How will you respond to fear?
This description broke my heart the first time I heard it. That many people imprisoned in such a small, humiliating space is - reprehensible.
And the worst part? This "camp" was not located in Germany, or Soviet Russia, or (fill in the blank with whatever you see as the most inhumane prison on Earth).
It was located in California.
The description above is an account of Manzanar, one of ten different concentration camps that - in total - held over 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. In response to the United State's war with Japan, the prevailing public opinion became that the risk of Japanese agents within the country out-weighed the fact that many of the incarcerated were American citizens - and children.
As I've researched these camps and this period in Japanese American history (most recently through this podcast episode from 99% Invisible), I have been reminded of just how powerful fear can be in our lives both individually as well as collectively.
If we are not careful, we can allow fear to become the major driving force in our lives and move us to words and actions that are immoral or, at the very least, very mistaken.
Now let me try to toe the paradoxical line here of not getting political while also getting political.
The question I am currently wrestling with is this: Are we at risk of creating more Manzanar-like responses today?
I believe we may be fast approaching a fork in the road that will drastically impact where we end up as a society.
Here's my non-political point: Every and all sides of politics can, is, or has used fear to their advantage and thus no one is exempt from this warning. I'm not trying to take a side or demonize "the other" as "the enemy."
Here's my political point: History will remember us for how we responded to fear.
Because, honestly, fear is innate.
It's built into the DNA of who we are as humans. Fear is an emotion and no emotion is wrong. But it is what we do with that fear which is important. We cannot be held accountable for experiencing fear, but we are held responsible for how we respond to that fear.
Fear does not change morality or ethics.
And when it does change our morality, that is when we enter a very dangerous place.
The photo at the top of this article is a picture of the current memorial at Manzanar, remembering the lives of those forever changed by their time there as well as a reminder of the danger that can come with an in-correct and in-human response to fear.
As you journey through life in the coming days and weeks, I challenge you to respond to fear with love, justice, and hope.
Fear and evil cannot outlast or defeat love, justice, and hope. They never have and never will win.
Will you respond to fear with hate or love?
How will I respond?
How will our nation respond?
Let me end with these words from the plaque at Manzanar:
That's my hope and prayer.