Japanese Internment: A Lesson from the Past
America is one word that brings the hope of freedom to many people around the world. Since the United States’ humble beginnings freedom has remained at the core of its ideologies and philosophies. People of all races, nations, and tongues have found refuge in America. The National Anthem proclaims, “…land of the free, and home of the brave” (Key, 1814). But has America been consistently a land of the free? Unfortunately freedom has not always reigned. There is a constant struggle to overcome fear and prejudice in order to provide a true land of freedom. In times of heightened tension, the masses of common people seek to find a scapegoat. Often, this scapegoat is a minority with ties to current negative events. As fear uncontrollably grows, it can cause people to allow and commit unspeakable atrocities.
World War II was a time of heightened tension. The entire world watched as fascism and dictatorships battled against democracy and freedom in the European theater. The United States looked on, wishing to remain neutral and distant from the war. On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, officially drawing the U.S. into the war. Thousands of young sailors died in the attack and several U.S. Navy vessels were sunk. The attack marked the beginning of the United States’ involvement in World War II as well as the beginning of the persecution of Japanese Americans in the U.S. Hysteria and outrage increased across the country and largely contributed to the authority’s decision to act against the Japanese. On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, allowing the military to place anyone of Japanese lineage in restricted military areas. This action was seen “…as a ‘military necessity’ to protect against domestic espionage and sabotage” (Satsuki, 1999). So began the unfortunate time period of deliberate and straight forward persecution of the Japanese in America. During World War II, the great freedom touting United States of America practiced inexplicable discrimination against its own citizens, eliminating the freedom of all Japanese and Japanese Americans by placing them in constricted internment camps. Fear and hysteria cannot be permitted to cloud the judgment of individuals or a nation to such an extent as to remove the fundamental freedoms of human beings because of race, religion, or ethnicity
Following Pearl Harbor, a round-up of Japanese began in America. Orders were posted and the Japanese were instructed to leave their homes, businesses, families, and friends, and move to “war relocation camps” (Bearden, 2010). “They were forced to evacuate their homes and leave their jobs…,” sufficiently uprooting their lives (Satsuki, 1999). The internment of Japanese was un-equally enforced across America. Some full blooded Japanese on the east coast lived normal lives throughout the war, while on the west coast even those of...