“All of us can’t stay in the camps until the end of the war. Some of us have to go to the front. Our record on the battlefield will determine when you will return and how you will be treated. I don’t know if I’ll make it back.”
The above is an excerpt from a letter written by Tech Sgt. Abraham Ohama of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team–Killed in Action 1/20/1944.
It could have as easily been written by Captain Humayun Khan.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own family’s history as I watched his father, Khizr Khan, talk about the loss of his Muslim American son.
In 2011, I wrote a post titled “Unhyphenated Patriots” about the service of Japanese Americans during World War II, even as their families had been “relocated” to internment camps secured by barbed wire and armed soldiers. One of those patriots was my Uncle Yoshio.
The fear-mongering propagated by Donald Trump (and, being a life-long Republican, I’m ashamed to say, also others on the right) about Muslims–whether it’s denying entry, (Trump), “patroling and securing” Muslim neighborhoods, (Cruz) or testing for their loyalty (Gingrich), is, for me, all too similar to what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II.
I’ve spoken around the country about The Red Kimono and the internment of Japanese Americans. In my conversations, most, if not all agreed–the internment of Japanese Americans is an ugly event in American history.
And yet, we’re on a slippery slope toward repeating that ugly time in our history.
If you don’t see the similarities, read about Executive Order 9066, which established military zones and curfews, and cleared the way for the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans.
Or, read Questions 27 & 28 from the Loyalty Questionnaire, given to all Japanese American internees 17 years or older:
Uncle Yoshio served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American warfare. He was awarded the Bronze Medal and in 2010, the Congressional Gold Medal. Most importantly, he returned alive.
But, many Japanese Americans did not return from World War II, and many Muslim Americans like Captain Khan, did not return from wars in the Middle East.
I understand fear. I won’t deny I, too, am afraid at times. Perhaps I resist reacting to it because I’ve seen the “other side”–my family has been touched and affected by this kind of fear. Whatever the reason, as long as I can, I will resist allowing my fear to lead me to make decisions that discriminate against an entire people because of the actions of a relative few.