Why pay attention to history if we don't learn from mistakes?


While I have enjoyed a fantastic newspaper career — so far — over the past quarter-century, I’ve also had the pleasure of spending many years “moonlighting,” for a lack of better word, as an entertainment reporter.

That’s afforded me to not only talk about television shows and movies that I love, but also to talk to the very people — both in front and behind the camera — who bring such Hollywood magic to life.

One of my favorite people to talk to over the years is George Takei. Not only is he a legend from one of my most favorite television franchises of all time — Star Trek — he’s also someone who speaks deep from his heart, in a way so eloquently, you’d almost think he was reading from a script. 

George may have been the original Mr. Sulu helming the bridge of the USS Enterprise, but he also was one of some 120,000 people forced into internment camps during World War II — simply because he and his family were Japanese.

George was a very young boy through all of that, and his family did their best to limit the trauma and pain of being imprisoned for no reason that couldn’t be described as racist. Yet, as George talks about that time, how can anyone who is typically proud of the country they live in be proud of this?

World War II ended decades before I was born, and obviously I — nor you — had any part in that decision. But it’s still a decision that was made as part of a society we want built on American ideals. The kind of ideals that brought families like the Takeis, and even our own families and ancestors, to this fantastic country in the first place.

It’s still hard to feel that pride not only thinking back to the internment camps, but realizing America can do far worse than that, thanks to an immigration policy by the Trump administration that seems to come straight out of a medieval policy manual.

With how fast the news cycle seems to change under this president, I hope beyond hope by the time you read these words, not only will Trump actually end this policy of ripping apart families for doing nothing more than simply try to seek a better life in the United States, but has reunited the families he tore apart.

Sadly, I don’t believe that will happen. At least not anytime soon. More than anything, I want to travel down to the southern border, pull out a megaphone, and tell those crossing the border — parents who are having their children stolen from them — that this is not America, at least not the America we who have the honor of living here cherish or support.

These children are being shipped all over the country, many times in the dead of night. They have no idea what’s happening to them, or why they can’t see their parents. 

For me, and this might be harsh to say, but if you are doing anything that supports this cruel policy, you’re complicit with a terrible event that will end up on the wrong side of history. Where the children will grow up and talk to journalists just like me, hearing stories that even George Takei never imagined happening here.

Even if you have no choice. Even if some federal contract binds you. I don’t usually support moral laws over actual laws, primarily because I feel that most actual laws are moral.

Our immigration system does indeed need a lot of work, and we’re far from solutions. But what Donald Trump is doing to these children, to these families, this not only is not any solution, it’s moving us backward.

The point of exploring history is not only to know where we came from, but also to learn from our mistakes. The America we’re getting right now under a Trump White House is showing we haven’t learned anything at all.

The author is editor of The Riverdale Press.

Michael Hinman,