Two months ago I shared a trailer for a documentary and told you it will be coming out in December. Well its bloody December and where is that documentary? Ah, life, its been keeping me busy, but mostly he folks behind the amazing documentary Mar Kitazawa and Alex Margolin have been pouring over the whole thing working out the bugs and making it purdy.
They shared an extended teaser with me, and I thought, I been such a tease already, why not tease you some more! Whats incredibly fortuitous about all of this is that today was the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. In fact, if you don’t know this, its also the last official memorial that will be organized.
Each year there are fewer and fewer survivors of the generation that really came to define American Exceptionalism, sadly these are the same folks the Washington crowd wants to eliminate medicare for, keep from getting cheaper prescriptions and allowing their hard work to be decimated by the few and greedy wall street folks who just don’t get what America is all about.
But the thing that is fortuitous is that while its the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor attacks, it soon will be the 70th anniversary of the Darkest and most fundamentally altering historical developments in our nations history- Executive Order 9066 and the Civilian Exclusion order no. 41. It effectively stripped American citizens of Japanese ancestry of their rights- yes even their economic rights to own a business, own property, so much for capitalism during a time of war- and put 110,000 Japanese Americans into 12 concentration camps across the arid, rugged inhospitable west and south west.
While the survivors of Pearl Harbor dwindle with each passing year, so do the number of internees. That is why I am proud of the work I got to do to help preserve American history and remind my generation about a very dark period in America. While we remember the valor of the Americans in Pearl Harbor, don’t forget the fear and marginalization that was forced onto an entire segment of Americans, those who were as afraid about the war and the impact that racism, exclusion and stripping of legal rights that ensued in its path.
The Bridging Community program means a lot to me, because in a way it was a means for me to help high school kids deal with a lot complexities they are faced with while growing up. The most challenging I believe is dealing with IDENTITY. I strongly believe that the challenge we face as American Muslims today, are internal more than external. The primary challenge being that of our IDENTITY. If we don’t know who we are, we are just going to be lost among all the other folks trying to find out who they are. In America’s great tradition of cultural mixing and boiling, identity politics was critical component to ensuring that your ethnic community was able to transcend to the larger share of the American pie. But entire communities were excluded from even that opportunity through outright racism, as presented by institutionalized slavery, or through legislation as expressed in preventing mixed race marriages or through overt discrimination “Irish need not apply” or covert through discriminatory hiring practices or banks giving out loans (effectively creating what we call “ghettos” today). Black Power, Yellow Pride, the ethnic explosion of asserting racial identity were effective responses to decades of oppression, repression and marginalization. As a Muslim community, we walk down that well trodden path, except we got the shoulders of giants to stand on. But before we can, there are fundamental questions we as a community have to grapple with.
What does it mean to be an American and a Muslim? How do we demarcate these identities, reconcile them, create separate and unique identity potentially? What makes you part of the “in” and what excludes you from the group? Part of this deals with the challenges of group identity and individual identity and the fundamental tension we face as American Muslims is the contradictory external aspects of being socialized in an environment that emphasizes the individual and a internal culture where we have a type of structure- hierarchy- that is often conflicting between culture and religion that emphasizes the collective. I think its just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to identity, but I clearly see it play out, especially recently I wrote about this at some length with All-American Muslim reality show on TLC.
That is a clear example of individual and group identity tension. A good preview of the struggle for defining identity and also more importantly the authority within our community to define identity. So much! But Bridging is a wonderful program because it explores, challenges, deconstructs all these things and does it by utilizing historical civil rights issues, racism, American Constitution and personal experiences of the students.
Check this video out of the Manzanar Pilgrimage that CAIR did a few years back to get a better scope of what I am jabbering about.