Feb 14, 2011

Deliberate Acts

During World War II we, the people of the United States, in order to preserve our fear of the unknown and listening to people who ranted as a form of entertainment, took away the livelihood and homes of over 100,000 people simply because they or their ancestors came from Japan. We only did this on the west coast; half of the States of Washington and Oregon, all of California, and the lower 1/3 of Arizona. In Hawaii, where there were over 150,000 people of Japanese descent, 1,800 were interned. 62% of those kept behind fences were American citizens.
In 1924, the "Oriental Exclusion Law" blocked Japanese immigrants (issei) from attaining citizenship. Of 127,000 Japanese Americans living in the continental United States at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, 112,000 resided on the West Coast.  About 80,000 were nisei (Japanese born in the United States and holding American citizenship) and sansei (the sons or daughters of nisei). The rest were issei (immigrants born in Japan who were ineligible for U.S. citizenship).
We tend to be a prejudicial country of peoples for no good reason.  Most of us are the descendents of the interlopers in this land. Unless your ancestry is purely from one of the tribes that was here before the arrival of the Europeans and the Russians, before the call for labor with land as an incentive drew the immigrant from all over the world, then you too are a type of sansei.  Yet even within the overwhelming mix of peoples that form the U.S., we fight for a higher rung on the ladder of whose group is best.  And in that fight we look for any excuse to take from other groups.
That is what happened to the loyal citizens who happened to be Japanese during that terrible war.  Too much fear was raised by those who stood to gain and families lost everything.
I'm not in any way implying that what we did to people in the U.S. is comparable to what happened in other countries.  There were Japanese and German prisoners of war who were astonished at how well we treated prisoners.  And there were soldiers of Japanese descent in our Army.
This is part of the story in Deliberate Acts, a time and place where unfortunately, prejudice trumped civilized behavior.

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