Essay on Japanese Internment
On December 7, 1941 The Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. After this bombing, America took a larger step into the involvement in the Second World War. The U.S. government decided that for the safety of the nation that one hundred twenty thousand people with Japanese decent would be relocated from the west coast. These Japanese-Americans were taken form their lives that they had established and brought to designated internment camps provided by the U.S. military. The United States reason for the relocation was for the fear of its Japanese citizens taking rebellious actions on America. Because of such an enormous and harsh act that America was enforcing, most other Americans started to take an interest on the subject (U.S. Acts 1). Due to the fact that the U.S. feared a revolt by its own citizens, the government with the help of the media, covered up the harsh realities of the relocation and the lifestyle in the internment camps.
In the year 1942 the U.S. government started a relocation act that would remove all Japanese-Americans from the west coast state of California, and parts of Oregon and Washington. The U.S. believed that some west coast Japanese-Americans were involved in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. So in fear that there was any loyalty to the Japan in America the U.S. started the relocation act. The government realized that a mass relocation of this proportion would not go without notice or opposition unless they could make most Americans believe it was morally right. Helped by America's media, mostly newspapers, the government announced its plans for the relocation with slight twists to make it "reader comforting."
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The newspapers printed articles about the relocation that had information about the governments actions like this article from the L.A. Times reading, "Agreement on this course of procedure, which will enable the Army to remove from such zones anyone regarded as potential disloyalists, was reached at a conference of representatives of the Department of Justice, the Army and the State Department (Feb. 19)." This article tells the reader that it has been decided that the Army has the right to remove any disloyal citizens from certain zones of the west coast and that comforts the American reader. What the article doesn't tell you is that this course of procedure that was passed allows the Army to relocate anybody with Japanese ancestry based on the stereotype that all citizens of Japanese decent are disloyal, regardless of each individual's beliefs and loyalty. Governor Olson of California created the stereotype by saying, "Because of extreme difficulty in distinguishing between loyal Japanese-Americans and those other Japanese whose loyalty is to the Mikado. I believe in a wholesale evacuation of the Japanese people from coastal California (Olson Mar. 6)." Making people of other nationalities in America fearful of Japanese-Americans made it easier to for the government to relocate them without conflicts of interest. What would come next would be even more difficult for Americans to see as morally right without media propaganda, was the living conditions of the relocated citizens.
When the phrase "living in a resettlement center" is said most people think of people moving from dangerous areas to a safer place to live. But when someone says, "surviving in an internment camp," other, harsher things come to mind. The second of the two is a more appropriate description of the life of the relocated. Considering the importance of human rights in America and the knowledge that many of the resettled people were loyal to the U.S., the government made no effort to adequately accommodate these United States citizens. In no way were the camps anything like what most Americans were led to believe. The government never described, to the people being relocated or other Americans, in any written document, what these camps would be like. The only real description of the living arrangements came first hand from the people in the camps.
From Ted Nakashima's experience he writes, "The resettlement center is actually a penitentiary-armed guards in towers with spotlights and deadly tommy guns, fifteen feet of barbed-wire fences, everyone in confined quarters at nine and lights out at ten o'clock (American Children 322)." It is unconstitutional to place U.S. citizens who cannot be proven disloyal to America in such an environment that there human right are violated. The U.S. government is hypocritical when judging Germany on how they persecuted the Jews when we are committing a similar but not quite as cruel act on our own citizens. Even though this sounds extremely harsh, the American public had no idea of the hardships endured by the Japanese-Americans in the camps.
What were shown of the camps to the U.S. in news clippings were pictures of celebration times in the camps. In one article from Newsweek there are two pictures of scenes from different camps. One picture shows the evacuees dressed in traditional Japanese garments performing a ritual dance. In the second photo it pictures couples of Japanese-Americans dressed in common American dress-clothes slow dancing at their camp (May 24). This is the type of propaganda that the media used to make America feel good about the idea of the relocation. When you see these pictures of them enjoying them selves you would think that it must not be bad living in those arrangements. Americans never had the opportunity to see anything but the good things going on in the camps and were ignorant to the fact that life was terrible for the evacuees.
For the American media, with the freedom of speech, who helped conceal the truths of life of the Japanese-Americans in the relocation settlements was against the principles to which there are civil rights. What was shown to American citizens about the relocation is false information that was controlled by the government and was instilled into people's beliefs of what happened. To this day many Americans still hold the beliefs and stereotypes taught to them at the time of the war. My own Uncle who fought in the Second World War still believes that there were no loyal Japanese-Americans during the war and that they got what they deserved. From my research on the topic I cannot hold him responsible for his beliefs because he was never informed of the truths and was trained to think a certain way by the government. Since the time of the Japanese Internment America has grown and realized what it has done to its own people. Through knowledge of the past, America will not repeat this cruel chapter in U.S. History because of the power of free media today.
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