74 years after Pearl Harbor, a new attack is unfolding

By Alec Rooney

So, it's Pearl Harbor Day.

You know what that is, right?

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It's when we commemorate how Americans forced non-white American people into camps, after irrational mass paranoia that drove white people into hysterical rage against people who didn't look like us.

Of course it was all caused by a militaristic country on the other side of the Pacific, which decided it needed to take out the U.S. Pacific Fleet if it wanted to continue growing its empire. Their early-morning air attack destroyed many naval vessels and an airfield, killed nearly 2,400 U.S. servicemen, and woke Americans up to a whole new kind of anger.

Pearl Harbor after the Japanese surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941

Pearl Harbor after the Japanese surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941

But that's not the important part, right?

The important part is the internment camps that were created for Japanese-Americans, and into which whole Japanese immigrant families were steered. Some people today talk about it as if it were our own Holocaust -- an evil far worse than the initial sneak attack.

So let's look at just why those camps were created:

After an attack that seemed to break the rules of warfare, suddenly anyone with Japanese lineage or even appearance was suspect. They were profiled. That's how nature works. Living things learn instantly from deadly attacks. Songbirds profile house cats all the time. Parents tell their young children to always profile strangers. Nearly everything profiles a snake.

If it walks like a threat, talks like a threat, and stalks like a threat, it might well be a threat.

What did Americans fear? They feared being attacked again, by surprise, by people already in their midst who could be linked to the attack that had unnerved a nation. People who would attack for some zealous, obscure reason, obeying some distant godlike leader. People willing to die just to see us suffer.

Now go back and read that last paragraph again. Sound familiar?

Today, 74 years after Pearl Harbor and 14 years after 9/11, we face the same thing. Only today our leaders, instead of moving to contain the threat, are instead moving to contain *us -- * our speech and rights and liberty.

Japanese-American internees at a camp in 1942

Japanese-American internees at a camp in 1942

Immediately following the San Bernardino Muslim killing spree, Attorney General Loretta Lynch issued a stern warning to Americans: Dare to profile the radical-Muslim threat (as the Christian Action Network does on a daily basis, and has done for some time) and you could face prosecution under U.S. law.

That's right: Americans are the real threat here. White and Christian ones, it is easy to imagine her adding. Talk about blaming the victim.

Only white Christians are not the only victims of terrorism, by any stretch. Look at the list of San Bernardino victims. Four of the dead had immigrated from Vietnam, Eritrea, Mexico and Iran respectively. There was at least one Jew. At least two were black. This was a cross-section of multicultural America, getting shot up by two bitter people who had become loudly, proudly ... Islamic.

Yet whom does Lynch warn, and threaten, and shake her finger at? Americans who want to stop all this.

The vehicle in which the San Bernardino shooters tried to flee (Pictures of whose they killed are not readily available.) 

The vehicle in which the San Bernardino shooters tried to flee (Pictures of whose they killed are not readily available.) 

And just how do we stop it? Not by building camps, obviously, or taking potshots at every Arab-looking person we see.

We do it first of all by communication. Not by believing our national leaders and their lying media, but by truly observing and getting to know our neighbors and co-workers. A commercial jet pilot had the right idea shortly after 9-11, when he got on on the PA system and instructed all his passengers to turn to their neighbors, introduce themselves and exchange basic personal information. It's our business who our neighbors are, what they've been up to -- even why strange men are going in and out of their home at odd hours.

Second, we arm ourselves, and train our families in how to keep weapons safely and responsibly. Our attackers (and leaders) have teeth. In America, the common person can have them too.

Finally, we assemble and organize with people who share our belief system: one of loving our neighbors but never turning a blind eye to evil.

Americans have nothing to be ashamed of, in their long-ago reaction to Pearl Harbor. They should not be ashamed of being a much warier, more watchful, more keenly questioning society today.

It's not hatred. It's not oppression. It's a matter of survival.

Alec Rooney serves as communications director for the Christian Action Network. He is a longtime journalist, with experience as a writer and editor at five daily newspapers over 25 years. An award-winning print copy editor and copy desk chief, he also works as a freelance academic book editor. He is a 1986 graduate of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., and holds an M.A. in English from the University of Kentucky.


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