It has been a while since I have last blogged. Perhaps for a variety of reasons. I was talking to a friend about it recently who blamed it on getting married. Perhaps, it is. Perhaps it is because I spend lots of time at work in front of a computer. Perhaps its because I think that I have better things to do with my time. I think it be a multitude of reasons. Some of them are listed here. However, blogging is important to me. It is a great outlet, and an awesome way to share ideas of ministry, culture, social and other. Well, regardless, I am going to make an effort to start blogging again. I have several things in mind that I want to blog about, (no doubt that many of them will be posted in the near future) but there is one that has been on my mind for a while now.
I recently spent some time with the Japanese side of my family, who gathered to talk about our family history. I don’t know how many families have a history that are worth talking about, but family does. Not only does my family have a history that is worth talking about, but one that is important to talk about, not just among us, but to talk about all over. Books have been written about my family, but no one probably knows about them, even if I mentioned the title.
On December 3-4, 1941, Japanese planes went on a huge offensive measure against the Pacific. Basically to make a long story short, they bombed everything between Japan and Pearl Harbor. This is the fact that we are all well acquainted with. What not as many people know about is what America did next. No, I am not referring to going to war against Japan, Germany, and the Axis. I am referring to what we did here in the home land.
An executive order was given. This order required all Japanese-American citizens that live on the west coast to be relocated where they will under surveillance by the United States Government at all times. You see, the US Government was afraid that there might be spies among the general population. I understand the paranoia, after all in our Post 9/11 world, we have the same fear. What Arabs among us today might be planning the next attack against Americans? Where they went wrong though was to act on those fears, and perpetuate them in Americans.
So, all American citizens of Japanese decent were ordered to pack only what they can carry, and take it to a staging ground. One of those staging grounds was the Puyallup Fair grounds. (Side note: My father was never allowed to go to the fair as a child, because my family was taken there, and the memories were too painful.) At these staging grounds, they were given horrible living conditions, rotting food to eat and treated as prisoners, all for simply being of Japanese decent.
After about a year and a half, the “Camps” were finally close enough to completion to move the people from the staging grounds to the “Camps.” Its funny because they all refer to it as camp. But to me camp is where you go to eat bad food, but have lots of fun, plus go to chapel and get close to God. Anyhow, the camps were not completed when they were all moved there. And the treatment did not get any better. Keep in mind that these were American citizens, born and raised in America.
There are many horror stories that I can share with you about what happened at “Camp” and the treatment that they got, but I will fast forward to near the end of the war. Perhaps I will share them in future blogs. The people in camp started getting restless, and knew they were being treated unfairly. They began to talk and make demands. The answer came quickly. Every man and boy in the camps were asked to answer a questionnaire. There were only 2 questions: Are you loyal to the Japanese Government? Will you deny your Japanese Heritage (or something to that affect, I do not recall the exact question)?
Bottom line was that they were asking if they would go and fight for the US Army, or are they loyal to the Japanese Government. It was an unfair ultimatum: either go and fight for America while your family is kept in captivity or be sent back to Japan, even though you have no family there and have never been there before. Some answered no to both questions, and were dubbed as the no-no boys. Others refused to answer and were grouped in with the No-No boys.
So the end of the war comes, and the US Government decided that they were no longer a threat to anyone and released them from Camp. Remember that the US Government paid for all of them to ride trains to get to the camps. Upon release, years after arrival, they were given nothing but freedom. Released in the Mid-West, miles from home, with nothing but what they came with, no money, or way to get back, they were met with backs turned to them. As a part of the treaty with Japan, the US Government traded American POWs for no-no boys. Many of them knew nothing about Japan, except the little bits of culture passed down from their parents, or grandparents.
After being released from “Camp” some were able to make it back home. At least to what they remember home being. Before my family left, they did not know what to do with the belongings they could not take with them. A neighbor told them they would store it. Upon return home, they found the neighbors had sold their belongings and moved-not an uncommon story. They also owned a grocery story they had to sell before leaving. The property alone was worth about $2,000 plus the value of the business and product. It was sold for $200 because the neighbors knew it had to be sold-also a common story.
So out of camp, most had nothing, no where to go, and no jobs to return to. Nevertheless, somehow most made the best of their situation. Many have become successful business people and regained all that was lost.
There are many lessons to be drawn from the stories. Most important and most timely is the idea that racial profiling is wrong. What? You think that racial profiling does not happen in America? Go to an airport and follow anyone who looks like they might be from the Middle East through security. Look at the looks they get from other passengers. Think about how you feel riding in a plane with them. I have heard people in the media saying that we need to round up the Arabs or Muslims or whomever seems to be a threat and put them in camps like this. It is wrong. We cannot allow people to be destroyed like this because of their background.
Many of the Japanese-Americans that were in camp had never even been to Japan. My Grandmother was at Julliard School of the Arts. She had never been to Japan, and she had to leave school to go to camp. They were afraid that if she did not come, she would be lost from her family forever.
Likewise any racial profiling is wrong. Because a person looks a certain way does not mean that they are going to behave in a certain way. Be careful of thought patterns and discussion that might lead to this fear of a person for their cultural background.
Thanks for reading. If this was interesting let me know, and I might share some more stories.
Saturday, December 30, 2006