Over the Hill

Trump’s Muslim ban laced with racism and hysteria

Until I read the story in last Sunday’s Tribune, I didn’t know there was a mosque in San Luis Obispo. The article also said 200 or 300 Muslims live in San Luis Obispo County and Northern Santa Barbara County. I had no idea.

I don’t know if any Muslims live in the North County. I haven’t met any. The Pew Research Center estimates there are 2.75 million Muslims in the United States. The total U.S. population is around 322 million.

Donald Trump, who wants to be elected president next November, has been talking this week about his new plan to ban any more Muslims from entering the United States. I wonder how that’ll work out. Our borders have proven to be porous when it comes to keeping out unwanted foreign people.

In announcing his plan, Trump mentioned a sort of precedent. He compared his plan with orders signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt shortly after the U.S. entered World War II. They were orders to detain citizens of Japan, Germany and Italy as enemy aliens.

But that was probably an unfortunate precedent for Trump to mention. It reminded many of us of President Roosevelt’s other wartime order to round up and intern nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry. About two-thirds of them were American citizens.

That took me back to the concert I attended in the 1980s at a local vineyard. The music was performed by Boy Scout Troop 379’s Drum and Bugle Corps from Los Angeles. Their troop had spent WWII in an internment (concentration) camp in Wyoming. They started each day with a ceremony, raising the American flag and playing the appropriate bugle call. I still have a copy of their 50th anniversary book.

Remembering Japanese-Americans also made me think of my father’s neighbor in Rochester, N.Y. She helped him through the final months of his fatal illness in 1981 and ’82. She and her husband were Japanese-Americans and, by the way, have relatives in this county.

And we must never forget the United States Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team in WWII. Composed largely of Japanese-Americans, it is the most decorated unit in American history.

In 1980 a government commission blamed the Japanese-American internments on “race prejudice” and “war hysteria.” The surviving internees received an apology and $20,000 each. Let’s not make the same mistake with our American Muslims.

Time magazine asked Trump if he thought President Roosevelt was right to intern people of Japanese ancestry. He answered, “I certainly hate the concept of it, but I would have had to be there to give a proper answer.”

Well, I can give an answer: It certainly was racial prejudice and war hysteria. In Hawaii 150,000 people of Japanese ancestry were never interned and didn’t cause any special problems during WWII.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.