May 242016

Our democracy can be a powerful dynamic force for justice and equality but it can also

When people’s fallibility takes precedence over their goodness then

horrific things are done in the name of democracy


Serendipity.   I was answering Brad’s question about the viability of StatsCan.    2016-05-20  Was there at any point an historical Statistics Canada that would work today? (Lockheed Martin, Privacy of Personal Info)

And tackled the question of why I think it is that academics, politicians and media advocate strenuously for detailed files on citizens (StatsCan, mandatory long form Census).   Simultaneously, they are advocating to take away the Charter Right to Privacy of Personal Information, a constitutional right, without going through the process prescribed by Constitutional Law to remove a Charter Right (the Oakes Test for a “Section One Override” of the Right).   At a time when the worst war and surveillance corporation on the planet has the “steerage” role in the census operations of at least five countries, one being Canada.  Astoundingly backward steps.

I then happened to hear an interview that inspires on the point I was making – – our fallibility.

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Near the end of this CBC interview on the program “Q”,  George Takei recounts what his Father explained to him about democracy.

” . . .  Takei reflects on how his childhood in an (American) internment camp (World War Two)  marked him forever, how democracies progress and regress at the same time, and why “horrific things happen” when people’s fallibility overrides their goodness.. . . ” 

Partial transcription below.


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SEE ALSO:   2015-09-25 1940’s “U.S. Census was used to round up hundreds of thousands of patriotic American citizens at gunpoint”

“. . .  it wasn’t just the Nazis who used census data to round up “enemies” in their midst.   The Americans did the same ( but not to quite the same end!).   And what about Canadians? . . .   “

SEE ALSO:  2011-12-23 The Banality of Evil, Hannah Arendt. Freedom. “The new” versus certainty (action versus behaviour).

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. . .  Well, I was incarcerated as a child …. And I have memories of it, but they’re a child’s memories. I really didn’t understand it.

But when I became a teenager and I read civics books about the shining ideals of our American democracy,   I couldn’t quite reconcile that with what I knew to be my childhood imprisonment

And so I sat down with my Father after dinner many, many times.

Had some passionate and sometimes heated discussions on our imprisonment and

I learned about American democracy, its strength and its nobility from my Father, a man who lost everything in the middle of his life and

Started from scratch and taught me about American democracy

He said our democracy is a people’s democracy

And it has the potential to be as great as the founding fathers were

But it’s also as fallible as human beings are, and as the founding fathers were; the people who articulated those ideals kept other human beings as slaves

Women were not part of “All men are created equal”

They were women and

They had no rights

But from that time on those people who cared about the ideals and actively engaged in the process of democracy

Have struggled

The slaves struggled through generations, through the Jim Crow period and the Civil Rights period

Where now we have an Afro-American as the President of the United States


With women who had no rights

They couldn’t vote

They had no property rights

They didn’t have rights over their own children

And yet because they struggled together with fair-minded men

That today we have three women as justices on the Supreme Court of the U.S.

And a very strong probability that the next President of the U.S. will be a woman


So you know, we make progress

One Sunday afternoon he took me downtown to the Adlai Stevenson for President headquarters

And he introduced me to electoral politics

And I saw how this works

It takes people that were passionate, in that case

dedicated to getting Governor Stevenson of Illinois elected President of the U.S.


We weren’t successful then

But he said

In a democracy keep on keeping on

And we do make progress


Last year the Supreme Court of the U.S. ruled that

Marriage equality is the rule of the land from coast to coast and from border to border

And yet this year we have the backlash to that

People trying to use religion as a rationale for discrimination or

Hyped-up fear of pedophiles in girl’s bathrooms; you know

the battlefield is the bathroom now, of all places!


Our democracy can be a powerful dynamic force for justice and equality but it can also

When people’s fallibility takes precedence over their goodness then

horrific things are done in the name of democracy


(Shad, interviewer)  But your Father convinced you of the value of that process and the historical argument for it


(George):    And active engagement in the democratic process

I’ve been actively engaged in many, many political campaigns as well as social justice campaigns

I marched with Dr Martin Luther King

I shook his hand, chatted with him

During the Viet Nam War – – –

I was a teenager then but I must say I felt a sense of power being exchanged between his hand and mine

And his very measured cadence in his speech was

An incredible and inspiring experience

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Segment leading up to the preceding:


. . .   A chapter of American history that most people still to this day don’t know . . . the imprisonment of Japanese Americans . . .   simply because we happened to look like the people that bombed Pearl Harbour.

Donald Trump, a candidate for the presidency of the U.S. displays that same kind of fear-mongering that went on during the early part of the 1940s when we were seen as the people that bombed Pearl Harbour.

It was my grandparents at the turn of the last century that immigrated to this country. My Mother was born in Sacramento; my Father was a San Franciscan; my siblings and I were born in Los Angeles, here.

And yet because we happened to be of Japanese ancestry we were assumed to be just like them.

120,000 Japanese-Americans were summarily rounded up and put in barbed wire prison camps.

That’s what we dramatized in “Allegiance” (musical) on the Broadway stage.

Ushers have told me that during the intermission there were people in the lobby asking

Is this story true?

Did this actually happen in the United States?

Because we don’t know that history we have people like Donald Trump or mayors of some cities that echoed him and used the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans as a rationale – –

President Franklin D Roosevelt did it, so we must do it now with Muslims.

(10:00) When in fact there are millions and millions of Muslims who are not terrorists. Yes, the terrorists had been Muslims, but Muslims are not terrorists.

Those terrorists are a small miniscule fraction of the multi-million people on this planet who are Muslims.


So, you know, Politicians play on people’s ignorance and instill fear in them and urge them to do things that are not only unjust but are horrifically damaging to the lives of the people that are targeted.

(Shad, interviewer)    And we unfortunately don’t learn the lessons from history because we don’t know the history.


Exactly. That’s another one of my missions to work in that chapter of American history in our educational systems.

We founded a museum called the Japanese-American National Museum.

To institutionalize that story

I’m the last of the generation that experienced the internment

I was five years old then

We don’t want that story to die out with my generation.

And so we did this musical on Broadway on that subject, the Museum

And we’ve been working with boards of education . . .

We’ve been working with Little Rock

(We were incarcerated in Arkansas)

Barb wire prison camps, two of them in Arkansas   . . .

We have a programme to bring school teachers, about a dozen school teachers from Little Rock to the Museum every summer for a month

Their job is to work in that part of Arkansas history that imprisoned innocent Americans simply because of our ancestry   …



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