Saturday, September 11, 2010


While driving home from Death Valley National Park last weekend, we were close to another National Park unit.  Anyone that knows about my National Park passport cancellation obsession knows that I simply had to go.  So off we went (in the direction opposite from home!) to get my stamp.

The park unit that we visited was one that I had never even heard of.  And one that I found deeply disturbing.

We visited Manzanar National Historic Site.  Manzanar is one of 10 sites that were established during World War II.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan and its people were the enemies.  All steps to eradicate the threats to national security were taken.

One of those steps included rounding up citizens living in California, Oregon, or Washington that were of Japanese ancestry and hauling them off to a 'relocation center'.  This included women and children.  Many were born in the United States.  Over 100,000 people were detained.  No one from these camps was ever convicted of espionage, sabotage, or any other war crime.  This article gives a more complete history.

Manzanar was a concentration camp, even if it was not labelled as such.  The detainees could not leave.  The place was surrounded by barbed wire fence and armed guard towers.  The detainees could only bring what they could carry.  All other personal effects had to be disposed of or were confiscated (including homes and businesses!) by the government.  The detainees were kept in these 'relocation centers' for the duration of the war.  After the war, they were let go and given $25 to 'help' them re-establish their lives.

Some 40 years later, the government officially conceded that this was not a military necessity as described during war time, but was based on racial bias.  President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 that provided restitution.  And in 1989, President George H. W. Bush issued a formal apology from the United States government.

This place bothered me on so many levels.  I have been trying to formulate a post all week to describe my feelings.

First, it changed my view of history.  I have always viewed the time around World War II as a time when we were the heroes, the good guys.  A time when we were saving those in concentration camps.  How could we as a society have allowed this to happen?  Especially given the atrocities that were seen in Europe.  These people had the fabric of their lives ripped in two.  By the government!  No just cause.  No habeas corpus.  Nothing.  Just the fact that they were of Japanese ancestry.

Second, I see so many parallels to things that are happening today.  And this is the one that really bothers me.  After the attacks of 9-11-2001, Muslims became the enemy.  They wanted to kill us, cripple our country, destroy everything American.  But is it all Muslims?  No.  Surely we are smart enough to know that.  Surely we are smart enough to know that extremists exist within every religion.  But fear causes us to react without thought.  And we are a society that is being controlled by fear.

I will never forget that day in September.  The day when my world tilted on its axis.  The day when I realized that we aren't invincible.  The day when I realized that wars aren't just somewhere else.  The day when fear took over.

Do you look suspiciously at the Middle Eastern man sitting in the row in front of you on the airplane?  Fearful that he planning to hijack the plane?  Would you feel safer with all Muslims in a place like Manzanar?

And by that same token, do you assume that African American man in the baggy pants is carrying a gun?  A gang member?  Drug dealer?  How about the guy covered in tattoos?  Is every person that speaks Spanish an illegal alien?  A drug runner for the cartels?

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying to walk around with your head in the, la, la, puppies and rainbows, everything is perfect, la, la, la.

But fear can send a person down some very strange paths.  Paths that you never would go down in a correct mindset.  And fear will send you much farther down those paths than you ever would have dreamed.

I don't want this post to spiral into a political discussion because both sides are guilty of using the same tactic.  But surely there is something to learn here.  And I think it is bigger than any one issue of the day.  I only hope that we learn it before it is too late.


Mental P Mama said...

I actually wrote a college paper on this...truly a dark part of our history.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

I totally agree with what you say. We should accept others as our brothers and sisters --no matter what race they are. And I truly think that most Americans would be willing to do that if our leaders would allow it... It was horrible what they did to those Japanese people---and it's awful what some Americans are doing if they are criticizing ALL Muslims...

BUT--the past year and a half, the leadership in our Govt. has done more to harm us than to help us. Just because I don't agree with Obama's policies, they are branding me (and others) as racists. I've never been called a racist in my life --and even had a black family living across the street from me when I grew up

AND---by them wanting to force the issue of putting that Mosque near Ground Zero is just WRONG. I know it's constitutionally right for them to do it --but it's just not the correct thing to do. I keep thinking of those families in NYC who lost loved ones on 9/11. Most of us are not opposed to them building a mosque anywhere but there. Since they are forcing it on us, THAT --and that alone--is what is causing all of the Muslim unrest in the USA.

I totally disagree with burning a Koran or a Bible or anything which is scared to one's beliefs. But--since I don't want the mosque built at Ground Zero, does that mean I hate all Muslims? Absolutely NOT. I even have wonderful Muslim blog friends. They are my brothers and sisters --and I love them.

If the Govt. and media would quit promoting these things, we'd all be better off.... Nuff Said!!!!

Today is 9/11.. It's a sad day in our country... I listened to a video this morning and cried like a baby.

God Bless YOU and God Bless America.
Sorry to get on my bandwagon!!!!

Lori said...

This is so sad. I remembering learning about these camps and thinking really? Here in the US?

You are so right. Fear can cause us to act stupidly and say stupid things. Sometimes we put groups of people in a box, and label them without even thinking...about their individuality...and how to we react when we are put in a box? I know I don't do well with it.

I think of the media and how even though it can do a service of bringing us the news...often times it is done by sensationalizing it and perpetuating fear among us people. Often times we don't get the whole truth but are naive to the fact that we may not being hearing the whole truth. So many think that because some newscaster said so, means it's true.

I think when people don't have all the information...such as about muslim or people from the middle east, we can assume they all want to do us harm in the US. Very sad isn't it?

Fear is bred out of ignorance so the best way to fight our fears is to educate ourselves to the truth instead of believing and following blindly.

I cannot image going to such as a place as this camp. I pray that nothing like this ever happens again.

Travel Girl said...

Good post Woody.

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

Great post!

Big Hair Envy said...

Excellent post. Way to get us all thinking!!