Sunday, February 26, 2012

Make Your Own Racist Adventure Story

The truth is—as this deplorable experience proves—that constitutions and laws are not sufficient of themselves...Despite the unequivocal language of the Constitution of the United States that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, and despite the Fifth Amendment's command that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, both of these constitutional safeguards were denied by military action...--Former Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark.

“A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched.... So, a[n] American born of [immigrant] parents, nurtured upon [immigrant] traditions, living in a transplanted [immigrant] atmosphere... notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a[n immigrant], and not an American.... Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them while we are at war with the[m]."--Los Angeles Times editorial.

The second quote has the minority group in question omitted. Yet it speaks volumes to the nature of racism without mentioning a race. Is the use of one group more or less ridiculous in this phase? Let’s see.

We’ll start with the classic one illegal Latin American immigrants. “So, a Latino-American born of illegal immigrant parents, nurtured upon Latino traditions, living in a transplanted Latin atmosphere... notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a Latino, and not an American.” Alabama and Arizona aren’t looking too good right now. It sounds like an Anchor Babies argument; pull out your minuteman guns and start patrolling the borders for those job-stealing migrants. What’s that, no one wants to pick food for awful wages in Alabama and all the crops are rotting on the vine because even prisoners won’t work? Oops.

But Latinos are easy; it’s a case of the classic kind of racism--the kind since before a nuclear family named the Beavers was lighting up the nostalgic imaginations of pre-adolescent Family Values Conservatives.

Maybe it needs sprucing up; some spicy modernization. How about Muslims? The War on Terror is over a decade old and there are particular concerns regarding Guantanamo and the first quote. Maybe that’s what this entire argument was about in the first place. Maybe this was all about an over-reaching executive that indefinitely detained Muslims. Let’s put them into these quotes. “Despite the unequivocal language of the Constitution of the United States that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, and despite the Fifth Amendment's command that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, both of these constitutional safeguards were denied by military action [in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay].” Sends chills down my spine how relevant that seems. And the second quote? “A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched.... So, a Muslim-American born of Muslim parents, nurtured upon Islamic traditions, living in a transplanted Islamic atmosphere...grows up to be a Radical Islamist, and not an American.... Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them while we are at war with the Radical Islamists.”

That one is too good. Pretty sure someone at Fox News has said something like that. Oh racism!

But none of this really illustrates the point I think. “So, a Chinese-American born of Chinese parents, nurtured upon Chinese traditions, living in a transplanted Chinese atmosphere... notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a Chinese, and not an American.... Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them." Oh economics and politics; the red dragon is rising. Speaking of, how does Commie Fever feel?

“So, a Communist American born of Commie parents, nurtured upon Commie traditions, living in a transplanted Communist atmosphere... notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a Commie, and not an American.... Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them while we are at war with the[m]." How very Cold War Mr. 80s man.

Or maybe red is too limiting. How about a rainbow? “So, a Gay American born of Gay parents, nurtured upon Gay traditions...inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a Gay, and not an American.... Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them while we are at war with the Gays." Yeah, bigotry tastes funny doesn’t it. Leaves a bad taste right, Mr. Larry Craig?

Ok, ok, the kicker, “A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched.... So, an English American born of English parents, nurtured upon British traditions, living in a transplanted English atmosphere... notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be an Englishman, and not an American... Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them."

And then the clouds start to part. That last one is odd. Why ever would we distrust an Englishman other than on his own merits? Certainly we’d never treat with suspicion a person who seemed overly excited about the marriage of William and Kate nor would we suspect said person was hell-bent on instating a royal order to America.

Discrimination and bigotry are usually far more subtle than the explicit and hateful speech that have characterized America’s past. The two original quotes are in regards to the internment of 110,000 American citizens of Japanese descent during WWII. Yet the arguments that allowed so many innocents to be forcibly removed from their homes, have their assets frozen, and induced years of segregation and hardship do not lack parallels in the modern world.

Democratic government is founded on principles of tolerance and acceptance, not on anger and fear. What allows America to persist is not its enormous army but its democratic system where fairness reigns and heritage is no indicator of loyalty. Those who sow seeds of hatred are playing a game of deception and self-promotion. Critical thought and openness to differing views is the way forward. “An American is nonetheless an American wherever the egg is hatched.... So, an American born of immigrant parents, nurtured upon American traditions, living in a transplanted immigrant-American atmosphere... grows up to be an American... Thus, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them."