There is nothing redeeming about this moment of national cruelty and cowardice and at least in the short term none of its outcomes are likely to be good.
But there’s also nothing new or especially surprising about it: This current goes back well before 9/11 or the presence of any measurable Muslim population and well before Pearl Harbor and the racist travesty of Japanese internment.
In the late 1930s after the anti-Semitic character of Hitler’s government was beyond dispute and even after the pogroms of Kristallnacht Americans overwhelmingly opposed allowing Jewish children to enter the country as refugees.
Go back to World War I and German immigrants (a group that had been widely tolerated) became the targets of numerous vigilante groups and volunteer spy organizations.
Thousands were interned – many were tarred and feathered and a few were lynched.
German-language newspapers were required to publish translations of all political articles and South Dakota actually banned telephone conversations in German.
Restaurants sold sauerkraut as ‘Liberty cabbage’ and hamburger as ‘Liberty steak’. (No, I’m serious.)