Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.
He wanted to start a race war.
That, you will recall, was what authorities say white supremacist Dylann Roof had in mind when he shot up a storied African-American church in June. It might have surprised him to learn that we’ve already had a race war.
No, that’s not how one typically thinks of World War II, but it takes only a cursory consideration of that war’s causes and effects to make the case. Germany killed 6 million Jews and rampaged through Poland and the Soviet Union because it considered Jews and Slavs subhuman. The Japanese stormed through China and other Asian outposts in the conviction that they were a superior people and that Americans, as a decadent and mongrel people, could do nothing about it.
Meantime, this country was busy imprisoning 120,000 of its citizens of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps and plunging into a war against racial hatred with a Jim Crow military. The American war effort was undermined repeatedly by race riots — whites attacking blacks at a shipyard in Mobile, white servicemen beating up Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles, to name two examples.
So no, it is not a stretch to call that war a race war.
It ended on August 15, 1945. V-J — Victory over Japan — Day was when the surrender was announced, the day of blissfully drunken revelry from Times Square in New York to Market Street in San Francisco. But for all practical purposes, the war had actually ended nine days before — 70 years ago Thursday — in a noiseless flash of light over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. One person who survived — as least 60,000 people would not — described it as a “sheet of sun.”
The destruction of Hiroshima by an atomic bomb — Nagasaki followed three days later — did not just end the war. It also ushered in a new era: the nuclear age. To those of us who were children then, nuclear power was what turned Peter Parker into a human spider and that lizard into Godzilla.
It was also what air-raid sirens were screaming about when the teacher told you to get down under your desk, hands clasped behind your neck. We called them “drop drills.” No one ever explained to us how putting an inch of laminated particle board between you and a nuclear explosion might save you. None of us ever thought to ask. We simply accepted it, went to school alongside this most terrifying legacy of the great race war, and thought nothing of it.
The world has seen plenty of race wars — meaning tribalistic violence — before and since 1945. Ask the Armenians, the Tutsis, the Darfurians. Ask the Congolese, the Cambodians, the Herero. Ask the Cherokee. The childish urge of the human species to divide itself and destroy itself has splashed oceans of blood across the history of the world.
The difference 70 years ago was the scope of the thing — and that spectacular ending. For the first time, our species now had the ability to destroy itself. We were still driven by the same childish urge. Only now, we were children playing with matches.
This is the fearsome reality that has shadowed my generation down seven decades, from schoolchildren doing drop drills to grandparents watching grandchildren play in the park. And the idea that we might someday forge peace among the warring factions of the planet, find a way to help our kind overcome tribal hatred before it’s too late, has perhaps come to seem idealistic, visionary, naïve, a tired ’60s holdover, a song John Lennon once sang that’s nice to listen to but not at all realistic.
Maybe it’s all those things.
Though 70 years after a flash of soundless light blasted away 60,000 lives, you have to wonder what better options we’ve got. But then, I’m biased.
You see, I have grandchildren playing in the park.
(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at email@example.com.)
Photo: Artūrs Gedvillo via Flickr
VATICAN CITY — Friar Junipero Serra, an 18th century Franciscan who brought Christianity to California and is accused by Native American groups of colonial crimes, will be made a saint, the Vatican said Wednesday.
The decision was taken by Pope Francis in a Tuesday meeting with the head of the Vatican’s saint-making department, Cardinal Angelo Amato, a statement said.
The move had long been expected. Francis announced sainthood plans for Serra in January, and said he would personally preside over his canonization mass during a September 23 visit to Washington, part of a trip taking him to Cuba and the United States.
On Saturday, speaking at a U.S. seminary in Rome, the pontiff hailed Serra as “a tireless missionary,” and as “one of the founding fathers of the United States,” as well as a “special patron of the Hispanic people of the country.”
He added that the friar had “defended the indigenous peoples against abuses by the colonizers.”
Serra was born in Spain in 1713 and died in Mexico in 1784. He founded the first nine Catholic missions in modern-day California, which was at the time ruled by the Spanish.
Native American activists consider him an accomplice in the brutalities committed by Spanish invaders. The Catholic Church strongly rejects such accusations.
The group Mexica Movement held protests against the planned canonization on Saturday, outside the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Citlalli Anahuac, a member of the organization, told local TV network KABC channel 7 that “to canonize Junipero Serra is to canonize the genocide against us, as indigenous people.”
