ome of the comments I received yesterday surprised me. I thought that the suspension of civil rights of Japanese American’s through Exec. Order 9066 was pretty much common knowledge and my entry would simply refresh our collective memory, allowing us to reflect on what happend. Some suggested they were not completely aware of the event. Of course, some may have written what they wrote just to leave a comment. I don’t know. I would like to thinks so. Just a few more thoughts…
The internment of Japanese in concentration camps–detention means to detain, concentration means to gather in one place a group with a shared characteristic, in this case those of Japanese descent–was an event that changed people’s lives immensely. The father of my best friend in elementary school rode on top the lead truck that crashed into the gate at the Santa Anita detention center–JAs were detained here before being assigned to other long-term camps, hence the linguistic distinction. My boss at the confectionary shop was actually born in Poston AZ–a place name that no longer exists. Her mother, Mrs. H, once recalled sadly how her daughter at two- or three-years old did not have dolls to play with. Instead, she had a hammer, a nail and a length of plywood. Is that your experience? Is that the experience you would want your own daughter to have?
I worked with a guy named Stanley Fujiwara. He was significantly older than me. He always seemed cocky and was a pain in the ass, until I learned where he got his cockiness from: He was sent to Tule Lake as a purported spy. Tule Lake was THE concentration camp for all suspected spies and trouble makers/malcontents at the other camps. Stanley was one of four who went on a hunger strike, and I must admit I was totally impressed when I saw his mug with three of his colleagues on the cover of Life Magazine, an issue featuring the internment of JAs.
And of course there was my father. He did not go to camp because he “voluntarily” relocated to Idaho, his birthplace. But being of Japanese descent, he found it was harder than he suspected. Those in camp did not have the freedom to move around, but they had food and water supplied to their fenced in shanty towns by the government. My dad had the freedom to move around, but no one would support him. Who would hire a Jap? So he held odd jobs as a shepherd, tending sheep on sub-zero nights. He finally “lucked out” when he got a job as a janitor at a small Catholic church in Twin Falls.
The idea that a government can suspend the rights of American citizens in the name of war or the farcical notion of the individual safety of the person being interred is appalling, and everyone should recognize this. Unfortunately, there are many out there who seem to believe that individual freedom has limitations. Michelle Malkin–a person of Filipino descent–wrote a book called In Defense of Internment, a book that attempts to justify the internment of Japanese Americans in the name of interring Arab Americans after 9/11. There are many–far too many–who accept her arguement. The scary thing is that they point to her as the voice of reason, specifically because she is Asian American. If an Asian American can take this position, the train of thought goes, then it must be okay. And this is the position of many right wing conservatives. Republicans, and supporters of the Bush administration. I cannot support this position. I hope you feel the same way.
Fortunately, there is also this essay by History Teacher, Roger Daniels. It is a piece that discusses Executive Order 9066 and the affect on Japanese Americans, and how this ties in with the current post 9/11 world. It is a couple years old, but I think it is worth reading. Please take the time to do so.
In our current world, we wave Old Glory and cry for the defense of our nation. This is a legitimate and justified stance. But it must be tempered with common sense. Do we defend our nation at any cost? We must tread carefully so as not to suspend civil rights, or sacrifice the lives of our men and women in uniform for a cause not directly related to the war on terror–I must admit that I am still not convinced of the relationship between the attack on 9/11 and Iraq.