Friday, November 18, 2016

George Takei and his family were in a US internment camp

An excerpt is below from his article here, his response to Higby's comments on the proposed Muslim registry. A very personal, first-person account of where such ideas have led in the past, and where they certainly can lead in the future, especially under the President-elect and his appointees.

"I was just a child of 5 when we were forced at gunpoint from our home and sent first to live in a horse stable at a local race track, a family of five crammed into a single smelly stall. It was a devastating blow to my parents, who had worked so hard to buy a house and raise a family in Los Angeles. After several weeks, they sent us much farther away, 1,000 miles to the east by rail car, the blinds of our train cars pulled for our own protection, they said. We disembarked in the fetid swamps of Arkansas at the Rohwer Relocation Center. Really, it was a prison: Armed guards looked down upon us from sentry towers; their guns pointed inward at us; searchlights lit pathways at night. We understood. We were not to leave.

"My parents did their best to make life seem normal. As a child, I very readily accepted our new circumstance and adjusted to it. As far as I was concerned, it was normal to line up to use the common latrine, or to eat wretched grub in a common mess hall, prisoners in our own country. It was normal for us to share a single small barrack with no privacy whatsoever. And it was normal to stand each day in our makeshift classroom, reciting the words to the Pledge of Allegiance, “With liberty and justice for all,” as I looked past the U.S. flag out the window, the barbed wire of the camp just visible behind it.

"Not until I was older did I understand the irony of those words and the injustice that had been visited on so many of us. As I studied civics and government in school, I came to see the internment as an assault not only upon an entire group of Americans, but upon the Constitution itself — how its guarantees of due process and equal protection had been decimated by forces of fear and prejudice unleashed by unscrupulous politicians. It had been a Democratic administration at the time, under Franklin D. Roosevelt, that had ordered us to the camps, proving that demagoguery and race-baiting knows no party.

"It took decades for the United States to own up to what it had done and officially apologize for the internment, offering symbolic monetary reparations to the survivors. I donated my own check to the Japanese American National Museum, whose mission, like mine, has been to help ensure the mistakes of the past are never repeated. That is why these words by Higbie, which ominously are representative of much of the current thinking in the incoming administration, have reopened very old and very deep wounds."

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