SENIOR MOMENTS: Two Elections, 70 Years Apart

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By Phil Shigekuni
(First published in 
The Rafu Shimpo on Feb. 18, 2012.)

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In early 1942, Earl Warren was completing his third term as California attorney general and was running for governor. To promote his campaign, he attempted to build a case for our removal from the West Coast, claiming we had strategically settled in key places such as water tanks and military bases so as to commit sabotage. What he did not say was that these were places that were least desirable, and land we could not own because of alien land laws.

He then made the incredible claim that the fact that there had been no sabotage thus far only proved that sabotage was being planned, and would surely happen soon.

Warren was elected governor later that year. Many historians believe that when he later became chief justice of the Supreme Court, his guilt regarding his misguided views on banishing us to camps facilitated the history-making civil rights laws that were enacted.

JA civil libertarian Edison Uno tried unsuccessfully to get Warren to apologize for his action in 1942. However, in Warren’s biography he does express regret for his fateful actions.

At the end of last year, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, which would allow the president to detain citizens without benefit of due process. He said at the time he was very reluctant to sign the bill, and he says he would not enforce it, but that raises other questions. What about future presidents? Can we be sure they would not enforce this part of the law?

Overshadowing NDAA is an editorial I read in the L.A. Times entitled “Who Reviews the ‘Kill List’?” (2/5/12). According to the article, over 1,300 people have been killed by drones in Pakistan since Obama came into office.

In addition, he ordered the killing of an American citizen and Al Qaeda member, Anwar Awlaki. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, has called on the president to explain this killing to the American public. President Obama apparently has unchallenged authority to order the killing of anyone suspected of terrorist connections.

Add to this the killing of Bin Laden — surely, no one in this election year can claim that the president is soft on terrorists.

Then there is former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who ran this racist ad you may have seen during the Super Bowl, which depicts a stereotypic Asian woman who, supposedly representing China, owns much of America’s debt. This ad, deservedly drew condemnation from several Asian organizations, including the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.

Looking at both ends of a span of 70 years, we can see that election years tend not to bring out the best in our society. Fortunately, we are able to register our disapproval and work for improving the election process.

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Phil Shigekuni can be reached by email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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