A couple of days ago on December 7th I joined most of my countrymen and women and remembered Pearl Harbor. Last Month I visited the Arizona Memorial and paid my respects to the thousands of victims of the sneak attack by Japan. I remembered my dad, granddad and uncle who served in the war and my uncle Freddy’s severe burns and shortened life. On the news, as it is every year at this time were films of FDR’s “Day of Infamy”, speech; one of the seminal speeches in modern American History. After 74 years it continues to show a time when we rallied together as one to defeat evil.
On February 19, 2016 we will remember another infamous day. On that day in 1942, FDR issued Executive Order 9066 which sent Japanese American Citizens away to remote concentration camps because of their ancestry and their names. Places like Tule Lake, a wind ripped corner of California and Minidoka, Idaho and the desert east of the Colorado River in Arizona. There was no wholesale incarceration of German Americans during the same time.
One of my former secretaries graduated from Salinas High School that year and was sent to Tule Lake. My brother in law, at age 2 was spirited off to Arizona with his family. People were rounded up at race tracks and fairgrounds and deprived of their constitutional rights as American Citizens as well as their personal dignity. Housed in leaky barracks in severe weather places like Manzanar on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Range, The people made do with furniture crafted from produce boxes and vegetable gardens coaxed from marginal soils.
Banks got rich by foreclosing on the homes and properties of these Americans and, with a few notable exceptions where neighbors cared for the places, the people left the camps after the war to find their belongings and properties gone.
One of my friends was released from Tule Lake along with other young people who were accepted at Loyola University in Chicago; a generous gesture by the Jesuits. He was forced with others to stand outside the town limits of Alturas to wait for the bus and refused meal service and the use of rest room facilities. He completed a law degree and served in California’s government for many years.
I want to remember this just as I remember Pearl Harbor. The sneak attacks are now done by individuals. Nine Eleven to San Bernardino, it’s hard to pin it down. The rules of engagement have changed and we’ll need to adapt to fight the evil.
What we don’t need to do is repeat Executive Order 9066. For those racists and insecure Americans who want to separate out people based on religion, sexual orientation, race or national origin I have a message. You want a fight? You’ll have one! I will do everything within my power to keep this particular anomaly in our nation’s history from happening again. And if either party is stupid enough to nominate someone for President who spouts this bile I expect to have many allies in the fight.
Russell Cahill December 9, 2015.