Sunday, February 19, 2017

Remembering Executive Order 9066

Seventy-five years ago on February 19, 1942, frightened West Coast residents were understandably shocked by the Japanese empire's attack on the U.S. base at Pearl Harbor. Some clamored for the removal of individuals of Japanese ethnicity from their states. Although the "intelligence community" of the day reported that these 120,000 people, mostly U.S. citizens, constituted no danger to the country, President Roosevelt bowed to pressure and ordered them rounded up and sent to internment camps. In this video from the Utah Museum of Art and History, a Japanese-American strawberry worker describes her consternation.

This video from the FDR Presidential Library strives to place Eleanor Roosevelt's later activism on behalf of the 1948 United Nations "Universal Declaration on Human Rights" in the context of her husband's shameful internment policy. The document was "the first global expression of what many people believe to be the rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled." In 1988, President Reagan apologized for the Japanese internment and Congress appropriated $20,000 per person compensation to survivors .

A current photo exhibit about the Japanese internment at the FDR Library, featuring images by Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams, concludes with this warning:

Executive Order 9066 reminds us that even our greatest leaders can make mistakes when the voice of the people drowns out the voice of reason. As Abraham Lincoln once said:

“Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government.”

Actor George Takei remembers what it was like, as a five year old, to be dumped in a camp because he was an ethnic Japanese. He doesn't want anything like this to happen to anyone today. You can sign Takei's petition against Donald Trump's cruel immigration orders at the link.

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