Thursday, March 02, 2017

Visit to Smithsonian exhibit on WWII Japanese-American internment; a lesson for today's immigration debate?


Today, I made a brief visit to the small exhibit “Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II”, at the Smithsonian American History Museum in Washington DC, link here.


Wikipedia gives the history of this episode   which started when president Franklin Roosevelt promulgated Executive Order 0966, in early 1942, shortly after Pearl Harbor.  Over 110,000 Japanese Americans (including second generation citizens born in the US of Japanese descent) were forced into camps (Nisei) and even their kids (sansei).  First generation immigrants were called issei.
 
Immigrants lost property, pretty much through theft and expropriation, as they were allowed to carry only what fit in a suitcase (shown in the museum).  Fear-driven propaganda morphed into racism, and comments on how different the orientals looked  (Some the same attitude would show up during the Vietnam era.)



I recall writing a term paper on “The Home Front During World War II” for social studies in eight grade (1957) and covering the Nisei issue.  In 2012, I did stop at Manzanar along US 395.


The history of the Japanese internment seems like a pertinent comparison to today’s aggressive attitude on immigration by Donald Trump and many on the political “right”.  There is a tendency to look for civilian scapegoats and group people into “us” and “them” when war occurs, and terrorism tries to get ordinary people to see things that way.


Interned men sometimes served in the Army.


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