Monday, October 25, 2010

Japanese-American Internment: Lesson Learned?

During the Intermission of the Scarlet Pimpernel, my brother and I got into a very brief argument about the need of a "League of the Scarlet Pimpernel".  I gave the example of Japanese-Americans in WWII, and he responded that those internment camps were far less harmful than the German concentration camps, and that we learned our lesson.

While I would grant that life wasn't taken by these camps, as Joe Huffman pointed out (search for "Japanese" in document), many Japanese citizens lost their homes, never to return to them, for the crime of having Japanese parents.  And they certainly lost their liberty during this time.

And who's to say that their lives were not in jeopardy?  What could have happened to them, had there been a Japanese terrorist attack on American soil?  Or if the war had gone longer, and we were in dire need of resources--including food?

And in a society that respects life, liberty and property--indeed, is founded on the principle that these are God-given rights, which governments are created to protect--how disturbing is it that our government trampled on two of those rights, without just cause?

My brother said we learned our lesson.  But, have we?  What evidence is there that we have?  The best that I can come up with is this:  when I learned about it in history, in public school, the textbooks lamely apologized for it, said that it was understandable for the time, and that we've paid reparations for it, so it's ok.

I have little confidence that we've learned our lesson here.

But what if it weren't a "lesson" for us to learn from?  What if it were a test?  We, the American People, should have done all in our power to prevent the Japanese, Italian, and German Americans from being rounded up, and to try to free those who have been rounded up...but we didn't.  Will this embolden the next Administration that decides something like this needs to be done?

And perhaps this was also a warning:  a signal that concentration camps can happen here, in the land of Liberty, and that, next time it happens, we need to act, and to act decisively.  We can't just look over the Atlantic and say, "Well, it happened in Germany because they were Germans, but we're Americans, so we'll get it right."

I once read an essay online--I can't find it now--that claims that the Government only gets one Waco.  I wish that were true, but only time could tell, and I have my doubts.  But another question we need to ask ourselves is this:  How many "Wacos", how many internment camps, do we get, before we recognize that the signs of tyranny are upon us, and that we need to act now to stop it?

And what do we do when tyranny is at our very doorsteps?

These are difficult questions.  I wish I had the answers to them.

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