Star Trek legend and Japanese-American activist George Takei has a few things to say about Donald Trump’s travel ban.
George Takei is a passionate man — so much so that when this writer mistakenly used the phrase “Japanese internment camps” to describe the atrocities that he and his family faced in the United States in the 1940’s, he was quick to correct me.
“As a member of the press,” he said, politely but firmly, “it is your responsibility to get it right.”
Takei took pains to point out that “Japanese interment camps” — the term used to describe the American internment camp designed for Japanese Americans in the 1940’s, at the height of anti-Japanese sentiments during the Second World War — makes people believe, erroneously, that this was designed by Japanese people against Japanese Americans. Further, he points out, it reduces American culpability in the matter, and leave the door open for this sort of thing to happen again.
“You know,” he said, “that drives me up a wall when people do that. It’s important to know why things happened when they did, and the way they did, and who did it. That’s the only way we can prevent this sort of thing from happening again.”
“When people all work together in concert with one another, that’s how a movement grows”
And that, George Takei feels, is why it’s imperative to take the lessons of history and apply them to today’s times. Even though the face of the “other” has changed — the “enemy” today is Muslim, not Japanese — the concept of “Never Again” remains the same.
“Your neighbor,” said Takei, “is no longer just the friend down the street. It’s the relative in Prague. It’s the friend in Great Britain. It’s the acquaintance in Italy. We are now all part of a global community, and because of that, we need to work harder and together to create an impact.”
Takei first came to prominence in the 1960’s, as a member of the cast of the original Star Trek television series. Portraying USS Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu, Takei’s performance — and subsequent ascension into the pop culture zeitgeist — came at a time when the American consciousness on both Japanese-Americans, and homosexuals, was in a very different place.
Takei’s sexuality — and activism — was an “open secret” of sorts amongst Trekkies, and he’s known for his championing of LGBTQ rights. But, he’s also known for his work with issues similar to the ones presented in Trump’s “Muslim ban.”
While there are some things that have remained the same, Takei says it’s just as important to remember that there are some positive differences between today’s times and the times of yester-year.
“There’s a world of difference between the world of today and the world of the 1940’s,” he said. “Back in the 1940’s, we were isolated. Today, we are much more connected thanks to the Internet.”
“It’s important to know why things happened when they did, and the way they did, and who did it.”
The internet is how Takei was able to launch his Care2 petition against the so-called “Muslim Ban”. As of this writing, the petition has reached nearly 250,000 signatures, a feat that a Care2 spokeswoman has called “remarkable.” (Supporters can sign the petition at that link, which will remain open until it reaches its target of 250,000 signatures.)
Takei says that he plans to take this petition to to the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and government officials as a show of support.
But most importantly, says George Takei, the best way to ensure that this never happens again is by working together — by engaging people on a community level, and by recognizing one another as neighbors.
“When people all work together in concert with one another, that’s how a movement grows,” he said.