9066.

Posted: February 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

If you’re of Japanese descent or have studied any portion of Japanese OR American history, the number 9066 probably rings a bell – a shrieking, screaming, painful, echoing bell. On this day, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 to remove ALL Japanese Americans to ‘internment camps’ so as not to cause issue during the time of war against the Axis Powers. Roosevelt and the US Government thought that there were Japanese spies in America so naturally it made sense to incarcerate them all. You know, just to be safe. This Order hits home with me as I’m a Japanese American. I’m thirty-two and wasn’t around in ’42, obviously, but my grandparents and their parents were. This is not a discourse on the importance of their lives or Executive Order 9066. No, this is no such thing – this is simply a change of tone.

 

The term ‘internment camp’ is, while politically fitting, socially incorrect. They were incarcerated. Jailed. Prisoned. Restrained. Restricted. Ripped of their American freedoms. Growing up I was taught a lot about freedom in general, not just because of my Japanese ancestry, but because it is WHY we are all here. America was to be a place of religious, social and political freedom without persecution – no fear of British or French infestation. You come, you work, you create, you’re free. To this day that is why I wake up every morning. It isn’t to make a lot of money and buy awesome things so I can look good for other people – it’s because I know I’m free. I’m free to do or say whatever I want, however I want, whenever I want. All decisions come with consequences, however, but I think that’s a pretty fair trade – don’t make a bunch of horribly bad decisions, keep your freedom. I’ll take it. That said, the Japanese American CITIZENS in 1942 did nothing of the sort; no bad decisions, no war crimes, no spying or betrayal, not one traitor found. Let me type that again so it sinks in – not one spy was ever found. Ever.

 

When these families were incarcerated they weren’t asked, they were forced. They lost their businesses, homes, money, belongings and more importantly, their freedom. These aforementioned items were never given back. Not after war. Not after finding a total of 0 spies. Never. My great grandparents owned a hotel in downtown Spokane, where I was born and raised. They lost it. They owned a home. They lost it. They lost everything they had earned with their two hands and free will. My grandpa, the most honorable man on Earth, ever, chose not to riot and throw fits and get mad. Rather, he chose to join the 442nd Regimental Combat Team for the US Army. Please read that sentence again. My grandfather, a Japanese American citizen, whose parents were incarcerated by the US Government, chose to fight FOR said government, against his own nationality – the Japanese. Again, re-read that and let that sink in. Can you even fathom that? Is it even registering? Until publicly being awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in 2011 for his role in the 442nd, my grandpa swore up and down he was a medic, cook, mail room attendant etc as he wasn’t to share his actual role. Turns out his job was intelligence, to seek any indication of Japanese American citizens passing information to Japan. He didn’t take this position to rat out his own, to gain American influence. Only he knows why. But knowing him, I’d bet my life it was for freedom. Freedom for his family, for their families, and their family’s families. He believed SO much in the concept of freedom that he fought in a war against Japan, as a Japanese citizen himself, while his parent’s sat restrained and empty of their belongings, FOR the very country that defamed his very name. How. Much. Honor. Does. That. Take. I still to this day cannot fathom how. And that is the reason for this post. How? It’s so easy to be angry today and every February 19th from hereon forever. It’s a reminder of a terrible wrong done to an innocent people who meant nothing but to take advantage of the American dream the world has always been taught.

 

I can’t lie, typing some of this out made me a little angry. But only for a second. My grandpa isn’t angry. My great grandparents weren’t angry. If you listen to or watch any of the thousands of interviews of those who were incarcerated or whose families were, not a single one of them seem mad. Why? Freedom.

 

Instead of reading all of the Facebook posts remembering today, The Day of Remembrance, I’m choosing to remember today in a positive light, not an angry one. It’s SO easy to be angry about it. But I’d rather respect it and respect those who suffered through it so that I can sit here typing my words freely without any worry of incarceration or treason. Today I’m not mad, today I’m honored to be a Japanese American.

 

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Comments
  1. It is amazing to see the history of how specific people were treated, and remain treated today. One of my nanny families had a grandma that was in a camp, I don’t remember her story too clearly anymore, but remember feeling very disheartened for her when she told it.

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