‘National security’ must never again be permitted to justify wholesale denial of constitutional rights and protections
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This election season has resurrected some dark chapters in U.S. history. President-elect Trump’s wall-building, anti-Muslim, crassly sexist, anti-abortion, post-truth, demagogic populism coupled with his Vice President-elect’s uncompromising stance on women’s reproductive issues and LGBTQ issues have sent shivers down the spine of anyone who believes that the country was becoming a more tolerant, liberal democracy.
One of those people is George Takei, who penned a heart-wrenching story in The Washington Post recently, detailing his family’s internment during World War II and America’s failure to live up to its promise of justice and equality.
His resounding message? Let’s not go back there.
Takei, the 79-year-old actor and activist, known for his role in Star Trek, felt compelled to write about his experience after a former spokesman for a major Trump super PAC, Carl Higbie, told Fox News last week that the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was a “precedent” for Trump’s plans to create a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries. Between 1942 and 1946, the U.S. government incarcerated about 120,000 people of Japanese descent from all over the United States over fears that they were working with the Japanese enemy at the time. The Supreme Court ruled the practice constitutional in 1944. It wasn’t until decades later that President Reagan apologized for the act and paid out token reparations to those affected.
“We did it during World War II with Japanese, which, you know, call it what you will,” he said. “There is precedent for it.”
Takei wrote in the Post shortly after:
Stop and consider these words. The internment was a dark chapter of American history, in which 120,000 people, including me and my family, lost our homes, our livelihoods, and our freedoms because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. Higbie speaks of the internment in the abstract, as a “precedent” or a policy, ignoring the true human tragedy that occurred.
Though Higbie did say that he doesn’t believe we should go back to interning people based on their nationality, his odd choice of words that this may be a “precedent” clearly doesn’t sit well with Takei, whose family was taken from their home in Los Angeles at gunpoint and held in an internment camp during the war.
This isn’t the first time Takei has spoken out about Trump’s xenophobia on the campaign trail and the real-life consequences for Americans. Takei warned in his recent editorial:
Let us all be clear: “National security” must never again be permitted to justify wholesale denial of constitutional rights and protections. If it is freedom and our way of life that we fight for, our first obligation is to ensure that our own government adheres to those principles. Without that, we are no better than our enemies.
Trump himself has said a number of contradictory remarks about screening Muslims at airports, banning certain immigrants from entering the United States, and creating a national registry for Muslims—or Syrian refugees. Like many of President-elect Trump’s policies, his plan is hard to pin down. That doesn’t mean being complacent about the possibility that the new government could enact policies to register, track, or even ban certain nationalities or faiths. Something like it happened quite recently even, and a poll has shown that Republicans broadly support a plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States. As Takei has repeatedly stressed, we must be diligent and hold Trump accountable for his dangerous rhetoric.