by Karen Frazier, Managing Editor
Paranormal Underground Magazine
I like to read. I’ll read pretty much anything – from magazines to novels to non-fiction.
Recently, I read two novels having to do with WWII. The first book was a novel called Sarah’s Key, which told the story of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup (oddly named Operation Spring Breeze) of Jewish families that took place in Paris in mid-July of 1942. While I was aware, of course, of concentration camps and the genocide that took place during WWII, I wasn’t familiar with the Vel d’Hiv roundup, in which the French government and French police were complicit. Thousands were detained for days without provisions or medical care in the bicycle velodrome in Paris before the children were separated from their parents and sent to different camps. In most cases, all of the families ultimately faced extermination.
The second book, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet told the story of a different kind of roundup that took place during WWII. That of Japanese families in Seattle’s International District. During that round up, thousands were sent to internment camps because they were believed to be enemies of the US merely because of their nationality. While most Japanese citizens were ultimately released after signing oaths of loyalty to the United States, they returned to ruined lives. Most had to start over from square one after having spent sometimes generations building lives as American citizens.
Why am I bringing this up? Because in our forum, we’ve been having a discussion on discrimination. Most of the conversation has centered around how individuals feel and experience discrimination in their lives in 2010. We discriminate based on all sorts of things – looks, sexual orientation, nationality, the color of someone’s skin, sex, intelligence, geography….the list goes on and on. For as long as we have inhabited planet Earth, human beings have found ways to discriminate against one another.
Discrimination arises out of fear. Human beings are naturally afraid of that which is different, which leads to discrimination. In order to rise above it, we have to go against our instincts.
As I read both of the novels, I was filled with deep sadness for the suffering and loss associated with both the internment of Japanese American citizens and internment and murder of European Jews. Both were horrifying events based on xenophobia, racism and discrimination. And yet, at the time, many were aware and turned a blind eye. Many more felt that there was some justification for this type of treatment of human beings.
Nearly 70 years later, how far have we come really? We may be too civilized to round up people based on nationality, heritage or some other criteria (or maybe not – Guantanamo Bay, anyone?), but we still can justify treating others horribly merely because they are different in some way than we are.
I’m not trying to excoriate anyone. I am in no position to condemn others. I am sure that, in many ways at many times throughout my life I have discriminated against others – if not outwardly then at the very least by my inner thought processes. By being aware of our propensity towards discrimination and xenophobia, however, perhaps we can recognize the urge in ourselves and stop it in its tracks. After all, the world changes one person at a time.
Enjoy reading Karen’s blog? Her new book, Avalanche of Spirits: The Ghosts of Wellington> is now available. Click here to buy.