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Letters, Nov. 20

Another view of US power

I write in response to John Marciano’s recent guest opinion about American military power being used against non-white peoples of the world. While I don’t disagree with much of what he says, I would suggest that a somewhat wider perspective might be beneficial.

Marciano focuses on the abuses and atrocities perpetrated by the white people in power in the United States. From his presentation, one might get the impression that there is something almost uniquely malevolent and violent about white Americans in power. Sadly, there’s nothing unique about it.

Our racist oppression and violence against “the other” is essentially indistinguishable from that of powerful groups throughout history. If you doubt that, ask the Muslims in western China and the Rohingya in Myanmar today, the Jews in eastern Europe throughout history but especially during World War II, the Koreans and Manchurians during the Japanese occupations in the 1930s, the Tutsis during the Rwandan civil war in 1994, and the ethnic Albanians in Bosnia in the early 1990s. And that’s just a few examples from quite recent history.

Unspeakable violence against “the other” is an inarguable component of the basic human condition, no matter where it happens and what color the perpetrators are. Speaking in only a slightly different context, Mitch McConnell summed up why people do this: “Because I can.” The lopsided distribution of power everywhere is what enables and facilitates overt expressions of human hatred. Tragically, we are who we are.

Finally, I’d part company with Marciano on one of his examples of violent American racism. Hiroshima and Nagasaki occurred in a country that had unleashed war against the United States and all of east Asia. As late as 1943 or early 1944, it seemed quite possible that Japan might win that war. Moreover, it’s probable that the end of the war in Europe on May 8, 1945, was the primary reason the atomic bomb was not used against the white people in Germany. The bomb was not successfully tested until July 16, 1945.

I will confess to a personal interest in this specific situation: I am the son of a Navy navigator who was in Portland, Oregon, helping to prepare his ship for the invasion of Japan’s “home islands” when Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened.

Ward Wilson


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