|by Wayne M. Krakau - Chicago Computer Guide, October, 2001|
| We interrupt this series on broadband communications with this special bulletin on diversity in the
computer industry, in light of the recent terrorist attacks.
First, let's start out with the basic fact that, long before they invented H1-B status, the computer industry has included a high percentage of foreign nationals who, in many cases, have different social, cultural, and, more importantly (for the sake of this discussion) religious traditions. As a corollary, let's accept that many of these people are readily identifiable as foreign through physical characteristics, accent, mode of dress, or their actions. Finally let's take notice of those people born in the United States who could be mistaken for foreigners.
Now let's mix in the idea that most people in this country have no serious idea of their own religion's history (as a separate issue from that religion's teachings) and, frankly, haven't a clue about any other religions. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Sure, people in one Christian denomination might know a little about other Christian denominations, and have at least some knowledge (not necessarily correct) about Judaism. However, since each denomination of each religion generally sees itself as THE one ultimate religion, their members don't feel compelled to learn about others.
Also, let's accept as given that they call us a Judeo-Christian society because the country is overwhelmingly ruled by Christians (mostly of the Caucasian variety) along with some Jews. It is not ingrained in our society that there are other perfectly legitimate religions, some having a common belief in the Judeo-Christian concept of God, others having multiple gods, and still others not having any concept of God or gods. Our society also lacks acknowledgment of people of good conscience who don't follow any religion - I've heard one explain "Why should I use an operator when I can dial direct?" - and those who feel no need for even a discussion of such matters.
If you buy my "facts" (or, if you prefer, my pinheaded opinions) you can see that the current national crisis could easily result in massive turmoil in the computer industry due to the possibility of actions taken against people who "look" or "act" Muslim, or more directly Arab. This is despite the fact that Islam includes different nationalities and races from around the world.
After spending much of my teens and twenties doing independent research on comparative religions, I found that all religions, no matter how well-intentioned their underlying philosophies, need to have their writings interpreted by mere humans who see things based on huge helpings of self interest, lots of potential prejudice, and a general all-around willingness to rationalize their actions. Hence, we end up with either outright vindication or at least a passive acceptance of some ethically questionable actions by religious authorities. How about the Inquisition, the Crusades, the wiping out and/or subjugation of native peoples throughout the Americas and elsewhere, the enslavement of Africans and others, the German treatment of Jews and others in World War II, the Israeli/Arab conflict, the Iran/Iraq conflict, the India/Pakistan conflict, the religious revolt in the southern Philippines, discrimination against nonwhites and Jews, and the terrorist attacks on the United States have all been either endorsed, or at least ignored, by some religious bodies. Do not start blaming all followers of Islam just because some groups are adjusting their religious interpretation to suit their own needs. Other religions, including Christianity, have had similar problems.
We now have the opportunity to either tear the computer industry (and the US) apart, or, make a decision to act according to the best principles of our respective religions or ethical standards of conduct. Do we really want to fight misguided and misused religious fundamentalism with our own version of religious fundamentalism?
I have always been annoyed when coaches invoke God's support in sporting events (as if God really wants you to maim the quarterback), but I am really disturbed when politicians start calling on God's support (as if God is really tied to political entities, like political parties or even countries). Convincing people that we are the Chosen People is a great way to justify and rationalize any action. Then next logical step is that the politician's decisions are backed by God. It's happened every time in the past in the US as well as other countries. The Founding Fathers didn't come up with the concept of the separation of church and state just for laughs. Has anybody heard about the nightmare of McCarthyism and how Americans suffered in its fight against "Godless" communists?
As a practical matter, during this crisis, the more time the police waste protecting Muslims (or alleged Muslims) and tracking down those who harm or harass them, the less time they will have to track down the terrorists and their helpers. Again, the more time they waste finding and interrogating "suspicious-looking" Muslims (or alleged Muslims) based on little more than prejudice, the less time they will have to track down real leads involving genuinely suspicious activity. Realistically, any Muslim who looks shifty these days is probably justifiably looking around due to being worried about being beaten or killed by non-Muslims.
Why, you may ask would I risk offending my fan base (both of you) on such risky subjects as religion, race, and politics. There are two reasons. One is a sort of familial guilt in being a first generation German-American (on my father's side) in a family with lots of relatives both here and back in the old country who were wholeheartedly in favor of exterminating Jews and other "undesirables".
The other reason is that I am afraid that my country will slip into some old and very bad habits, all while keeping the facts secret. Specifically, I have never seen or heard reports of the internment of Germans and Italians in concentration camps in the US starting just prior to the US involvement in World War II and ending only after the War ended. The only reason I know it happened is because almost all of my father's extended family spent the War in these camps with thousands of other people.
Since some of these people were moved from camp to camp (My relatives went from Fort Knox to somewhere in the Dakotas, and eventually to Crystal City, Texas.), they were later able to put their heads together to come up with a very rough estimate of 55,000 Germans (including Austrians) and 15,000 Italians. While they were never kept directly with the Italians, they were occasionally in adjacent camps, so that the number of Italians is only based on limited observation.
Note that a concentration camp is a place to literally "concentrate" undesirables and is not synonymous with "death camp". The camps were very much like what you would see in prisoner-of-war movies like The Great Escape or Stalag 17, though the wooden huts tended to be smaller. There were machine gun towers, armed guards, guard dogs, and lots and lots of barbed wire. I have seen drawings that the internees smuggled out and they match the verbal descriptions. At one point, there was an adjacent, identical camp that was used to hold German prisoners of war from various U-boats.
These concentration camps were not fit for people convicted of crimes in the US, much less whole families of law-abiding residents, some native-born or naturalized citizens. A few of the internees were actually big mouths who at least sounded suspicious, but most were just plain folks. Also, pretty much all of these just plain folks lost all of their possessions and property when they were interned.
Years ago somebody managed to expose the secret of the Japanese internment, but they seemed to have missed this one. The fact that this activity is still essentially unknown to those whose families were not involved scares me. Maybe it can happen, again. Now you know why I am so worried about what might happen in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
By the way, the only good thing that anyone mentioned about the camps was that my uncle met the woman he later married there. How's that for a tough dating service?
©2001, Wayne M. Krakau