Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Donald Trump Concentration Camps America
Marian Tadano Shee was held at a Japanese internment camp as a child in the 1940s. When presidential candidate Donald Trump brought up the camps, it reopened old wounds for her.
Marian Tadano Shee's earliest memories are of barbed-wire fences and tall men with big guns.
In the aftermath of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, her family was forced to abandon their farm in Glendale and move to a "concentration camp" in southwest Texas.
Tadano Shee, with her younger brother and parents, spent a year in the Crystal City Internment Camp, along with thousands of others of Japanese, German and Italian heritage.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed orders sending more than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, many of them U.S. citizens, to 10 camps in the interior United States, including Arizona. He also ordered the confinement of thousands of others at U.S. Department of Justice internment camps like Crystal City.
That camp was where Tadano Shee began kindergarten.
The class was taught in Japanese. But she spoke only English. She coped by mimicking her classmates: when they napped, she napped; when they colored, she colored; when they sang, she sang.
Her family shared a one-room barrack. Her father tried to make it more homey by hanging a cloth to divide it into areas for sleeping and eating.
Tadano Shee slept on a cot. At times she was forced to shower in an area also used by men, her mom or dad shielding her small body with a towel.
She has rarely revisited those memories in the ensuing seven decades. They're too painful, she says, and too shameful.
But as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has invoked the camps to defend his proposed ban on Muslim immigrants, Tadano Shee's memories have come rushing back. With his comments, she said, Trump has reopened wounds and the potential for another disgraceful episode in American history.
"The people who do not believe the rhetoric of Donald Trump should speak up," Tadano Shee, 75, told The Arizona Republic. "What happened to the Japanese is that no one spoke up for them, so people need to speak if they feel this is not right.
"In the United States of America today, you would not think it would be happening, when it happened in the 1940s. You would think that people in the United States would have learned to appreciate each other, to respect each other – we're a land of freedom ... and consequently, no one has the right to negate you simply because of your characteristics."
Trump, the celebrity billionaire, who has for months led the Republican presidential race, ignited a political furor by advocating temporarily barring Muslims from entering the country until U.S. officials “can figure out what the hell is going on" in the wake of the Dec. 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif.
In an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Trump argued his plan was consistent with actions taken by Roosevelt, a Democratic icon, following the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. Trump cited three of Roosevelt’s wartime orders targeting Japanese, German and Italian nationals.
"This is a president who was highly respected by all. He did the same thing,” Trump said of Roosevelt. “If you look at what he was doing, it was far worse. … Because we’re at war. We are now at war. We have a president that doesn’t want to say that, but we are now at war.”
"They name highways after him," Trump said of the continued high regard for Roosevelt.
Donald Trump is defending his controversial plan regarding Muslim immigration. The billionaire business mogul and Republican presidential front runner is facing backlash after calling for a "complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." VPC
But Kathy Nakagawa, an associate professor in Arizona State University’s School of Social Transformation, said the internment camps are viewed as a civil-rights outrage and a blemish on FDR’s presidency.
Nakagawa had relatives who were detained in the camps. Her mother was sent to one in Jerome, Ark., while her father was sent to a camp in Poston, one of two major internment camps in Arizona.
“The incarceration of Japanese-Americans is really looked back on as a huge mistake that the U.S. government made,” she said. “It was just so much spurred by this false fear and racism. To the extent that Trump is capitalizing on those sentiments of fear, racism and paranoia, it’s of great concern.”
Michael Armacost, Republican President George H.W. Bush’s ambassador to Japan from 1989 to 1993, noted that the U.S. government, decades later, apologized for the Japanese internment camps and paid $1.6 billion in reparations.
“The internment of the Japanese is now something that, in retrospect, I think most people regard as an injustice that was inspired by racism rather than by any real evidence of disloyalty among the Japanese-Americans,” said Armacost, who is now a distinguished fellow at Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center.
Roosevelt’s orders are not really analogous to what Trump wants to do, Armacost added. FDR didn’t go after a global religious group, which he said would violate the freedom of religion, “a rather fundamental American principle that is extended to all.”
“It’s a kind of thoughtless proposal that is desperately looking for precedents, I suppose, and has found one that isn’t particularly apt,” Armacost said.
Another expert said Trump is wrong to compare today’s fears of violence after the San Bernardino massacre that killed 14 people with the “combination of terror and humiliation” that ordinary Americans felt in the early months after Japan delivered a devastating blow to the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor and overran the Philippines and other U.S. outposts in the Pacific.
There were initial worries that the Japanese might intend to attack the West Coast, too, not to mention concerns about spies and saboteurs.
“There was popular fear. But think of the contrast between a crazed couple in San Bernardino shooting up a social-services center and the Empire of Japan attacking the U.S. throughout the Pacific,” said Michael Schaller, a Regents professor of history at the University of Arizona who has written about U.S.-Japanese and U.S.-China relations during and after World War II.
