Civilized behavior is one of war's casualties

Regarding Bob Thomas' article of April 27 and the response from Michelle Trusty-Murphy dated May 2.

Bob Thomas is not a racist! Whatever someone might accuse him of being, racist should definitely not be on the list. His only mistake is that he chose to tell the truth rather than be "politically correct" regarding the issue of incarcerating Japanese-Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Italian-Americans and German-Americans were not imprisoned because it was not practical. First, there were too many of them. Second, they were generally indistinguishable from the rest of the white population.

Now about Bob and racism. As a 56-year-old American, with a lot of obvious African ancestry, I have had a lot of experience throughout my life dealing with racists of various ethnic backgrounds, usually under unpleasant circumstances. In fact, I can usually tell within the first five minutes of dealing with someone whether are tainted with racism. Bob does not register on my racist meter.

Second, I have read Ms. Trusty-Murphy's response to Bob's letter. While I think her perspective deserves respect, I must say she is very naive about the realities of human behavior in time of war under the threat of eminent life threatening danger. While I am sure there were white racists who were happy to have any excuse to incarcerate Japanese-Americans without due process of law, the simple threat of imminent invasion of the West Coast was reason enough. Racism need not have been an issue at all. Better safe than sorry in war.

It is very true that the first casualty of war is innocence, the second is certainly anything that closely resembles civilized behavior. When I read Ms. Trusty-Murphy's letter, my first thought was that she has never experienced war. She really does not understand that in war when a person or a people's literal survival is at stake, virtually all aspects of civilized norms of behavior are thrown out the window with habeas corpus along with the baby and the bath water. That is why war should be avoided at almost all costs.

Also, understand that if what happened to Japanese-Americans happened to people like me with African ancestry, I would still be angry, resentful and unforgiving in some ways. In fact, I would probably end up dead since I know I would never submit without a fight to what was done to them. But that is a different issue than my understanding of human behavior with their survival is threatened as in war. That is what Bob's article addressed. That is what happens in war to unassimilated and potentially hostile minorities. It is not nice, but it is a fact of life. People lose a lot more than their freedom and property during war. They lose their lives. C'est la vie, et c'est la Guerre.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment