“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” – Fifth Amendment
In December, 1941 the United States officially entered World War II. Entering the conflict was cast as a struggle to rid the world of aggressive tyranny that was attempting to destroy freedom. Basically, the bad guys were horrendously evil. The Nazis in Germany waged a campaign of brutal despotic racism that tried to completely wipe out the Jews and others that were supposed less than desirable. The Japanese Empire had been committing genocide in China for several years and was bent on conquering the Pacific and subjugating it to a draconian regime of allegiance to the emperor. Free government was on the ropes, and the world was not a safe place for people who supported the rule of law above the rule of man.
The United States certainly had its work cut out for it. As the only free country capable of mounting any kind of lasting resistance against the Axis, Americans were in many ways one of the few voices of liberty in a world slowly going into the dark night of fascism. However, there is a side to the war effort that is not quite as familiar, or nearly as inspiring. But it is a part of our nation’s history that cannot be forgotten, and has a few notable warnings for those of us living here today.
In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive orders organizing the forced internment of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast into camps such as Manzanar. Yes, you read that correctly. The United States, the country tasked with saving Europe and the Pacific FROM the nations that did this sort of thing, decided that it should join in.
How could this have happened? Progressivism. Simply put, progressivism is the political ideology that the past holds no relevance to the present, and that each generation must seek to define its own terms of justice, ethics, morality, and the proper role of government. Therefore, the principles laid down in the founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are open to debate as to their real meaning and applicability. They sound nice, and they certainly worked for our ancestors, but it’s high time new ideals are put into effect.
OK, cool. The old folks need to finally loosen their grip on the younger generations and just let us be us. What could possibly be wrong with that? After all, weren’t the founders a bunch of slave-owning wife-beaters who hated fun? I mean, they like, spoke Latin and stuff, dude. Why should we listen to them?
To put it plainly, the founders were sort of geniuses when it came to divining the heart of human nature, and how humans acted if put into positions of power. And one thing that people can never change about themselves is their basic nature. Why do we value the Great Books? Because they cast a spotlight on the facts of life that are universal to man’s experience, no matter the time period or culture. The founders realized that human nature does not change, and that it has several idiosyncrasies that they planned on negating to a certain extent when they framed the U.S. government.
One of these idiosyncrasies that the founders sought to override was the basic habit of powerful people ignoring the natural rights of their fellow men. Enter the Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights. It guaranteed that no American citizen could have his life, liberty or property taken away from him without an official judicial procedure. Those in power were no longer allowed to simply have their way without any sort of consideration for the rights of others.
Now enter the Progressives, in this case, FDR. When it came time to wage a war, victory was to come at any cost. So the Japanese were shipped off to various camps that lacked electricity or cooking facilities and forced to abandon their homes and businesses. A similar fate awaited the enemies of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. In short, this was race-based domestic relocation that should be shocking to anyone. After all, this is America. WE weren’t the ones who set up cults of personality that granted unlimited power to those in the government. WE were a republic that went against the flow by acknowledging that the law was king. Yet the Japanese still slept in prisons without ever having committed a crime.
To be sure, we weren’t planning on gassing them, or permanently eradicating the Japanese from the planet. The fact still remains, however, that even in America, basic human rights were ignored in the name of a higher national priority. If one was Japanese and living in California, one had no option but to share the fate of political prisoners in the very countries we were fighting against.
So? Wasn’t that something that happened 70 years ago? There’s no way that could ever happen again. I mean, it’s not like ideologies from that era still survive in today’s world. Nazism isn’t that threat anymore. That is true, but progressivism has not died. It still lives on the minds of many of today’s politicians. Anyone claiming that the Constitution is a living document, that each generation must seek to define its own terms, provides no reasonable argument preventing just such an action from taking place again. All it takes is for there to be some higher interest to the government than natural rights, and soon those very rights will be ignored.
Think I’m wrong? Look at the wage-price controls under the Nixon administration. The government sought to help the economy by taking away the right of businesses to charge market rates for their products and disallowing those same businesses to charge their employees a feasible wage. Thus, private stock owners were told what they could and could not do with their own property, even though they were not harming anyone else’s rights.
Even though the U.S. government at this time does not have a race-based internment camp policy, the philosophy that made it possible 70 years ago is still alive and well today. If you think it can’t happen here, think again.