Monday, December 08, 2008

In Infamy

Yesterday marked the 67th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The day after the surprise strike, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed Congress and asked for a declaration of war, describing December 7, 1941 as "a date which will live in infamy."

But what exactly was so infamous about this Japanese attack on military targets? This article on explains it simply:
President Roosevelt used the word "infamy" because the raid was an act of military aggression. Until that moment Japan and the United States were not at war, although their conflicting interests had been threatening to boil over. The attack turned a dispute into a war; Pearl Harbor was a crime because the Japanese struck first.
What we once considered a crime was molded into official US policy 60 years later. It's called The Bush Doctrine, and it's the illegitimate policy of preventive war. It was a bad idea in 1941, and it's still a bad idea now.

But at least we haven't recycled every bad idea of that era. In the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner, James Ziglar, pushed back against a "roundup" of Arabs and Muslims stating "We do have this thing called the Constitution." That's a stark contrast and blunt repudiation to Roosevelt's authorization of the internment of Japanese Americans...

The internment of Japanese Americans was probably the most shocking thing I ever learned in a high school history class. Well, when I say "learn" I mean read about in a short sidebar in our history textbook. Even back then I realized that the brevity of the lesson indicated a national shame over our actions. But I was also left with a curiosity about life inside the camps. Only recently did I find this little piece of the answer...

Here is a complete scan of a 1944 internment camp high school year book. Between normal pictures of student councils and proms there are poems about "Hope out of Gloom" and drawings that include barracks and barbed wire fences. I found this page particularly poignant.

I'm left wondering how textbooks 10 years from now will document the Bush legacy. Can they relegate every single crime and immoral act into a tiny sidebar or footnote? What else would be left to write about?


Trung said...

once again, another good article you wrote here. if it's true that history repeats itself, i would not be surprised if you find a scant mention about the bush years and its policies during this era. the people who write the textbooks are often owned by white rich men. as i learned in my institutional econ class, history has different points of view and most likely theirs will be the one that's printed in order to "educate" future generations.

Kristen said...

This morning I found this related link: Jerry Klein’s 2006 Radio Experiment. It shows how easily Americans can turn their hysteria into tyranny. It also shows how ignorance of history makes us likely to repeat the same mistakes.