Saturday, February 18, 2017



Donald J. Trump signed Executive Order 13769 on January 27, 2017, and it was entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist entry into the United States.” This hastily written, ill-conceived fiat was intended to limit the entry of refugees from certain nations into the United States. Before it was derailed in the courts, it caused undue and unnecessary consternation among immigrants, civil rights advocates, and a multitude of ordinary Americans who believed that our government was a fair and just one.

Less than eleven weeks after the Imperial Nation of Japan deliberately attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, ‘Authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas.”

The Order’s alleged purpose was to protect the nation against attack from within by Japanese Americans living in the West. In order to do so, it sought to place 120,000 Japanese Americans in ten camps in isolated and desolated areas in seven Western states. Like Trump’s misguided and misdirected effort, that, too, was a questionable Executive Order since 62 percent of all Japanese Americans were citizens of the USA. After the war ended, there was no evidence that any of them had committed a crime against their country.

Trump’s action was an endeavor to please his base by fulfilling a campaign promise to protect Americans from ”them.” FDR attempted to appease citizens who disliked and were fearful of “outsiders,” and wanted to protect citizens from their enemy. He, like Trump today with his “every-Muslim-is-a-threat” warning, did not outwardly discern the difference to na├»ve Americans between a Japanese American citizen, and the Japanese Imperial enemy.

Are our citizens better informed now than then, or are too many still susceptible to whatever they are told by those in power to support their prejudices and misguided beliefs? 

In 1942, with the start of World War II, a fearful US citizenry wanted reassurance that their country would be protected, and very few stood up against FDR’s benign racial proclamation. As such, the isolation and imprisonment of Japanese Americans was too readily accepted as a rational and essential action. Even many Japanese who read the declarations and posters proclaiming the necessity of removing their people away from the West Coast, too readily accepted the illegal order.

Dissidents and “troublemakers” who protested too much and too loudly, ended being incarcerated in separate camps, such as Tule Lake War Relocation Center in Northern California.  Jimi Yamaichi spent time there during the war, and has helped lead some of the twelve pilgrimages that have taken place there since 1995. It is a way to educate the younger generations, and remind the older ones of what took place.

Jimi is one of many Japanese Americans that stay active in speaking to outside groups, against hatred of anyone different including Muslims, and in working at the Japanese American Museum in San Jose.

When I taught a class at San Jose State on the American media coverage of the Internment and the Holocaust during World War II, Jimi was one of my regular, classroom speakers, as was Katsumi Hikido. Kats is a young ninety-two-year-old, who fought and was seriously wounded in Italy as a member of a segregated Japanese-American fighting unit during the Second World War. His wife Alice, was taken with her family from their homes and businesses in Juneau, Alaska, and incarcerated in the Minidoka Relocation Center in an isolated section of Southwest Idaho. Jimi’s wife Eiko, now in her nineties, was also imprisoned at three different camps.

Both couples are dear friends, and we recently celebrated life and birthdays with lunch in San Jose’s Japan Town. Kats and I were born on the same day, but years and experiences apart.

In these uneven and uncertain times, we need to be acutely aware of injustices perpetrated against any individual or group. Then we should take meaningful action to reduce or eliminate the injustice, while we still have the opportunity to do so.