Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!George Orwell
The scene is from George Orwell’s novel “1984.” In the book, Winston Smith, the protagonist, is tortured in the Ministry of Love. O’Brien, one of the enforcers of the Party, uses Winston’s fear of rats to coerce him into betraying his beliefs. Winston ultimately pleads with O’Brien to transfer the punishment to his lover, Julia, to spare himself from the torment involving the rats.
What would you do if you were scared, and how scared would you have to be to do it?
In 1942, Americans were scared of the Japanese. After the horrific attack at Pearl Harbor, there were concerns that the West Coast might be targeted next. A reasonable concern that provoked an inhumane response.
In a tragic conflation of race with affinity, the government and many fearful citizens thought it reasonable to round up every person of Japanese descent who lived within 200 miles of the Pacific coast and ship them to concentration camps. Whether the person was an American citizen or not. Whether they had lived here for decades or not.
We’re scared. Do it to them. Do it to them.
Winston Smith, in Orwell’s telling, was broken by brutal torture and faced with the thing he most feared. He is to be pitied.
What is inexcusable is to allow oneself to be scared by lies. Maybe someone on television told you that penniless, starving, victimized migrants are criminals, rapists, cannibals. Maybe these liars have scared you. Maybe now you believe that a mother and her children deserve to drown trying to cross the Rio Grande. Or that we should have mass deportations. Or round them all up and put them in concentration camps.
Do it to her. Do it to them.