Racism or Error in Judgement 

In upstate New York is the home, library and museum associated with FDR and his family.  FDR was the 32nd and longest serving US president—elected to four terms.

One very interesting exhibit in the museum tackled the “evacuation” of Japanese-Americans from the west coast during WWII.  This was carried out under the belief that these Americans couldn’t be trusted:

FDR issued this Executive Order authorizing the “evacuation”:

These Americans were given very little time to liquidate their assets—they could take only items they could carry—kinda resembles how the Nazis handled Jews during the war:

Evacuation was the euphemism for moving 120,000 Americans into camps:

These camps were located hundreds if not thousands of miles from the west coast.  The residents were surrounded by barb wire fences, machine guns and soldiers armed with rifles with bayonets:

One resident commented that once he got to the camp he felt like a prisoner. Why?  Because the soldiers had bayonets on their rifles and the larger weapons were pointed into the camp.  The residents couldn’t understand why American citizens were being treated in that way.

Several photographers took ongoing photos of the residents—Dorothea Lange was part of this group.  Seeing these pictures underscores the folly of this government action:

In the photo above each person is wearing a tag. This tag was required and holds an ID number for each resident—not quite the tattoo seen on concentration camp residents—right?  

Somehow this person may not agree with that point of view:

Eventually, the government decided that these folks were not a “Fifth Column” and let them out just before the war ended.  Not surprising since these were simply hardworking ordinary folks who loved their country—no scent of deceit was ever discovered.  

During the Reagan Presidency (in 1988) the President apologized for the confinement.  Congress agreed to pay the surviving 60,000 Japanese-Americans $20,000 in restitution for their confinement and loss of assets.

No matter what some may say or believe these Americans still believed in the Constitution and the ideas we all hold so dear:

It’s easy to say this action was a terrible mistake—we benefit from hindsight.  However, at the time this may have seemed an honest way to handle this situation.  

Was this skillful propaganda based on real fear or racism that went too far.  Many who lived through this period would acknowledge the evidence supporting racism — against Japs.  

The good news is we did eventually apologize to our fellow Americans.  We recognized that we had erred in taking this action.

Today history is repeating itself — again a group of Americans is being ostracized for their religious beliefs.

Will our actions today be judged harshly by history and future generations?  Is atonement or exoneration in our country’s future?


About tourdetom

I'm retired. Travel a lot.
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