Tag: World War II

No, We Don’t All Need to Get Along

Good intentions abound. That’s the only reason people still embrace misguided ideas like “colorblind society,” despite the powerfully negative connotations that such phrases conjure up.

The latest nicey-nicey concept I’ve encountered (and no doubt you have as well) is the absurd notion that, for America to succeed, we need to put aside our differences. In essence, we all need to get along.

Where in the hell did this strange idea come from?

For the overwhelming majority of American history, we have not all gotten along.

For example, Hamilton and Jefferson didn’t say, “let’s be pals” when they were hashing out what kind of government we should have. They had more important things to do.

Even during the so-called Era of Good Feelings, America’s many slaves weren’t feeling the love and joining in group hugs.

Speaking of slavery, America didn’t even reach its centennial before we started shooting at each other over that touchy topic. And it was another century of violence and antagonism before the government said, “Maybe we should be nicer to ethnic minorities.” At no point in that process did we all get along.

Yes, one could argue that the country was united during World War II, but even in that case, all it took to bind us together was a global conflagration where millions of people died and the very survival of democracy was in question. In other words… good times.

More recently, we’ve come to blows over Vietnam and Iraq, over abortion and affirmative action, over gay rights and healthcare.

So when was this mythical time when Americans were of one mind? And why does anyone think this is a necessary condition in order for the country to thrive? Obviously, we’ve found a way to work around our internecine loathing.

The truth is that a nation as vast as ours — with its myriad subcultures, each enjoying a large degree of freedom — is never going to be truly united. To believe otherwise is to embrace the thinking of a child.

However, this Kumbaya concept is more than a pathetic pipe dream. It features an insidious aspect snaking below the surface.

We see this in the earnest pleas, even demands, for liberals to shut up and support Trump. Of course, conservatives would like nothing better than for progressives to give Trump a chance (which many liberals, inexplicably, are quite willing to do).

But why would leftists agree to a right-wing agenda that goes against every principle we have, and that could lead America into chaos? Apparently, we should do so out of blind patriotism and for the sake of the vague, abstract concept of “unity.”

According to this idea, striving to be friends supersedes the threat of decimating the country.

“Yes, thousands of people are dead now because Obamacare was repealed, but at least we’re all getting along, and that’s the most important thing. Yup.”

This is clearly insane.

And aside from the specifics of the current era — where a wannabe fascist seeks to make the nation great again for white supremacists — the fact remains that striving for unity at all costs is spectacularly naïve, even destructive.

The US Constitution is the result of Founding Fathers threatening to duel each other to the death. Slavery was abolished through warfare. Civil rights came only after decades of people refusing to back down, and not settling for getting along.

One of the virtues/flaws of American culture is our hyper-competitiveness. As such, one idea or principle usually emerges triumphant. Sometimes it’s a good idea… and sometimes it’s not. Still, as we know, the moral arc is long but bends toward justice (at least we hope it does).

However, progress is delayed even more when we smile and act polite in the face of idiocy or fanaticism or demagoguery. And there is no need to do so.

Because we have never all gotten along.

And we never will.

 

 


Xmas Goodies

Congratulations to JZelewski and MadKat, who won passes to see Unbroken, the new movie from Angelina Jolie coming out on Christmas Day. She directs the movie, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t appear in it. But if she does, I hope she looks like this.

angelinajolie

Considering much of the movie is set in a Japanese POW camp in World War II, she would create quite a stir.

 


Salute

Whenever I write about some subtle act of bigotry, I get comments that I am indulging in race-baiting, and that racism is more or less dead (except to agitators like me who keep bringing these issues up).

It’s much harder to make that claim when the act is overtly racist, especially if it occurred in the distant past. As such, I expect no slapdowns over the recent news that President Barack Obama gave the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans, who “if not for the hue of their skin or their ethnicity…would have received the prestigious medals for their valor long ago.”

moh

Yes, it seems that back in the day, the US Army was riddled with bigots who didn’t take kindly to handing out the nation’s highest military honor to anybody but white guys. As such, these men — who displayed “gallantry above and beyond the call of duty for their combat actions in Vietnam, Korea, and World War II” —were denied proper recognition.

The Obama administration ordered a review of the records, which is how the US Army found that two dozen of its bravest soldiers were dissed. So the men are now receiving their medals, decades later.

Sadly, “only three of the soldiers are alive to receive the recognition.

The rest—soldiers with last names including Garcia and Weinstein and Negron—are dead.”

 


Rearview Mirror

It is an axiom that no culture can look upon its sins objectively without flinching. Actually, I just made that up, but it certainly sounds axiomatic to me.

For example, here in the United States, we went decades before admitting that putting Japanese Americans in camps during World War II was a bad idea. And that was positively light speed compared to how long it took us to apologize for slavery or to acknowledge that we weren’t exactly nice to the Native Americans.

Before we beat up too much on the USA, keep in mind that nations such as Germany, Turkey, and China all have trouble acknowledging that at some point in the past, they kind of, sort of, did some unpleasant things.

That’s why it’s fascinating that Guatemala is the first nation “in the Americas to prosecute a former head of state, in its own domestic courts, for the ultimate crime.”

The crime is genocide, and the defendant is former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, whose forces wiped out whole villages when he was in power during the 1980s.

The outcome of the trail, of course, is of great interest to Guatemalans in the United States, many of whom fled here during Efraín Ríos Montt’s reign of terror.

On a larger scale, however, the trail shows how it’s never too late for a nation to face its past, no matter how unpleasant the process.

 


Starting on a Upbeat Note

In honor of the new year – and the beginning of what so many people are convinced is a modern Era of Good Feelings – I’m going to unleash a positive story on you. It strays a bit from my focus on the Hispanic experience in America, but Mexicans are involved and it’s uplifting and everything, so I thought we could afford it.

Here’s the story.

It was the early days of World War II (for readers of the Millenial generation, that was the one with the Germans). A Mexican diplomat named Gilberto Bosques Saldívar was stationed in France.

In his position, Bosques Saldívar issued visas to refugees to help them escape persecution. He did more than this, however, and at great personal risk. He also provided the refugees with housing and chartered ships that would take them to Latin America.

Bosques Saldívar saved an estimated 40,000 Jews and other refugees from the concentration camps. There is some speculation that his efforts lead to the establishment of whole Jewish communities that endure to this day in parts of Latin America.

For his trouble, the Nazis arrested Bosques Saldívar and his family, holding them for about a year. The Mexican government won his release, and he returned to his country to continue a long diplomatic career.

His efforts earned him recognition as “the Mexican Schindler,” which sounds like the punchline to a joke about Hispanics and/or Jews but is actually quite the compliment. The guy lived to be 103 (!). But unfortunately, his work has only been recognized posthumously.

Recently, the Anti-Defamation League presented his heirs with an award on his behalf. The organization said Bosques Saldívar was “a shining example of human decency, moral courage and conviction, and his actions highlight the less well-known initiatives of Latin Americans who helped to save Jews during the Holocaust.”

It goes to show that, regardless of where you live and what your background is and what others may think of you, a Latino just may be your best bet for help.

Happy New Year.


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