Although I love my country, I am aware that there are parts of our history that shame us, parts that we wish we could rewrite, parts that make us remember why we need forgiveness.
Surely one of those chapters was written when, in World War II, we sent Japanese-Americans to internment camps at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (pictured here). In fact, one of my brothers-in-law was born in one of those odious camps.
What we did to our Japanese-American neighbors, of course, was nothing like what Hitler did to Europe's Jews in the Holocaust. And yet, as this fascinating piece in Tablet Magazine suggests, there may be a connection between the attitude that allowed FDR to overrule some of his aides and order the internment and his attitude that resulted in him not doing nearly all he could have done to rescue Jews from the Nazi death machine.
It turns out that FDR privately had expressed negative views of both the Japanese and the Jews.
As the Tablet piece then notes, "Roosevelt’s views about the Japanese dovetail with his privately expressed opinions about Jews. . .FDR’s writings and statements indicate that he regarded both Jews and Asians as having innate biological characteristics that made it difficult, or even impossible, for them to become fully loyal Americans. Certain individual, assimilated Jews could be useful to him as political allies or advisers, but having a substantial number of Jews, especially the less assimilated kind, was—in his mind—inviting trouble."
It almost never fails: When we think of people who are different from us in some way as "the other," as the rejected, the inferior, the to-be-resisted, we wind up doing enormous damage of one kind or another. What FDR's Christian faith should have taught him is that all people are precious in God's sight and because of that we are to treat all people with dignity and respect.
Of course, Christianity for century after century stood against the Jews, so it's not surprising to find Christians even today who carry anti-Jewish prejudice. But clearly it's past time for all that to end. And the FDR story of the Japanese and the simultaneous Holocaust can help teach us that lesson.
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WHAT THIS BUDDHIST LEADER THINKS
Time Magazine has done this interesting interview with the Dalai Lama. Turns out this Buddhist leader and I share something in common -- we've never smoked pot. Imagine that.