Friday, December 2

Never again

Like many, I was horrified to hear about a proposed bill in the U.S. Senate. I can't say it any better than Japanese-American actor George Takei who suffered a similar fate as a child,
“Now a bill proposed in the U.S. Senate, S. 1253 (McCain/Levin) would authorize a similar sweeping authority, granted to the President, to order the detention–without charge or trial–of any person even suspected of being associated with a “terrorist organization.”  I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw that we hadn’t learned from the terrible lessons of the past.”
Let me refresh your memory. Japanese-American internment was the relocation and internment by the United States government in 1942 of approximately 110,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese who lived along the Pacific coast of the United States to camps called "War Relocation Camps," after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

The internment of Japanese-Americans was applied unequally throughout the United States. Japanese-Americans who lived on the West Coast were all interned, while in Hawai'i (where Japanese Americans formed more than one-third of the population) only 1,200-1,800 Japanese-Americans were interned.

Of those interned, 62 percent were American citizens.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 10, 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris, restricts the use of internment; Article 9 states that, "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile."

Has McCain forgotten that Congress passed, and his hero President Ronald Reagan signed, legislation in 1988 which apologized on behalf of the U.S. government for the internment? The legislation said that government actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."

The U.S. government eventually disbursed more than $1.6 billion in reparations to the Japanese-Americans and their heirs who had been interned.

In this new bill, Section 1031 would let the military lock up both Americans and non-citizens in all 50 states without charges, no trial, and no proof beyond a reasonable doubt. All that would be required would be suspicion.

So why am I so steamed about this? Please remember that I was a slave and held against my will. And I am not alone.

My friend Jeannie Akiko Wakatsuki also spent time in the Arizona internment camps. Her mother's of German-Jewish heritage and her father Japanese. They met at Berkeley but had to marry in Mexico due to California's miscegenation laws at the time. When Jeannie's first-generation father was sent to an internment camp, Jeannie and her mother chose to go with him.

Jeannie's dearest possessions are her Wizard of Oz Madame Alexander dolls and movie memorabilia. If there is one thing she has learned since being in the internment camps, "There's no place like home."

Please let your senator know what you think of this bill.

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