You may not be able to see Heart Mountain from here, but we are never very far away from it.
When, as young students, we first heard of the prison camps like Heart Mountain, into which the government herded thousands of Americans because they had Japanese ancestors, we asked how could that have happened?
“Fear,” we were told. Americans were so afraid after Pearl Harbor that they willingly relinquished their vaunted values in order to find an illusory sense of security in an insecure world. It didn’t actually make them safer. In the end, Heart Mountain was a national embarrassment; one we said we’d never repeat. But here we go again.
Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” FDR said the only thing we have to fear is fear. Thomas Jefferson said, “Those who sacrifice freedom for safety deserve neither.”
The French accept refugees. Not Americans? As kids, we were taught that welcoming “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” was an American value.
Somewhere Americans chose fear over courage. Governor Matt Mead is, as he often is, disappointing. But then a contemporary revision of John Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Profiles in Courage” would be a slim pamphlet. Since 9/11, the loudest voices are those of fear. Despite right-wing claims that our freedoms are being taken away, we have been giving them away freely.
We’ve given up our freedom of privacy and accepted a government that spies on us. We’ve accepted the use of torture as official U.S. policy. We’ve watched our government imprison people indefinitely without evidence or due process. We’ve given up our right to travel freely and allowed Dick Cheney to bait us into a disastrous invasion of Iraq, a nation that was no threat to our security.
Thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women, and children were killed by U.S. military attacks, their souls dismissed as “collateral damage.” But the innocent people killed in Paris become a rallying cry for killing more Muslims, the guilty along with the innocent.
We imitated bobbing-head dolls when Donald Trump promised to shut down mosques in violation of the First Amendment and Ben Carson said we should establish an unconstitutional religious test for seeking office. Then Ted Cruz offered that persecuted-Christians Syrians should be allowed into the U.S. but persecuted-Muslim Syrians should be excluded, not based on evidence that they actually pose a threat but because of their faith.
We live in times when people who talk like Trump and Carson get votes. Those who talk like Jesus reap scorn and they all call themselves “Christian.”
Want to radicalize a young Muslim? Let them grow up in refugee camps. The ghost of Osama Bin Laden is smiling. We hunted him down and killed him, but along the way we exchanged his corpse for the values that once branded us Americans.
Personal security is top priority for our national treasury as well. Americans may not realize it or have even noticed, but the National Priority Project documents we’ve spent $6.74 million per hour for Homeland Security since September 11, 2001. Conservatives who want government out of their lives now want a government large enough to protect them from any perceived threat.
How much more do we have to spend on personal security? How many more freedoms and values do you want to give up? Long before this ends, the most significant casualty will be basic American values. The “war on terror” will change who we are as a people because we are waging war on ourselves.
The terrorists took the lives of 130 people as they took the courage of millions. Which do you think ISIS considers the greatest victory?
Doesn’t it seem odd to you that we celebrate those who put their lives at risk to protect our freedoms and values while most of us are quite ready to give up those same values and freedoms to achieve a dubious level of protection for ourselves?