Saturday, June 30, 2018

Alien Enemy Registration Included Teenage Children 100 Years Ago

February 4th, 1918
Earlier this week CNN anchor Brian Stelter tsk-tsk'ed another journalist who proclaimed her worry about our politics. Later, Rebecca Traister responded and directly criticized this, observing
News media hasn’t taken these groups as seriously as they’ve taken Trump supporters because they don’t take people of color, they don’t take women — or the validity of their political anger — very seriously. Look no further than another tweet sent by Brian Stelter on Wednesday, chiding the liberal activist Amy Siskind for comparing border-crossing checkpoints to the dystopian authoritarian state of Margaret Atwood’s Gilead. “We are not ‘a few steps from The Handmaids Tale,’” Stelter tweeted dismissively. “I don’t think this kind of fear-mongering helps anybody.” The message was clear: Your fury at injustice is overdramatic, exaggerated, invalid. This was 24 hours before Anthony Kennedy resigned from the Supreme Court.
A couple of weeks ago, Anthropologist David Lewis wrote to remind us about family separation and boarding schools, like Chemawa, as part of our strategy to assimilate native peoples by force:
Parents were forced to give their children up, from the age of 6 years old. Students would remain at the school for the whole school year for up to 12 years. Children were subjected to punishment for speaking their language or practicing their cultures. They were made to where uniforms, and cut their hair and take American names. They could only speak English and boy were taught mostly rural trades, farming, ranching and the like. Girls learned stereotypical “household” skills. Most would return home only in the summers and to their parents and community they were like strangers, unable to speak their languages or fully participate in their culture.
And there was of course the system of family separation enforced by slavery.

Right here 100 years ago, "All German female aliens of the age of 14 years and upwards are required to register...." American women who married German citizens were included in this, as obviously were teen-age children. There was no separation, but there was public shaming.

June 3rd, 1918

June 18th, 1918

June 29th, 1918
At the end of the registration period, the paper published the names even though no actual crime or treasonous act was asserted. Mere potential and suspicion was enough. The dossiers presumably included "personal habits and business relations."

Far away from the front, Salem in 1918 seemed like a tense and unwelcoming place. The government used the war as a pretext for a great expansion of surveillance powers. Much of system of surveillance was voluntary and employed a popular culture of compliance, gossip, status and shame, rather than explicit state power. But the police state was active also.
via FB
At our World War II Memorial kitty-corner from the YMCA, there is a rally and protest today again the cruel and immoral policy of family separation at our borders employed by the government right now. It starts at 11am. See the event for more information and consider lending your support.

We may not be in Gilead yet, but the potential very much is there.

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Update, September 19th

Turns out Kimberly Jensen had a nice piece in the Winter 2013 Oregon Historical Quarterly, "From Citizens to Enemy Aliens: Oregon Women, Marriage, and the Surveillance State during the First World War," on this topic.

From Winter 2013, OHQ

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