Thoughts on the Anniversary of Executive Order 9066 and the Internment of Japanese Americans

On this anniversary of Roosevelt signing Executive Order 9066 which ordered the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans:  Thinking of Giuliani’s remarks on how Obama “does not love America” because “He wasn’t brought up the way you and I were brought up through love of this country”, thinking of the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab prejudice that has arisen in this country, thinking of the anti-immigrant prejudice, I think of this editorial from the Los Angeles Times in 1942:

“A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched. A leopard’s spots are the same and its disposition is the same wherever it is whelped. So a Japanese-American, born of Japanese parents, nurtured upon Japanese traditions, living in a transplanted Japanese atmosphere and thoroughly inoculated with Japanese thoughts, Japanese ideas and Japanese ideals, notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship, almost inevitably and with the rarest of exceptions grows up to be a Japanese, into a Japanese in his thoughts, in his ideas, and in his ideals, and himself is a potential and menacing, if not an actual, danger to our country unless properly supervised, controlled and, as it were ‘hamstrung.'”
–Editorial, Los Angeles Times, 1942

So many thoughts: Did the LA Times write the same thing about Italian Americans, against Giuliani’s parents? If Giuliani and the LA Times were right in their illogic, how is it the 442nd, the regiment of Japanese Americans, was one of the most decorated units in Europe in World War II?  U.S. generals actually fought with each other to have the 442nd under their command.  (Which is not to slight the No-No Boys who protested the internment and the taking away of their Constitutional rights by resisting the draft, and who showed their patriotism by upholding the Constitution in ways neither the Congress nor the President did.) The racism thrown at Obama is just a slightly more disguised version of what was thrown at the Japanese American community over sixty years ago.

Thinking of all the protests against the building of mosques in Manhattan and Tennessee and elsewhere, thinking of all the hysteria against immigrant workers, I recall these posters from 1922:

JAPS

You came to care for lawns,
we stood for it.
You came to work in truck gardens,
we stood for it.
You sent your children to our public schools,
we stood for it.
You moved a few families in our midst,
we stood for it.
You proposed to build a church in our neighborhood
BUT
We DIDN’T and WE WON’T STAND FOR IT
You impose more on us each day
Until you have gone your limit.
WE DON’T WANT YOU WITH US
SO GET BUSY, JAPS, AND
GET OUT OF HOLLYWOOD!

History repeats itself. How much have we learned? How much do we need to learn?

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