It may be apropos that December 7, 2016 was the day that Time Magazine named Donald Trump as their “Person of the Year”. I say that on purpose. 78 years ago the “person of the year” on Time’s cover was Adolph Hitler. One year later, that same person of the year invaded Poland and began World War II.
Then, 75 years ago today, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor which drew our country into World War II. At the time of Hitler’s naming, he had just finished the Munich deal. He had already taken over Austria. And, he had already passed the Nuremberg Laws that made Jews non-citizens in Germany.
Time has said that the person they name as their “person of the year” is the one who has had the most effect on history and the news whether it is for the good or bad. Just Like Hitler, Donald Trump said “I am honored to be named as Time’s person of the year”.
This is the man who will be our next president. He has advocated for the deportation of millions of people from the country because he considers them “illegals”. He has said Muslims should be banned from immigrating to our country. And, he has said that there should probably be a “registry” for all American Muslims. Sound familiar?
World War II was the most deadly conflict in the world’s history. It is estimated that somewhere between 50 and 70 million people were killed during the war.
It was also the time when America interred Japanese Americans for the duration of the war. It was a dark chapter in our history. There was no reason other than pure racism that said all “Japs couldn’t be trusted not to be spies”. Sound familiar?
To justify the Muslim ban and the Muslim registry, Trump supporters are actually pointing to this illegal internment of U.S. citizens simply because of their race and/or heritage as the precedent.
Even as their families were forced to live in these internment camps, thousands of Japanese Americans fought in World War II in our military. Today, we have thousands of Muslims serving in our military. Sound familiar?
My father told me that he and his father were at a Bears football game on December 7, 1941. When the attack of Pearl Harbor was announced, about half the stadium left. Chicago was a huge Navy town at the time.
A year later my father enlisted in the Navy and served in the See Bees. He fought in the pacific theater. His generation went to war to defend our country after the surprise attack. They went to war to defend democracy from fascism and totalitarianism.
In the end, our side came out on top. Our side won the war. But, during the war, and even before our country was totally involved, our citizens were not told about the hundreds of dead sailors that washed up on our shores on the East Coast. They were victims of the U-Boat war.
After the war was over, Japanese were allowed to leave the internment camps. Only in many cases, their homes were no longer theirs. Many found others living in their homes and they would not leave. Sound familiar? Most Jews returned to their homes at the end of the war in Europe and found out they no longer owned their homes.
Before and after Hitler took power in Germany many civilians were attacked and beaten for being Jewish or communist. Many others were beaten because they weren’t Nazis. Today before and after the election we have civilians being attacked and threatened by Trump supporters because they are Muslim. Sound familiar?
Tom Brokaw wrote a book about my father’s generation. He called them “the greatest generation” because of the sacrifices they made during the worst war in history. 75 years ago today thousands of those men lost their lives in a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor.
But, even as these brave men went off to war, we had internment camps being set up for Japanese Americans just because they were Japanese. We had African-Americans serving in “segregated” divisions. We were not perfect by any stretch.
Yet, since that war we have seen civil rights grow to include all citizens. African-Americans finally got the right to vote everywhere with the Voting Rights Bill. Businesses were no longer allowed to discriminate against people based on race because of the Civil rights Bill.
We have seen women gain the ability to be protected and not discriminated against because they are women. And, this year, we have seen the Supreme Court rule that same-sex marriage is legal.
Still, today we are seeing “conservative” run states try to roll back these civil rights. The Supreme Court basically gutted the Voting Rights Bill which opened up a series of voter suppression bills in Republican controlled states.
We are seeing Republican Controlled states try to roll back Roe V. Wade with anti-abortion bills that will make it virtually impossible for women who wish to exercise their right to an abortion not be able to have one.
We see Republican controlled states passing anti-LGBT laws that reduces their rights to human dignity and protects anyone who wishes to discriminate against them simply because they are LGBT.
During World War II, Germany committed the atrocity of genocide in the holocaust. They murdered 11 million people in concentration camps and gas chambers. 6 million of them were Jews. The other 7 million included some prisoners of war, especially Polish and Russian, homosexuals, physically handicapped, mentally handicapped, and political prisoners.
Today we remember Pearl Harbor. I also remembered my father who fought in that horrible conflict. But, I also think about what happened then and what is happening today.
At that time the most horrific things done to people were done overseas. Today I wonder what our near future holds in my country. My father served in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War. I served 20 years in the Coast Guard entering during the Vietnam War. My youngest son served in the Marines and served in Iraq.
With what is going on during this transition, I wonder and worry what my country will look like a year from now. To me, the similarities between the 1938 Time Person of the Year and the 2016 Time Person of the Year seem too close.
You must also remember that Stalin was also named Person of the Year by Time in 1939 and 1942. Stalin was no better than Hitler. He murdered millions of his own people in purges. The Person of the Year is the person who dominates the news for good or bad.
We know what Hitler and Stalin did after being named Person of the Year. We can only wait and watch what Trump will do. But as I said earlier, if we fail to remember history, we are doomed to relive it. Let’s hope we don’t relive it under Trump.