Donald Trump's Comment Is a Reminder That 1942 Could Become Our Future

The past is the would-be future.

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After the attacks on Pearl Harbor, which lead to the loss of thousands of lives, the American people were understandably afraid. Unfortunately, this fear led to rampant xenophobia: In 1942, a National Opinion Research Center poll found that 93 percent of Americans approved of the relocation of “Japanese aliens.”

They saw Americans of Japanese descent through the same phobic lens — three-fifths of those polled believed these citizens should have their right to live as a free Americans revoked.

On the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks, we are seeing the same rhetoric. A statement released Monday from the campaign of Donald Trump reads that the GOP presidential candidate, who is currently polling in second according to new numbers from Iowa, is calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Trump cites polling numbers from the Center for Security Policy, a Tea Party-tied think tank founded and presided by “one of America’s notorious Islamophobes” that 51 percent of those polled “agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah.”

Who is being polled and what the fuck that really means is not explained by Trump — only that Shariah Law is bad and apparently something that goes hand in hand with being Muslim.

Polling is important, particularly since it is such an easy thing to manipulate. Just because a poll exists doesn’t mean it’s not built off of biased sampling, volunteer bias, and margin of error.

Polls must be looked at critically and be taken as a suggestion of collective opinion, and not a fact. By dropping in polling data to this statement, Trump is attempting to culminate an air of credibility, and then set it on fire with exclamatory phrases like “beheadings and more unthinkable acts that pose great harm to Americans.”

Trump’s proposed policy, which would affect both Muslims attempting to immigrate to the United States as well as tourists, will likely take up a chunk of his rally planned for Monday evening at the USS Yorktown in South Carolina. The evening’s events, organized to mark the Pearl Harbor attacks, will be streaming live beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

“One has to wonder what Donald Trump will say next as he ramps up his anti-Muslim bigotry,” says Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to the Washington Post.

“Where is there left for him to go? Are we talking internment camps? Are we talking the final solution to the Muslim question? I feel like I’m back in the 1930s.”

Recreated barracks of the Manzanar Internment Camp. 

Don Graham/Flickr

Polling statistics have to be critically evaluated because they lead to real numbers of people who believe in unfounded facts. Nine months after World War II, 66 percent of Americans polled said that the “Japanese who lived in this country” had been involved in espionage with the Japanese government. While thousands of families were interned, 60 percent of whom were American citizens, no Japanese-American or Japanese national has even been found guilty of spying.

Trump doesn’t want to talk about guns and he doesn’t want to talk the mass shootings committed by white young men. He wants to Make America Great Again by making Americans afraid of Muslims and falling into a trap that we’ve fallen into before.