October 28, 2009

The latest campaign by Fox to smear another Obama appointee, it seems, is the Washington Times-based attack on Judge Edward Chen, who it seems is too liberal for their tastes. Or, as with Judge Sonia Sotomayor, not white enough.

Either way, they're trying to paint him as a radical for saying things like this:

In a speech on Sept. 22, 2001, he said that among his first responses to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America was a "sickening feeling in my stomach about what might happen to race relations and religious tolerance on our own soil. ... One has to wonder whether the seemingly irresistible forces of racism, nativism and scapegoating which has [sic] recurred so often in our history can be effectively restrained."

Bill O'Reilly, of course, was all over this like stink on smegma. He hosted Monica Crowley and Alan Colmes to chew it over.

Crowley practically shrieked at Chen's concerns, and O'Reilly was appalled. Colmes, as he has become adept at doing, was the sole voice of reason:

O'Reilly: It sounds radical left, does it not? It sounds Phil Donahue.

Crowley: And that speech was delivered 11 days after Sept. 11, when this country was still so raw with the deaths of 3,000 dead Americans in the street, and Chen is worried about nativism -- he was essentially there accusing the United States of being a country of bigots and racists.

O'Reilly: But the thing that bothered me most about it, Colmes, is that didn't happen.

Colmes: Well, I have to disagree. We have seen nativism, we have seen racism. Just the other day, we saw the Broward County Republican Club, having their meeting at a gun club where they put up a likeness of Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, and a stereotypical --

O'Reilly: Wait wait wait wait wait wait. [Crosstalk] Are you going to sit there and tell me that eight years after 9/11, there has been rampant nativism, racism and scapegoating in this country?

Colmes: I didn't say rampant, but there's been several --

O'Reilly: That's what he said.

Colmes: There's been an element of that.

Actually, Bill, Chen never said nativism and racism was "rampant" -- he wondered whether these forces could be constrained in the then-current environment.

And let's be clear: Among the few things that the Bush administration did right in the wake of 9/11 was that, eventually, it did effectively constrain the forces of racism and reaction when it came to treatment of Arab Americans and Muslims.

But to claim that we haven't seen rampant nativism and racism since 9/11 is a joke -- we have, and everyone knows it. However, instead of the obvious targets after 9/11, it has been directed instead largely toward Latino immigrants, who the jingoists have in fact often connected to their post-9/11 fears.

After all, one of the favorite arguments of the Minuteman/GlennBeckistan crowd is that we need to "secure our borders" because that's what will keep us safe from terrorists like those who hit us on 9/11. (Note to nativist nimrods: The 9/11 terrorists came through airports with fake papers, like most skilled terrorists do. There has never been a record of a single Islamic terrorist entering the States

And so, eight years after 9/11, we do in fact have if not rampant at least a significant level of nativism and racism manifesting itself in America. We've provided some examples in the video above: Rabid Joe Arpaio fans who think we ought to shoot any man, woman or child who crosses the border. Neo-Nazi supporters of Arpaio turning out to harass Latino marchers. A violent counter-protest by white nationalists at a pro-immigrant March in Connecticut. And those are just in the past several months alone.

Moreover, if you look at the conditions that immediately followed the events of 9/11 -- including especially the 11 days leading up to Chen's speech -- his commentary was fully justified. Or have all those Fox folks somehow managed to scrub from their memories the horrendous outbreak of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the days immediately after 9/11?

Four days after hijacked planes tore into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, shopkeepers were shot to death in California, Texas and Arizona as an anti-Muslim backlash broke out across the country.

"It's an unbelievable situation," Laila Al-Qatami, a spokeswoman for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) told the Chicago Tribune.

"The incidents have ranged from hate mail to verbal assaults to crimes that have resulted in deaths. The number of calls we're getting is unprecedented."

By Oct. 11, one month after the terrorist attacks, the ADC had collected more than 700 reports of hate crimes. The Council on American-Islamic Relations had 785 reports.

At hate-crime hotlines set up by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the volume of calls per hour peaked at 70. In Los Angeles alone, the police and sheriff's departments reported 167 hate crimes in the first four weeks of the backlash.

The targets included a large number of Sikhs mistaken for Arabs. Five years later, it was still a big problem. In more recent years, anti-Muslim bias crimes have declined somewhat as anti-Latino crimes have skyrocketed.

And while the Bush administration may have done a good job of responding to the hate-crime outbreak and tamping down anti-Arab xenophobia, they did do without much support from the larger conservative community.

Recall, after all, that there was a chorus of right-wing voices calling for the immediate use of racial profiling as a national-security measure. Many of them were rabid and vicious, and they remain with us today. Michelle Malkin -- long a Fox favorite -- even wrote and published a book justifying the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II as a way of defending the very concept of racial profiling.

