The truth behind what happened to the Japanese-Americans during World War II was indeed shrouded behind a thick layer of dusk that prevented many Americans then, and even still today from knowing the truth. When guest Saburo and Marion Masada shared their traumatic experiences of their time in Japanese internment camps during World World II, it really opened up my eyes towards what the United States government actually did to the Japanese-American community.
When Saburo shared his thoughts and experiences on the the incarceration of Japanese people, he said that he considered himself to be a true American beforehand, and expressed how he felt when his faith was completely crushed. Saburo elaborated on the fact that anti- Japanese factions at the time such as California State Grange, American Legion, and California State Federation of Labor as well as took the opportunity of the attack on Pearl Harbor to place blame on Japanese Americans stating they aided in the attack. Lt. General John DeWitt also urged President Roosevelt to sign executive order 9066 to allow him to forcible uproot Japanese homes and communities.
Saburo had complete and utter faith in his home country, the United States of America, and believed that there was no way that the United States Government would agree with these false accusations. I could feel the betrayal Saburo felt as he shared these thoughts. I never really thought much about what had happened to these imprisoned Japanese people. It was a major eye opener for me and now I feel somewhat less proud to be an American after just listening to how the U.S. government completely betrayed the faith of fellow American citizens. Listening to what had Saburo had to say made me think about the United States flag that I contemplated at and the pledge of allegiance that I alleged a lot of heart and faith into every weekday for thirteen years. Imagining that one day the most meaningful words in the pledge of allegiance, “For liberty and justice for all”completely lose their meaning I felt as if my heart had been crushed.
A very interesting topic that Saburo shared was on the terminology that many government official statements and propaganda posters used to justify what they were doing. Saburo considered the terminology used by government officials such as “evacuated,” “relocated,” and “internment camp” to be euphemism. In reality, Saburo states, is that these words correct terminology would be “incarcerated,” “imprisoned,” and “America’s concentration camps.” In a handbook entitled “The Power of Words” written by the Japanese-American Citizens League compared the two drastically different types of terminology used by U.S. government officials to what was used by the Japanese, justifying Saburo’s claim. In this handbook, the JACL accuses U.S. government officials of using euphemism: “During WWII, the U.S. government used euphemistic language to control public perceptions about the forced removal of Japanese American citizens. Terms like “evacuation” of people sounded like they were being rescued from some kind of disaster. the government referred to victims as ‘non-aliens’ instead of ‘citizens’”(JACL, 2013, p. 7).
Learning that the words that textbooks and my high school teachers had imprinted into my brain was basically just a form of euphemism made up by government officials to brainwash their citizens into believing that what we did was in no way an inhuman process was an eye opening slap to the face. Once again I feel disappointed with myself for always believing that the incarceration camps were nothing bad at all and that the Japanese Americans who were taken to these camps were treated respectfully in a completely humane way. The way Saburo and Marion is describing the camps they were thrown in, saying that they were put in desolate areas with guard towers containing soldiers with machine guns completely destroyed what I had previously believed. Just now am I realizing that my hope and faith currently in the United States of America was just like how the Japanese Americans felt before imprisoned; that this country is the greatest and refused to believe that this great country of ours would do anything to neglect the rights of others. Now I feel like I should not put so much faith and hope into the prosperity of my nation since it has already crushed that faith before and who is to say it will not do it again.
Marion’s speech was more about her experiences from the point of being forced to move out of their homes, to the lifestyle she had to endure in America’s concentration camps. As I listened to the traumatizing and harsh experiences Marion went through I felt disgust towards the way that Japanese Americans were treated, and got the impression that the only main difference between America’s concentration camps and Germany’s were that the Japanese were not killed indiscriminately, but the environment was basically the same. Marion described the moment that they were ordered to got to the incarceration camps as her rights and constitution being scrapped. I imagine it being very grueling for Marion and all the other Japanese children having to suddenly leave their hometown, schools, and being seperated from friends and family; as well as being equally tough for the adults needing to lose jobs, careers and farms behind. Marion elucidated that they were ordered to immediately leave their homes and are allowed two bags of belongings per person, which is strikingly similar to what the Jewish people were told when they were forced to leave. What had really flabbergasted me was the fact that the Japanese Americans were not called by names, but instead were given numbers.
What is equally bad is how the lifestyle of having to use community toilets and showers that were next to one another with absolutely no privacy. This is basically treating as animals and can not even be considered humane anymore, Japanese Americans are still considered American, and yet their rights were still taken which, I have to admit, infuriated me. How did the United States, the home of the free and the land of the brave, start unlawfully imprisoning their own citizens like cowards, is what Marion’s speech on her experiences had me thinking. I am delighted of the fact that Japanese Americans like Saburo and Marion who had went through the experience of enduring America’s concentration camps are sharing their stories on what had really happened. By retelling stories of the past, it decreases the chance of it being of a similar event from happening in the near future with the future generations of America who do not know the past. In the present time, similar events are already starting to reoccur. In the San Francisco Chronicle, an article was published entitled, “Supreme Court’s travel ban ruling must not repeat errors of Japanese internment.”
This article shows how the Travel ban issued by President Trump to prevent entry of muslims is strikingly similar to how they handled the Japanese internment, “The parallels between the cases challenging the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the travel ban case are both striking and disturbing. Both arose out of war and involved orders of the commander in chief. Both targeted a minority group, amid fears of sabotage and espionage, and of “terrorist” attacks on our soil” (Irons, 2018). Fortunately, this ban has been prevented due to the efforts and protests of the citizens. If future generations know the past, they can help prevent the U.S. from committing mistakes again which is what I think is the ultimate and beautiful goal of Saburo and Marion.
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