Islamists.  The Republican field of presidential candidates, thankfully, have denounced Trump and his ban.  Many others throughout the nation have denounced him also.

What is so dangerous and eerie about what is happening today is it rings true about another time in our history when fear gripped our nation.

I have heard many pundits on the news programs claim that there is absolutely no precedent to Trump's proposed ban of Muslims here in the U.S.

But, sadly, there are precedents to what he wants to do about the Muslims in America and Muslims and others trying to come to America.

We have to go all the way back to 1939, but precedent does exist.

On May 13, 1939 the ship, the USS St. Louis, left northern Germany filled with nine hundred Jewish people who were fleeing Germany because of Hitler's persecution against the them.  They were the last Jewish people to leave Germany before Hitler closed Germany's borders.

They hoped to reach Cuba and from there travel to the U.S.  When they arrived at Havana, Cuba they were turned away and denied entrance and forced to return to Europe.  The captain then steered the St. Louis towards the Florida coast.  They were refugees and asked for safe haven and entrance into the U.S.  Despite, several direct appeals to President Franklin Roosevelt, U.S. authorities refused them the right to dock at U.S. ports and enter the country.

 Roosevelt's reasoning for keeping them out was he was too worried about the potential flood of immigrants.  Sound familiar?   We have Syrian refugees and middle easterners today seeking entrance and safe haven in the U.S..

So, the USS St. Louis was forced to return to Germany.  More than 250 of the Jewish on the St. Louis were killed by Germany's Nazis.  This would not have happened had the U.S. taken them in.

Is this what we want the U.S., a country founded on freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to deny Muslims entrance to the U.S. based on their religious affiliation and their countries of origin?  Do we really want to go all the way back to 1939 and repeat what President  Franklin did?  Aren't we better than that today? 

Memoir by Monica Itoi Sone
Source:  www.paperbackswap.com

Another shameful precedent is what President Roosevelt did through executive order to the Japanese and Japanese-Americans living on the west coast of the U.S. after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

This is painfully revealed by Monica Itoi Sone's memoir, Nisei Daughter, that tells the story of her life growing up Japanese-American in the U.S. before and during WWII.

Monica was born on American soil to Japanese immigrant parents, called Issei in Japanese. Monica was known as Nisei or second generation Japanese-American citizen in Japanese. 
During the tim1e leading up to WWII and long after there were strict laws preventing Issei from becoming American citizens.  This happened even though their children born on American soil were American citizens and even though their sons fought in the U.S. Army against Japan.

Such discrimination is what we are talking about today and which Donald Trump is proposing. 

Sone's memoir goes on to tell how it was difficult for her, as a Nisei, to fully assimilate into the American mainstream because of widespread fear and prejudice toward the Japanese during the first half of the 20th century.

It foreshadows what the Muslim immigrants are going through today in the U.S.  With Americans so nervous and frightened about Islamic terrorist attacks, there is widespread fear and prejudice toward Muslims especially those who practice Islam.  Trump says it's okay to profile them.  He encourages, and so does the U.S. government to a degree, for Americans to report on Muslims if they have any suspicions of radicalization.  Again, so similar to WWII and what Hitler encouraged Germans to do against the Jewish population.  Hitler's Youth program even encouraged children to report on their parents.

As WWII aproached, Sone, in her memoir, tells of the harsh persecution Japanese and Japanese-Americans faced who lived on the West Coast.  Sone was a Nisei living in Seattle, Washington when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941.  The memoir records the loss of her rights as an American citizen as her family was forced to relocate to an interment camp in Idaho.

While teaching in Canton, Ohio, I had the privilege of meeting Monica Sone in person.  We read her memoir, Nisei Daughter, in our 8th grade Language Arts classes.  She came to speak to students and teachers about her experiences and writing her memoir.  

Monica Itoi Sone
Source:  bettymacdonaldfanclub.blogspot.com
Sone is a lovey, soft spoken woman who, amazingly, is not bitter about her experiences of dealing with prejudice and persecution against her and her family and their eventual relocation to an interment camp.  She has focused on her family's resiliency in a time of adversity and their willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of the country (U.S.) they love.

When she spoke to us it was in hope to educate, especially the students, so that what she experienced would never happen again in the U.S. or anywhere for that matter.  It was to show students how to deal with adversity of the most horrid kind.

However, here we are just at the same crossroads we were at more than fifty years ago.  Will we react the same way as we did in the 20th century or have are we become more enlightened now that we are in the 21st century?

Remember, those who do not learn from their history are doomed to repeat it.