History of Fear

Don’t miss the Japanese internment exhibit at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, another great and inspiring tribute to our town’s history, both good and bad, which documents a root cause: one-point-of-view thinking driven by rampant fear.

My father was an Italian immigrant and one of the original WWI Marconi-trained wireless operators for the Italian Navy. He proudly became a U.S. citizen and sold war bonds to prove it! As a child, I heard stories of how he bravely stored his Japanese friend’s things, and his fear and anxiety, worried we would be next.

This exhibit, with its fences and incredible documentaries, is worth a long visit. Invest the time and share this with young people. Thanks to Executive Director Lynn Brittner and the museum’s Board of Trustees for sponsoring yet another wonderful exhibit, in a series of great exhibits, opening eyes and preserving history.

This exhibit tells the story of fear and hatred unleashed to stereotype Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans, and to create thinking based on a single point of view. The result was wrong-headed action. “Mobbing,” a well-documented phenomenon, silences open debate and distorts, then destroys, other points of view that might stop such offenses.

I heard people say, “How could this happen?” Irrational rage and fear can be used to corrupt our values. Let’s stop silencing other voices. This exhibit shows the consequences. When mass hysteria blots out real intelligence and sustains wrong-headed emotions, it can be another kind of toxic mudslide!

Michele Jackman has been an instructor of organizational psychology at UCSB and Antioch.

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