The Greatest Lie of the Greatest Generation?

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Chapel Hill is filled with talented, thoughtful folks whose stories – personal and professional – often open new avenues of personal discovery. Eric Muller, UNC Law professor and, lately intermittent, ‘blogger (Is That Legal?), is a Chapel Hillian I’ve spoken of before.

His personal history, finding out what happened to his great-uncle during Germany’s Holocaust (Eric Muller’s Sad Serendipity) and professional research, World War II’s shameful Japanese internment (Free to Die For Their Country), have intersected in gripping fashion – an intersection he has documented over on Is That Legal?.

When I was a kid, I read about this mass internment of United States citizens. I’m not sure where I read about thinly veiled racism that ended in mass deprivation of liberties, outright seizure of long-held property, the disruption of thousands of families lives, but it made a deep impression. This was roughly around the period of greatest tension in the civil rights struggle. Martin Luther King, Jr. was still alive pleading the case for common humanity. Yet, as the “WAR” in Vietnam was shifting into higher gear, some of the same prejudicial rhetoric used against 1940’s Japanese-American internees was making a resurgence.

I was reminded of Eric’s contributions today because of this BoingBoing article linking to scans of internment camp high-school yearbooks.

Internment camp yearbooks?

It seems like ever since Brokaw’s “greatest generation” series made their appearance, the mainstream media’s framing of the World War II era ignores some sad truths – including institutionalized racism against a variety of groups.

That generation’s struggle, as many of yesterday’s Veteran’s Day broadcasts sought to convince us, was more honorable than ours. Yet that generation allowed wholesale discrimination to continue.

Freedom is almost never freely granted, as Veteran’s Day reminds us, but must be pursued and then protected. Progress is incremental, as we our reminded by our own generation’s reverses – like the passage of California’s Proposition 8.

The hope is tomorrow will be better than today.

Eric is currently working documenting what he suggests is the greatest generation’s greatest lie.

Hirabayashi: The Biggest Lie of the Greatest Generation.” The article presents important new archival findings about Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81 (1943), which upheld the constitutionality of a racial curfew imposed on Japanese Americans in World War II. The Court concluded that because of the enormous security threat facing the United States — a threatened invasion of the West Coast by Japan in the months after the Pearl Harbor attack — the ordinary constitutional prohibition on “discrimination based on race alone” was not controlling.

It turns out that all this talk of invasion was a lie.

Lies have been used to send our troops to Iraq, eviscerate the protections guaranteed by our Constitution, approve torture, limit debate and dissent and many other activities antithetical to the proper functioning of an open democracy.

There is some hope that tomorrow will be better, especially if President Obama reverses many of the last 8 years of Bush signing statements, executive orders, illegal surveillance initiatives, shutters Guantánamo and ends extraordinary renditions (ACLU call-to-action).

Our past, as Eric reminds us, does inform our future.

Lifting all of us up…

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Orange County Commissioner Mike Nelson posted this small poem on his ‘blog in celebration of the Obama blowout:

Rosa sat so Martin could walk.
Martin walked so Jesse could run.
Jesse ran so Barack could win.
Barack won so our children can fly.


Ellie, Elijah and I stayed up past midnight tracking the close NC Presidential race. The last hour and a half the State Board of Elections (SBOE) showed McCain leading by a small margin. For some reason, integrating results from several presumably “blue” counties – Asheville’s Buncombe and Wilson’s Wilson – lagged. Larry Kissel, the valiant school teacher who battled millionaire porkmeister Robin Hayes was also running close (I have supported Larry since I met him several years ago at a local progressive Democrat event).

I really wanted a “blue” sweep in North Carolina this year.

11PM California clinched to race. Incredible! We hung on to each word of his historic acceptance speech – which has already begun to set the tone of his Presidency – and discussed how better days were on the way.

About 11:30pm, we started to get excited as WRAL, then WTVD and finally NBC17 began to report a swing of several to tens of thousands of votes Obama’s way.

Finally, well after midnight, as Mecklenberg, Buncombe and Wilson totals came in, the SBOE reported an Obama win!

