Tuesday, November 1, 2011
The Buddah In the Attic
I am appalled at the fact that our country had internment camps for the Japanese in during World War II. It is shocking to me. To be honest, I did not even know about these camps until I read a book called The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. That was the book that introduced me to this ridiculous chapter in America. I had never heard about these camps in school. Growing up on the East Coast, I don't know if they just didn't teach it to us, or between being shuffled from Philadelphia to North Carolina, I just missed that lesson. But I do know that had I known about it as a young person, there is no way I could have forgotten it. Did Doc Vi teach it to me in American History in 11th grade? Honestly I cannot recall ever hearing about this.
In the beginning of the twentieth century, women were brought to the United States to marry men they had never met. These men were Japanese, had money to send for the women, and needed wives for companionship, to make families, or to become legalized slaves. Women from the ages of 10 and up, (so really some of them weren't really women,) were brought to this country with a vision of something better for themselves than what their mothers had. In Japan, many of the women ended up doing labor day and night. In the fields. They ate little more than rice. Their children were mostly neglected, through no fault of their own, until they were old enough to work as well. When the opportunity came for them to send their daughters to be married to men in America, they thought for sure it was for something better. They were wrong.
When the women got here, they discovered that many of the men who had sent for them had lied. They were no better off than the families in Japan. They wanted the women to work just as hard or harder than the mothers in Japan had worked, in the fields. Living conditions were not much better, either.
As the years progressed, things did get a little better. The children of these women grew up knowing English. They got an education. They were able to read and write. The women felt that they had moved to this country for a reason. Maybe not to better themselves, but to better their progeny.
And then the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred. The people who had become their neighbors, their friends, their employers, their customers, were afraid of them. That was when the men started disappearing. They were taken in the night. Gone without a trace. The women were fearful without their husbands, the children were fearful without their fathers. But at least the white Americans could relax. But I guess the Government did not think that it was enough to take just the men. They had to take the women and children too, because heaven only knows what secrets they were holding.
The federal and state governments told the people that the Japanese were taken away to some where safe. Where they could be safe. They did not tell the people that they had them in camps, like prisoners in the Rocky Mountain West. The children missed their playmates. The adults missed their employees, their grocers, their florists, their neighbors. All because the government was scared.
I am terrified that this could happen again. Maybe not to a race of people, but what about Mormons? People could decide that they don't like my religion and want to round us all up and put us somewhere that we can't "brainwash" them. Or maybe it will be the Muslims. People were awfully afraid of Muslims after 9/11. I like to think that we are more evolved than that. I like to think that we, as Americans would never treat people like animals.
This book opened my eyes and made me a little fearful. But it also gave me hope. I know that this is part of our past, but I hope it is never part of our future.