Avoiding More Ethnic Backlash

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 18, 2009
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The Fort Hood tragedy came painfully close to Veterans Day 2009.

The president of the United States stopped by to memorialize the victims, and meet survivors and their families. Authorities believe all of them were shot by a fellow soldier. The president said, “This is a time of war.” I thought that was an important part of his speech. And while he was honoring the many generations of servicemen who have served America in distant lands all over the globe, he never mentioned whom America is at war with. Maybe it’s fortunate that he didn’t mention that the shooting suspect, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a Virginia native and Army psychiatrist, was a devout Muslim. The authorities have not yet identified a motive for the shooting, saying only that he was disgruntled about being deployed to Iraq in the near future.

The president did say, “It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy, but this much we do know: No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts.” This cannot be a good thing for Muslims living in America and serving in the U.S. armed forces.


Hawaii had its most recent brush with dis-loyalty in Lt. Ehren Watada’s refusal to obey an order from the commander in chief to serve in a Stryker Brigade in the Middle East. The record shows his motive was based on his personal belief that the war mentioned by President Obama was, in his words, “illegal.”

There are residents of Hawaii who remember the victims of wartime hysteria: U.S. citizens who were sent to Justice Department internment camps.

In all, 120,313 people in the U.S. were under control of the government. At least 1,118 were plucked from Hawaii and 219 mostly non-Japanese spouses entered the camps voluntarily. There were even some attempts to intern German Americans, but nothing compared to the hysteria over Japanese Americans living in the United States. History shows some evidence that the U.S. government wanted them for potential hostage exchanges with Japan. After the war, most were allowed to return to their former countries and some were deported to Japan. The whole internment action was fought in the courts for many years with no conclusive rulings on their legality.

For Hawaii residents, there was nothing but admiration for our Japanese-American soldiers, who formed up under the banner of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the heart of the 442nd “Go For Broke” Infantry, one of the most-decorated fighting units in World War II.

How we have progressed. After the Korean War, there were no reprisals against Koreans, and the same after the Vietnam War. History shows that the opposite occurred. There was a mass effort to relocate Vietnamese immigrants to America to help them rebuild their lives.

Thanks to the thoughtfulness of President Obama’s speech at Fort Hood, there is not likely to be any backlash against Muslims living in the United States or those serving in the armed services. In this case, it appears the the U.S. government has learned from history that overreaction is dangerous, and retaliation, for whatever reason, must be handled, if at all, with a great deal of sensitivity.

One area of possible improvements to consider is building memorials to our U.S. servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country then letting them slowly crumble before our very eyes from a lack of political will. It sends the wrong message to those who serve.

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