Echoes of a disgraceful past

Intolerance is a shameful part of America's past; we shouldn't repeat it today

The author, a retiree, came to Chico in 1980 and lives in the Chapman neighborhood. He has written for newspapers since 1958.

On Dec. 7, 1941, less than a year before I was born, Japan initiated our first true introduction to terrorism by attacking U.S. military forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on a Sunday morning that would be remembered thereafter as “a date which will live in infamy.”

Slightly more than two months later, the president issued Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the forced relocation of approximately 5,000 Japanese-American citizens from the West Coast of the United States. The camps to which these Americans were assigned during the course of the war were harsh and intolerable locations. For most internees, their wealth and their property were seized and never returned.

To this day, many of the surviving detainees have not been fairly recompensed. It is a disgrace that resulted from the preconception that all Japanese-Americans could not be trusted.

On Dec. 7, 2015, as I write these words, the issue is religion rather than race. A demagogue posing as a presidential aspirant is calling for the closing of our borders to all who identify as Muslim. This is the same firebrand who has called for the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants.

Our nation has a long history of intolerance and hatred. It simmers without stop and boils over into violence whenever a loud voice turns up the heat. Today’s Muslims will soon be tomorrow’s N-word. It is not going to be pretty.

I have a friend of 35 years who is a Muslim. He is also an American. His cultural heritage is Palestinian, although you would not assume that from his appearance. He has always reminded me of one of Santa’s elves, both with his appearance and his personality. His name is Ali Sarsour and he is very well-known and well-liked in our community.

If that demagogue with really bad hair ever has his way, perhaps my friend Ali would lose his citizenship, being an adherent of the second largest religion in the world. Yet nowhere in the Five Pillars of Islam is there any reference to the kind of violence we recently experienced.

Pearl Harbor. San Bernardino. Hatred.