America’s Town Meeting: “Should America Open Its Doors To Displaced Persons?” – October 31, 1946 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Refugees, Displaced persons – victims of war, victims of politics, victims of genocide. People leaving their countries of birth because no home exists, bombed out and destroyed. People leaving their countries of birth because political ideologies and threatened retaliations or “ethnic cleansing” they are no longer welcome – home is a distant memory. People leaving countries of birth because staying meant certain death.
It’s always been this way – it has always been a topic of debate and it appears it always will. America has been many things to many people – and isolation is certainly one of them.
In 1946, we were just getting over World War 2 and the utter devastation that was prevalent throughout Europe and Asia. People bombed out of their homes, children becoming orphans because parents were killed or went otherwise missing. People freed from Concentration camps, facing the near-impossible task of rebuilding shattered lives. People fleeing retribution and persecution from new ideologies and politics sweeping throughout Eastern Europe.
Ironically, and maybe not surprisingly, there was a substantial number of Americans who felt providing a place to build new lives wasn’t their concern. Then, as now, they trotted out the same fears and misinformation; Refugees were mostly the criminal element, or the ones looking for a free ride – refugees who, while seemingly being displaced, were actively engaged in subverting America. They were not the best Europe had to offer.
But on the other hand, there was an equal number of Americans who felt it was our duty to do all we could to help – that everyone in America (with the exception of indigenous tribes) began as a refugee, fleeing political or ideological persecution – that it was incumbent upon us as people to let everyone who wanted to come to the U.S. to be able to – regardless the number crowding ships and flooding Ellis Island.
So this program – this episode of the weekly series Americas Town Meeting Of The Air poses the question whether or not America should open its doors to displaced persons – and if not, why – and if so, how many?
You get the impression the climate hasn’t changed – the issues not that much different in 2021 as in 1946.
Further evidence history is fascinating – a lot to learn and a lot to be reminded of – and even more we have to experience over and over and over again. It’s just who we are.
Here is that broadcast of Americas Town Meeting from October 31, 1946 as broadcast over the ABC Radio Network.
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