Friday, March 2, 2012

First They Came for the Japanese

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller

Today, on the 70th anniversary of one of our government's most egregious acts against its citizenry, the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II, we should pause and reflect on that story as a cautionary tale. Claire Wolfe has done exactly that, in exquisite form, in Burning in the Camps, published at Backwood Homes Magazine.

Her myth-shattering perspective shines through in this brief quote.
Somehow, “enemy ancestry” rarely extended to German-Americans or Italian-Americans, very few of whom ever ended up in camps. It’s funny that nobody then or now much remarked on the fact that the allies proceeded to make a Gen. Eisenhower their military leader. But then, he looked like “us” and came out of mainstream culture. So his loyalty was unquestioned. So his “enemy ancestry” didn’t condemn him despite a name as German as the Rhine. (Nor should it have, of course, any more than the ancestry should have determined anyone else’s fate.)
As a long-time fan of Claire's work (see my column, Agorism, Country Style, in Hardyville), I'd like to take this opportunity to recommend you acquaint yourself with Claire's writing. Most definitely, do not miss the history lesson and cautionary tale she weaves in Burning in the Camps.

...and that's all I have to say about that.

1 comment:

  1. There was an inadvertent "battlespace preparation", so to speak, for the concept of the internment camps.

    I first found this as an afterthought in Amity Schlaes book The Forgotten Man.

    During the Depression, there were several efforts to relocate people to new communities provided by some branch of the Feds. This was mostly done under the aegis of the Resettlement Administration.

    While this practice didn't lead inexorably to the Japanese Internment, it appears that the people of the nation had gotten inured to government agents doing the occasional Resettlement when necessary.

    Whatever the causes, those camps were not a praiseworthy part of American history.

    (For comparison, how did the other nations treat foreign nationals at the beginning of the war? How many other nations had immigrants that were in a position similar to the American citizens of Japanese descent?)