Occasionally, when things in the world go awry, fear and some of mankind’s less attractive instincts come to the fore, manifesting in blanket actions intended to protect one group of people from another. But subdividing a population based on a category as general and broad as ethnicity has never achieved any gains in security. What it has done with grim consistency is to create deep emotional fissures in society which, quite opposite to intentions, has made populations weaker, less safe and less productive.
With recent talk of singling out various ethnic and religious populations in response to the actions of organizations and individuals, one cannot help but experience a strong sense of déjà vu. As Philosopher George Santayana famously observed, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And it would seem that in moments of national fear and anxiety, we tend to let much of what history has taught us go out of the window.
At this point you may be thinking “how is this a travel topic?” Well, on a recent visit to Seattle we stumbled across a neighborhood known as Japantown, and it was immediately evident that we had discovered some great places to visit that are not well known: just the kind of places Bearleader seeks out to share. But as we scratched the surface we became aware that the shops, restaurants and museums visible today are but a tiny remnant of a vibrant local ethnic culture that was thriving before World War II. And were it not for the disastrous policies to intern much of the Japanese population of the northwest, this community would have developed to an even greater degree than it has.