Harvard Square Observer: America’s Bad Habit

Ernest Cassara

What is that, you ask?  Periodically choosing a group of folks to disdain, if that is not too weak a word for it.

Deliberately, I’ll not deal with the Native Americans, whom we used to refer to as Indians.  The term, of course, goes back to Columbus, who, needlessly to point out, misunderstood where and what he had reached, when he had aimed to sail to Asia.  The injustices committed against the earliest Americans would require the length of a doctoral dissertation, and, I am under pressure to send these ruminations to our esteemed editor.

Pondering the topic, brought back pleasant memories of a lecture tour I made through the New England states in the mid-forties, ending up in New Brunswick, Canada.  It was there, meeting some true blue descendants of the Tories who had been driven out of the rebellious colonies in the 1770s, I became aware of the “United Empire Loyalists.”  They were very cordial to this descendant of their nemesis.  From then on, in my history classes, my reference to the Tories, who had fled to the Mother Country, or north, to those colonies who chose not to rebel, took on greater meaning.  It was no longer a brief reference to those loyalists who chose to depart rather than risk being tarred and feathered.

Another example of American intolerance is found in the treatment of Americans of German descent in World War I.  Many of them, who were afraid, denied the great heritage of Goethe, Beethoven, et al., and felt they would be safer by changing their names, or anglicizing them.  This is not to dwell on American musicians who refused to perform German music for the duration.

Nothing could compare with the way our fellow Americans  of  Japanese  heritage were treated in WWII.  Whenever our fellows beat their breasts in pride at our accomplishments, and, indeed our tolerance, just casually mention the concentration camps our government set up.  Of course, we choose not to call them concentration camps, reserving that term for Hitler’s government, we preferring the term “internment camp.”

Now, it is the turn of Islamic Americans, thanks to the phony “war on terror.”  By now, we are all familiar of what happened to Mr. Agrar.  He is a Canadian citizen, who made the mistake of changing planes in New York, on his way home from a visit to Europe. Canadian authorities have now apologized for conveying to American authorities the false information that he was suspected of terrorist connections.  The result, our dear U.S.A., that more and more resembles the “terrorists” we claim to be fighting, shipped him off to Syria, where he was tortured for months, until the authorities there decided it was a case of mistaken identity.  His family, by the way, as well as the Canadian government, was not told where he had been sent. Makes one proud of America, don’t it!

You probably have heard of the two fellows, Ali Houssaiky and Osama Abulhassan, of the long-established Islamic community of Dearborn, Michigan, who decided to raise money for college tuition, by buying a bunch of cell phones at cheap Wal-Mart prices.  The salesman, who waited on them, being suspicious that the instruments might be used to set off bombs - and, after all, these fellows were obviously Muslims -  called the police.  To make matters worse, they were using Houssaiky’s mother’s car, which had an airline manual.  Very suspicious, indeed.  Of course, after the young fellows had been convicted of terrorism in the press, it was determined that the airline manual was there because Mrs. Houssaiky works for Royal Jordanian Airlines.

Authorities, after the fellows had been jailed, decided there was nothing to charge them with.  But, as Houssaiky said, the media turned them into “animals,” and that, although they were cleared, this will stick to them all of their lives.

So, dear readers, the U.S.A., made of folks from all over the world, can be quite intolerant of the latest group in the news.  This is made much worse, by the scare mongering which our president and the Republicans are presently engaged in.

Cannot leave this subject without a P.S.  The Deutsche Oper, the opera company we have had the pleasure of attending in Berlin on numerous occasions, is being criticized for altering its presentation of Mozart’s “Idomeo.”  I agree with the opera company that including the severed heads of Mohammad, Buddha, and several others, in the production, was bound to lead to trouble.  But, my concern is that I like my Mozart unadulterated.  He didn’t include this boneheaded idea in the opera.

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Harvard Square Commentary, October 2, 2006