She added: “His job was to kill the indigenous people, who we were as a people, and instead revive us as Christians.”
Photo: Wally Gobetz via Flickr
Dohuk (Iraq) (AFP) – Time was running out for starving Yazidis trapped on an Iraqi mountain Wednesday as the West ramped up efforts to assist survivors and arm Kurdish forces battling jihadists.
The United States has carried out air strikes against members of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in the area of Mount Sinjar, where the UN refugee agency says 20,000-30,000 people, many of them members of the Yazidi minority, are besieged.
Thousands more poured across a bridge into camps in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region on Wednesday after trekking into Syria to escape, most with nothing but the clothes they wore.
Some women carried exhausted children, weeping as they arrived to the relative safety of Iraqi Kurdistan.
But there are still large numbers on the mountain, said 45-year-old Mahmud Bakr.
“My father Khalaf is 70 years old — he cannot make this journey,” he told AFP when he crossed back into Iraq.
UN minority rights expert Rita Izsak has warned they face “a mass atrocity and potential genocide within days or hours”.
The displaced who managed to flee a siege that began ten days ago found relative security in Kurdistan but complained that their living conditions had hardly improved.
“We were besieged for ten days in the mountain. The whole world is talking about us but we did not get any real help,” said Khodhr Hussein. “We went from hunger in Sinjar to hunger in this camp.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that Washington is looking at options to bring the trapped civilians out.
“We will make a very rapid and critical assessment because we understand it is urgent to try to move those people off the mountains,” he said.
Washington has already said it would ship weapons to the cash-strapped Kurds and on Wednesday France followed in U.S. footsteps.
“The president has decided, in agreement with Baghdad, to deliver arms in the coming hours,” President Francois Hollande’s office said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the United States has sent 130 more military advisers to northern Iraq to assess the scope of the humanitarian crisis.
A U.S. defense official said the temporary additional personnel would also develop humanitarian assistance options beyond the current airdrop effort in support of the displaced civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar.
Britain said it has agreed to transport military supplies for the Kurdish forces from “other contributing states”.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Wednesday his country would join humanitarian airdrops in Iraq, and did not rule out the possibility of greater military involvement.
Washington has urged Iraqi premier designate Haidar al-Abadi to rapidly form a broad-based government able to unite Iraqis in the fight against jihadist-led insurgents who have overrun swathes of the country.
Abadi came from behind in an acrimonious process to select Iraq’s new premier when President Fuad Masum on Monday accepted his nomination and tasked him with forming a government.
He has 30 days to build a team which will face the daunting task of defusing sectarian tensions and, in the words of U.S. President Barack Obama, convincing the Sunni Arab minority that IS “is not the only game in town”.
On Wednesday, Maliki continued to defy international pressure to step aside, declaring that it would take a federal court ruling for him to quit.
“I confirm that the government will continue and there will not be a replacement for it without a decision from the federal court,” Maliki said in his televised weekly address.
The two-term premier has accused Masum of violating the constitution by approving Abadi’s nomination, and vowed he would sue.
But the prospects of Maliki — who told AFP in 2011 that he would not seek a third term — succeeding in his quest to cling to power appear dim.
Whatever ruling the court might deliver, analysts say Maliki has lost too much backing to stay in power.
International support has poured in for Abadi, including from both Washington and Tehran, the two main foreign power-brokers in Iraq.
The political transition comes at a time of crisis for Iraq.
They attacked Christian, Yazidi, Turkmen and Shabak minorities west, north and east of Mosul, sparking a mass exodus that sent the number of people displaced in Iraq this year soaring.
A week of devastating gains saw the IS jihadists take the country’s largest dam and advance to within striking distance of the autonomous Kurdish region.
U.S. strikes and cross-border Kurdish cooperation have since yielded early results on several fronts, with Kurdish troops beginning to claw back lost ground.
AFP Photo/Ahmad al-Rubaye
About The National Memo
The National Memo is a political newsletter and website that combines the spirit of investigative journalism with new technology and ideas. We cover campaigns, elections, the White House, Congress, and the world with a fresh outlook. Our own journalism — as well as our selections of the smartest stories available every day — reflects a clear and strong perspective, without the kind of propaganda, ultra-partisanship and overwrought ideology that burden so much of our political discourse.