Star Trek icon George Takei recently sent me — and perhaps thousands of other people — an email on behalf of the Democratic Party, under the subject “Japanese internment.”
The purpose of the spam is to scare liberals into donating to the Democrats, on the theory that President-elect Donald Trump is planning to round up Muslims in the same way.
Takei, an affable warrior for gay rights and same-sex marriage, was interned during World War II in one of the camps that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration established for Japanese-Americans, ostensibly because their loyalty to the United States was in doubt.
It was one of the worst policies in American history — worse still for having been ratified by the Supreme Court in Korematsu v. United States (1944).
One of Breitbart News’ former offices, in fact, was in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Japanese Sawtelle, where a small, decades-old Japanese community still thrives, and where some elderly residents can still recall their internment.
Takei’s email abuses the memory of that experience for partisan fundraising purposes, based on a lie.
The lie is Takei’s claim that “Donald Trump’s transition advisors talk about building a registry of Muslims and his surrogates using the internment of Japanese-Americans as their model.”
The statement in question was not made by a member of Trump’s transition team, but a spokesman for a pro-Trump super PAC. And he did not say that the internment of Japanese-Americans was a “model” — in fact, as even the New York Times reported, he said that he would not want to do it again.
Furthermore, there is no proposal to create a “registry” of Muslims, but to reinstate a post-9/11 policy from the George W. Bush and early Barack Obama administrations of tracking immigrants and visitors from certain foreign countries, including Muslim-majority countries, where terrorism is a concern.
Takei is not alone in fanning the flames of fear. Anti-Defamation League president Jonathan Greenblatt recently likened the so-called “Muslim registry” to the Nazi policies of the Holocaust.
Now Takei and the Democrats are using that fear to raise political cash. A link in the email connects to a Democratic Party website, where visitors are asked to add their names, then donate money.
The text of the email follows (original emphasis):
Just a few weeks after my fifth birthday, in the spring of 1942, my parents got my younger brother, my baby sister, and me up very early, hurriedly dressed us, and quickly started to pack.
When my brother and I looked out the window of our living room, we saw two soldiers marching up the driveway, bayonets fixed to their rifles. They banged on our front door and ordered us out of the house. We could take only what we could carry with us.
We were loaded on to train cars with other Japanese-American families, with guards stationed at both ends of each car as though we were criminals, and sent two-thirds of the way across the country to an internment camp in the swamps of Arkansas.
For nearly three years, barbed wire, sentry towers, and armed guards marked home. Mass showers, lousy meals in crowded mess halls, and a searchlight following me as I ran from our barracks to the latrine in the middle of the night — in case I was trying to escape — became normal.
So when I hear Donald Trump’s transition advisors talk about building a registry of Muslims and his surrogates using the internment of Japanese-Americans as their model, I am outraged — because I remember the tears streaming down my mother’s face as we were torn away from our home. And I am resolved to raise my voice and say, loudly and clearly, that this is not who we are.
My mother was born in Sacramento, my father grew up in San Francisco, and my siblings and I were born in Los Angeles. We were American citizens, as proud of our country as we were of our Japanese heritage. But in the fear and mass hysteria of wartime, none of that mattered. When our government allowed hatred and racism to overtake our values, nothing else mattered.
We cannot allow our country to be led down that dark path ever again.
Joel, I am committed to fighting for our values, our democracy, and the moral character of our nation. And I am committed to standing with the Democratic Party against bigotry and oppression for the next four years and beyond, no matter what form it takes. I hope you will do the same. Add your name today to stand with me:
George Takei — stop scaring people. Nobody is creating a Muslim registry. Nobody is planning concentration camps — except perhaps the left-wing students demanding that their colleges and universities be turned into “sanctuary campuses.”
Americans are divided enough without having to fear a new Holocaust. To raise money off that fear is worse than low.