Sunday, February 22, 2009

19 February: Japanese American Day of Remembrance

A "Guest Writer" for The National Trust for Historic Preservation notes the occasion of Japanese American Day of Remembrance:
In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which ordered the forced removal of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry from their homes on the West Coast and parts of Hawai`i. They were unconstitutionally imprisoned during World War II in 10 War Relocation Authority (WRA) Camps and in numerous Justice Department prisons throughout the United States.

Today, February 19, is annually commemorated as “Day of Remembrance” by Japanese American communities. A grassroots movement to petition the government for an official apology and reparations began in the 1970s and events like Day of Remembrance, organized in Japanese American communities throughout the country, sparked the successful grassroots redress campaign that culminated with the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. This Act resulted in an official apology by the United States government and token reparations to any living Japanese American incarcerated during the war. (read more)
In "Telling the Stories of Internment--Reflections From the Western Office," Brian Turner describes key sites at which the National Trust has been active in recent years.

One of the sad things to remember is the number of distinguished figures who either cynically or mistakenly supported this betrayal of American democratic principles and the rule of law.

To cite an example from the local terrain: Amherst College alumnus, and later, trustee, John McCloy played a shameful role in that process, though the precise mix of malice, error, and remorse in his policies remains the subject of some debate. Even the most sympathetic interpretation cannot, however, ignore the fact that the "wise man" who advised so many presidents was more eager to lock up innocent American citizens during the War than to lock up Nazi war criminals after the War. (Working to grant asylum to the Shah of Iran in the US was another telling, if slightly less egregious case of misplaced sympathy and political miscalculation.)

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