Finally, the notion that Judge Chen evincing this concern in the days immediately following 9/11 is somehow a "far left" and "America hating" and "radical" thing actually tells us a lot more about the people arguing this -- people like O'Reilly and Crowley -- than anything else.

Because 9/11 immediately rang bells of alarm throughout the Asian American community -- Japanese Americans having been the primary targets of wartime hysteria last time around ... hysteria that eventually led to their incarcerated in miserable concentration camps in the interior U.S. for the war's duration.

I describe this in the Epilogue of my book Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community:

When United Airlines Flight 175, the second of four jetliners hijacked the morning of September 11, 2001, slammed into the World Trade Center, Tosh Ito was watching it on television, like many Americans. But what he thought about in those moments was very different than most—except perhaps for his fellow Nisei. The images on the television made him think of internment camps.

"It didn't take very long," Ito said, for the memories of the evacuation to come flooding back. "It was almost instantaneous, I'd say. By the time the second plane hit, why, I was thinking about what happened."

Ito recognized the immediate similarities between September 11 and Pearl Harbor, raising the specter of a similar reaction against the domestic "enemy," a recognition he shared with most of his fellow evacuees: "It was kind of a surprise attack, and totally unexpected," he said. "I think for most of the Nisei that are still around, it didn't take us very long for it to bring back bad memories."

Rose Matsushita, watching on television at her home in Bellevue, had the same thoughts. "9/11, yeah, I thought: Uh-oh. We're at war," she recalled. "Some of them are here. And they were probably going to go through the same thing we did."

They were hardly alone in thinking this way. John Tateishi can tell you, for instance, about his dream callers.

The calls began a few days after the September 11 attacks. “I got a call one day—this was probably about four days after September 11—from a Nisei who just started talking, and basically just rambled and rambled,” recalled Tateishi, the national director of the Japanese American Citizens League, at his Bay Area office. “And, you know, Japanese Americans, we’re raised to be very respectful of our elders. So this man just kept going on and on, and I just sat there and listened to him, waiting to find out, you know, what he was calling about. And then he just said, ‘Well, OK, I’ll see you.’ And he hung up.

“I didn’t know this person. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s a strange a call.’ I mean, it was about two hours of phone call.”

“And then a day or so later I got another call, and the same thing happened. And it was, I think, on the fourth call I got, when this gentleman was talking to me, and he says, ‘You know, I can’t sleep again. I’m having bad dreams.’

“I thought what he was referring to was the image of the World Trade Center being hit and collapsing. And as he kept talking I realized what he was talking were dreams about camp. Of the experience going back sixty years.

“And then after that call, it kept happening, and every time I got a call, I would ask, ‘Are you having problems sleeping?’ And invariably, the answer was, ‘I’m having nightmares again.’ I would ask very specifically whether it was about the World Trade Center or about camp, and they would say, ‘Oh no no no, the nightmares are about camp, that I had after we left.’ ”

The Nisei elders’ nightmares—replete with barbed wire and machine guns and guard towers—are not mere ephemera. They are, after all, the only American citizens ever to have been herded en masse into concentration camps by their own government, not for having done anything, but because of who they were. For many of them, the scars of that experience were revived by the trauma following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington: “This is something that has provoked a very deep psychological response among Nisei,” said Tateishi.

Some of this probably was due to the similarities between Pearl Harbor and September 11, at least as traumas to the national psyche. Having lived through the aftermath of the former, when they were publicly attacked, by government officials and politicians as well as by the press, as potential “fifth column” traitors, it probably was only natural that the latter produced concerns that history might repeat itself. Yet the fears touched on something deeper as well.

"I didn't have any bad dreams, but it surely brought up bad memories," said Tosh Ito. The specific memories it engendered, he said, were not so much of the camps but of the outpouring of naked racial hatred that followed Pearl Harbor.

"There was a lot of mass hysteria, a lot of discrimination, and it was not subtle at all. It was right out there," Ito said. "Now, in later years, as things got better for minorities, there was still a lot of discrimination, but it was quite subtle. I think some of us thought maybe it was pretty much gone. But 9/11 brought all of it out again."

It became clear, however, over the ensuing months that the historic circumstances which led to the Nikkei incarceration were not duplicated, neither by the Bush administration nor the public at large. The wave of hysteria that struck shortly after Pearl Harbor, as well as the evacuation itself, both occurred within six months of that attack. In contrast, the government in the post-September 11 environment has been adamant about discouraging racial, ethnic and religious scapegoating, and the public generally has followed that lead, with some notable exceptions. Nonetheless, the concern among Japanese Americans since September 11 has in some regards intensified, because they perceive a gradual drift in a direction that may eventually produce the same result.

By giving voice to concerns just like these, Judge Chen was hardly being a far-left radical. He was, in fact, being a true-blue, red-blooded American patriot of the best stripe.

Which beats ignorant jingoes like Bill O'Reilly and Monica Crowley any day of the week.

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