We did a family jig, put Elijah to bed and went to sleep knowing that our child, and many other children, have a better chance today than they did yesterday to spread their wings and fly.

NC Ballot: Designed For Failure?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Early voting is moving at a breakneck pace this year with large turnouts from day one.

Unfortunately, NC’s “straight party” ballot option continues to confuse.

Even if you vote “straight party”, you MUST vote for President separately!! Luckily, our new local BOE Director Tracy Reams made sure this year’s poll-workers were well trained to notify voters of this peculiar situation.

Ellie, Elijah and I usually go to the polls on election day – it is a family tradition.

I’ve voted in every major election and nearly every primary (especially since independent voters had the option) since 1980 and have usually seen my top of the ticket choice for naught but this year is different.

Change, I dearly hope, is on the way.

There are a few more days to early vote. This year, same-day registration is available (details here).

No excuse for not getting out to vote!

Early Voting Locations and Hours

Monday – Friday, October 27th – 31st, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 1st, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

MOREHEAD PLANETARIUM, 250 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill [MAP]
CARRBORO TOWN HALL, 301 West Main Street, Carrboro [MAP]
ORANGE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY, 300 West Tryon Street, Hillsborough [MAP]

Monday – Friday, October 27th – October 31st, 12:00 Noon – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 1st, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

SEYMOUR SENIOR CENTER, 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill [MAP]
NORTHERN HUMAN SERVICES CENTER, 5800 NC Hwy 86 North, Hillsborough [MAP]

Nov. 4th Voting Locations

Orange County Board of Elections website has more information, including a search tool to identify your particular precinct.

Can’t wait to cast my vote for a guy who unapologetically wears sandals 😉

Obama and Jones

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Barack Obama swung by Chapel Hill tonight in his on-going attempt to clinch his party’s nomination. As David Price noted, for the first time in decades North Carolina is relevant – and we have an opportunity to push Obama over the top.

As with many political events, the rally, scheduled for 9:30pm kicked off promptly at 10:19pm. The Dean Dome was 3/4’s full – the crowd a mix of college students and locals (with a smattering of notable politicos – Mel Watt, David Price, Hampton Dellinger, Alice Gordon).

If you’ve seen Obama speak before, the stump he gave was fairly familiar – tweaked a bit for both the Tar Heel college and North Carolina “blue” crowd. He butchered Chancellor Moeser’s name (quickly corrected with some input from the crowd). He made a small reference to RTP – proposed cloning its success (I suggest better research by his crew). Spoke of mitigating college tuitions using a Americorp type program ($12K per annum -whew!). Talked about off-shoring of jobs and closing of mills. But mostly it was a speech targeted towards a national audience.

He riffed on McCain – “25 years in Congress” and a $25 gas tax refund “is the best he can do”.

After pummeling McCain a bit, he carefully highlighted the differences between him and Hillary.

Obama painted Hillary as the candidate of lobbyists, special interests and the back room party apparatchik. Contrasting his trip to Wall Street to inform CEOs that their personal tax bills were headed up, that under his administration Federal subsidies for their cash cows would dry up and windfall profits (literally highway robbery) were going to be taxed with Hillary’s Union hall pandering, he made the case for his political courage. And, he noted subtlety, she hasn’t been quite honest.

Which brings me back to our local Board of Commissioners race.

Between the two at-large candidates that I know and have seen in action at close range, Neloa Jones is the hands down best candidate.

She’s united her community, built coalitions and been honest and up-front with her concerns. She’s demonstrated her political courage.

She is no creature of the local “rah rah growth at any cost” political clique.

Neloa has not been missing in action and she hasn’t, like her opponent laid claim to positions she hasn’t fought for – kind of our own homegrown Obama. Sharp, with a real sense of purpose, Neloa is the kind of leader we need for Orange County.

Please, when you go to vote for Obama (or Hillary) cast a vote for Neloa.

Here’s some action from tonight’s rally. All photos compliments of my son Elijah.




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