George Takei has written an impassioned plea to young voters that compares today’s political climate to the era that “shattered” his family after they — along with 120,000 Japanese Americans — were relegated to World War II internment camps after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
In an op-ed for The Daily Beast, the 79-year-old actor and activist spoke about how today’s youth could blaze a pathway for a more tolerant, brighter future – one far from the “outright dangerous” rhetoric spewed by GOP candidate Donald Trump, which Takei said has played “cynically to our darkest instincts” and has “done much to draw us farther apart politically.”
“In my eight decades as an American, I have seen worse,” Takei explained, recalling his time in the U.S. camps between 1942 and 1946. “Many of you know that my family lost our home and spent years in an internment camp because of the very kind of rhetoric and fear that Mr. Trump deploys today. … Back then, as now, this was not a partisan issue. It was a human one.”
He explained how Republican California Attorney General Earl Warren rode “a wave of populist hysteria” at the time, stoking “prejudice and panic in my home state around Japanese Americans.” But that years later, Warren became the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice who struck down Brown v. Board of Education, declaring state laws that established separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional.
Warren, therefore, was a symbol that while “even the greatest human minds are fallible,” this is a nation that values redemption — “both for itself and its inhabitants.”
“I recount this not to minimize but rather to highlight the dangers of racial, religious and ethnic profiling, which sadly continue to bear strong currency in today’s political cycle,” Takei wrote. “Yet I take heart not only in past mistakes overcome, but in the bright future I know lies ahead.”
He continued: “Over time, reason and fairness will win out, while bigotry and hatred literally would die off. In 20 years, you will all be in charge, and demonstrate far less appetite or patience for Trump’s brand of nativist rhetoric and race baiting.”
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Pointing to the younger generation’s ability to sort through “the non-stop barrage of social media” and hear “alternative points of view,” the Star Trek alum praised today’s youth for its embrace of diversity, racial justice, equality of opportunity and trust in science.
“It is at these very turning points, these moments of great decision, when the young must stake out their claim and seize their own future,” he added.
Takei ended his piece by revealing how much hope he puts in the younger voters — and how grateful he is to be educated by them.
“I have no doubt that through the years that follow, you will also take the lessons of 2016 to heart, and never again permit America to teeter on the brink,” he concluded. “You give me much cherished hope, through your heart and your passion and your commitment to the future, to this nation, to this planet. I am privileged to have been taught by you, and I look forward to the day you are in charge.”