Friends of the Court

Spreading the news when someone takes a true stand against injustice helps widen the impact.  So go on and spread the word about a few brave folks standing against racist interment (via Dave):

It is always a bitterly telling commentary on any government when the only people who seem capable of standing up and stopping them from doing something that nearly everyone with a sense of basic decency understands is wrong are just plain, ordinary citizens — the kind willing to stand up in the face of immense social pressures, as well as the sheer inertia created by bad leadership, and say no.

But it says even more about those citizens, because standing up in this fashion requires a special kind of common-sensical courage, the kind we often take for granted. Over the history of the United States, individual citizens — the people who made up the ranks of the abolitionists and the suffragettes and the civil rights movement, and all the Walt Woodwards and John Henry Faulks in between — have done a duty the rest of us have shirked, and we all owe them an immense debt. Even when they did not succeed at the time, their legacy has shaped us and, in the end, played a critical role in preserving democracy in America.

The contemporary versions of these civic heroes can be found among the Japanese Americans who recently filed an amicus brief filed on behalf of Muslims detained by the federal government after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001

The New York Times article goes into more detail (via Dave):

Holly Yasui was far away when a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled last June that the government had wide latitude to detain noncitizens indefinitely on the basis of race, religion or national origin. The ruling came in a class-action lawsuit by Muslim immigrants held after 9/11.

The ruling “painfully resurrects the long-discredited legal theory” that was used to put their grandparents behind barbed wire, along with the rest of the West Coast’s Japanese alien population, the three contend in an unusual friends-of-the-court brief filed today in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

This is inspiring an action!  Dave draws the broader conclusions the lawsuit (and the brief) are trying to address:

The combination of secret lawbreaking, brutal mistreatment, and a Kafkaesque bureaucracy are the unmistakable hallmarks of a government careening out of control, consumed by the omnipresent temptations of authoritarianism. And the echoes of the wartime internment episode of 1942-45 not only can be heard today, they seem to be amplified — not merely in the mass sweeps that followed the attacks of September 11, but continuing through the abuses of detainees at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, the bizarre treatment of Jose Padilla, the legalization of torture under the Bush administration.

We are still headed down the road to authoritarianism.  Whenever citizens like Ms. Yasui, Mr. Hirabayashi, Eric L Muller and Ms. Korematsu-Haigh take a stand against authoritarian and racist streaks in our government we move farther from the abyss of totalitarianism.   (Emphasis mine):

In the end, it is always going to be incumbent upon ordinary citizens — engaged, informed people who take their citizenship seriously — to act as the stewards of good government and to rein in the powers of authorities, particularly when they become excessesive. And the more of them there are, the greater their chances of success.

We all had better hope that the efforts of Eric Muller and the descendants of the Japanese American internees, as well as the entire Turkmen legal team, succeeds — because if they fail, we face the grim prospect of repeating one of the real tragedies of recent American history.

It is always our responsibility to oppose authoritarianism and champion the cause of democracy.  One of the more joyous and fulfilling aspects of that responsibility is to bring attention to those who take up that charge to stand and deliver.  When we join voices we live up to our duty and create the success that ensures our liberty and our rights.

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