In a class of mine (therefore political related) we discussed Tools of War. One of those tools was the dehumanization of the other (the enemy). Simply put, how we (humans) are able to shoot and kill other people and sleep at night. For most of history we have called the enemy things like: “Barbarian, Pagan, Savage and Uncivilized” to name only a few. All of these terms are ways of making the people that we fight against something different. We cannot condemn the people who have gone to war for using these terms. The Roman Legions had to sleep at night, and if by calling those that opposed them “Barbarians” allowed the troops to sleep, who are we to judge them for it? The same has to be true of those who use this antiquated technique today. It is a way to allow people to engage in necessary, but horrific acts and live with themselves.
Our discussion was of the history of just recent American wars and how our Generation was changing things. When the Greatest Generation went to war in 1941 they took with them many racially fueled slurs. They were not killing the people of Germany, they were at war with with the “Krout’s!” It was not the people of Japan that had attacked Pearl Harbor, it was the “Jap’s!” In Vietnam it was not the people of North Vietnam, but the “Guk’s”with whom we were at war; today we are once again at war, but not with an entire nation. Just with a select few that are brining a bad light on the peaceful people of Islam and the sovereign state of Afghanistan. We do not use slurs against these people in popular media. Things are different today. It can be called “Political Correctness” or any other title, but the fact of the matter is things are different. It was common place in 1942 to blame something publicly on the “Jap’s.” Today not only those writing the media, but the people consuming it would not stand for a similar slur. Then the person using the slur would have been championed by those around them. It was completely normal to do so. Today if someone uses a slur, even agains our Enemy, they are shunned. It is simply not the norm anymore.
It was not unusual to call a person of Japanese decent a slur in the forties. It was less common to call a person of Vietnamese decent a slur in the Seventies, but it still happened. Today it does not happen. This is a wonderful and noticeable change.
Our generation is changing things. I have friends who have been deployed and who have fought in war. They differentiate between the citizens of Afghan and the terrorists they fight. They do not have a hatred for all Afghans or Muslims the way my friend’s fathers who are veterans of the Vietnam war feel about the Northern Vietnamese people or that my Grandfather felt towards the people of Japan. Where two generations ago the entire nation of people (not just the combatants) were made into the “other,” and placed in a subhuman place, today things are different. By the next major historical skirmish (Vietnam) it was not the entire nation of Vietnamese People that was othered, but just those on the Northern part of the peninsula, and engaging in warfare with the United Stated. Today, dehumanization happens, but it is different. The government and the people and therefore even the soldiers do not have issue with races, religions or nationalities, but with individuals and small groups of people. We do not fight these large groups, but “Sick” individuals who are not the norm and therefore different.
We do not live in a perfect world, but we do live in an organic one. Though the place is the same and it has not been but a few generations we can see improvement in our own streets. The improvement is so drastic it is visible to nearly all. Something as serious as war, and the necessary dehumanization of the enemy has improved leaps and bounds in the last century. Warriors see things differently than they did a few generations ago. Because of this visible transformation we can have hope for a better future, one with less Ism’s and less otherness!