Past Present Podcast: Aleppo, Japanese Internment, and Kwanzaa


In this week’s episode, Niki, Natalia, and Neil debate US involvement in Syria, the legacy of Japanese-American internment, and the 50th anniversary of the first Kwanzaa.


A cease-fire in Aleppo has brought a temporary halt to the assault on the city’s civilians by the Syrian government. Neil noted the Obama administration’s relative lack of involvement in Aleppo and compared it to FDR’s inattention to the Holocaust, as chronicled in Blanche Wiesen Cook’s recent biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. Niki observed how the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishment of new rules of war shaped modern ideas about the protection of civilians in military conflicts.

Japanese Internment

Two recent reader letters in the Los Angeles Times defending Japanese interment during World War II have stoked controversy. Niki placed Japanese interment in a longer history of U.S. anti-Japanese policies, including the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907. Neil discussed how anti-Japanese propaganda, including cartoons drawn by the future Dr. Seuss, Theodor Geisel, shaped American attitudes and beliefs about Japanese as inhuman and menacing. Natalia shared the 1945 Frank Sinatra film The House I Live In which used the idea of the Japanese as enemies to unite Protestants, Catholics, and Jews in an American identity. Niki discussed the 1941 Life Magazine article, “How to Tell Japs from the Chinese.” She also commented on how the 1944 Supreme Court case Korematsu v. United States that upheld Japanese interment as constitutional might be used as precedent for a Muslim registry during a Trump administration.


2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Kwanzaa, the African-American holiday that celebrates seven principles, including unity, self-determination, and collective economics.

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