“To see those as equivalent is nutso, right?”
But Schaller also said the wartime anxiety about Japan should never have been focused on the civilian Japanese-American population in the United States.
“The notion that your Japanese gardener was going to slit your throat at night was talked about, but it was absurd,” he said. “Or that the guys growing crops in the San Fernando Valley were a threat to national security. But there was a legacy of anti-Asian feeling that this built on.”
The Washington, D.C.-based Japanese American Citizens League, without naming Trump, condemned his call for a Muslim ban, saying the proposal also is reminiscent of the anti-Asian exclusion acts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“These statements are guilty of the same mistakes that led to one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history, one that destroyed livelihoods, entire communities, and an ethnic culture,” Priscilla Ouchida, the group’s executive director, said in a written statement.
Tadano Shee's parents never talked about their days in the camp, she said. She was left to piece the story together on her own from memory.
Her grandfather arrived in Arizona around 1920 through Mexico, and he may have lived here illegally, she said. He rented property in Glendale and began farming.
As he grew more successful, he summoned his two sons from Japan. His oldest son, Tadano Shee's father, came to Arizona legally on a work visa, she believes. Her mom was born in California.
The family ran a farm near 35th and Glendale avenues, growing crops of lettuce, cabbage, melons, strawberries, and other produce.
Her grandfather opened a soy sauce factory, assisted others in getting their own farms running, and helped open a community center for Japanese Americans.
When the war broke out "there was a lot of chaos" within the Japanese-American community in the Phoenix area, she said.
At Roosevelt's order, a military zone was drawn covering California and parts of other Western states, including Arizona. In Phoenix, Grand Avenue became the area's boundary and dividing line: Japanese-Americans living south of the thoroughfare had to go to the camps but those living north of it did not.
Tadano Shee's family thought they were in the clear.
But in 1942 authorities sent her grandfather and father to a federal prison in New Mexico, where they were detained for about a year.
In retrospect, she thinks federal officials zeroed in on them because her father's work visa had expired and they were aware of her grandfather's community advocacy.
Her grandfather was released after he suffered a heart attack, and in 1943 her father was sent to the detention center in Texas. Tadano Shee, her mom and brother were forced to follow, packing a few belongings and leaving the farm in the care of an uncle.
She was too young to understand why her family was living in barracks and surrounded by fences and armed guards. She was too young to reconcile the image of her father driving a garbage truck around the camp with the man she had known back home.
"Many times, walking to school, I would run across my father and I thought it was always odd because my father was driving a garbage truck," she recalled. "And I remembered thinking, 'That's not what my father does.' My recollection of my father is that he was always out in the fields farming."
She returned to those fields with her father in 1944. It wasn't until then that she began to piece together moments that led her to conclude her time in the internment camp was out of the ordinary.
"When I came home, my grandmother, who only spoke Japanese, said to me in Japanese, ... 'You speak such beautiful Japanese.' And I collected in my mind, 'Is that what I've been speaking?'"
She learned while they were in Texas that her uncle who cared for the farm had been "harassed and shot at" while working in the fields.
She began school, and again, could not understand the lessons.
This teacher and these classmates spoke English: "I had switched completely from English to Japanese and so when I went to first grade, I didn't know English anymore. I tried to fit in as best as I possibly could. I remember no one ever understanding me. I couldn't even ask where to go to the bathroom because nobody around spoke Japanese except for my cousins."
She was ridiculed for her poor English and called a "dirty Jap," she said. Her brother was "constantly beat up" and came home with bloody noses almost every day.
"When I was in the second grade, I had a very tall teacher who, every recess, she carried me on her shoulders so the kids wouldn't pick on me," Tadano Shee said, her voice cracking, a tear running down her cheek.
"Unfortunately, people have this idea that when bad or traumatic things happen to you as a kid, you outgrow it, and it's not true."
Her family received reparations. She never returned to the internment camp. But the experience, the name-calling and the bullying strengthened her will to help others avoid the type of scorn she faced.
She won scholarships and earned a college degree, and ultimately became a vice president at Phoenix College. She developed a passion for helping English-language learners improve their language skills.
"Because I was ridiculed for not being able to speak English very well, I remember many a times saying, 'I'm going to be able to speak English so well, no one will make fun of me again,'" she said. "That was an impetus for me to become educated. Because of what happened to me, it was important to help others to become educated."
Now, she said, it's important Americans help those targeted by Trump.
She follows coverage of his campaign from her home in north Phoenix. She was horrified to hear his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., and of his comparisons to the internment camps.
Those who disagree with Trump must speak up, she said: "It's not right and the Muslims too need to become very, very vocal. To castrate a population and make them feel that they have no hope, make them feel that they have no rights and no form of communication to the outside world, and to know of no one who will speak up for them is reprehensible."
Donald Trump continues to get heat for his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. The billionaire businessman is losing money abroad, though he is still leading in the polls back home.VPC
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