by Claire Bernish, The Free Thought Project:
Authorities swarmed towns, knocking on doors, questioning neighbors, rounding up those who now, suddenly, didn’t belong — couldn’t be considered Americans — to detain them until the problem could be sorted out. Later.
Those targeted by the sweeps cowered in fear of being ripped from the familiarity of daily life — knowing, ultimately, the unreal had become the new reality — and the situation would never return to a static ‘normal.’
Although this could facilely describe present-day ICE raids and the detainment and deportation of people living in the U.S. without official approval, this has happened before — and though our previous flirtation with discriminatory fascism might have been a bit uglier, nothing prevents the same from happening today.
Today marks the Day of Remembrance, because on February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, opening one of the nastiest chapters in United States history — the mass internment of Japanese Americans.
And while much discussion has been made of President Donald Trump’s Mexico border wall, immigrant raids, and Muslim-majority nation immigration ban, for swaths of the country, the predominant sentiment still comprises some version of, it can’t happen here.
But it can. It did.
And the abomination of Japanese American internment camps — where more than two-thirds of the 120,000 detainees had been born in the United States — must not be forgotten, understated, or passed over like an historical anomaly. Because that’s precisely why our more abhorrent moments creep from the past, transformed into modern, and oft worse, manifestations of an evil we thought swept into history’s dustbin — collective memory lapse nearly guarantees a repeat performance.
Will we ever learn?
“When the order was first signed, there was uncertainty,” writes U.S. Representative Doris Matsui of Roosevelt’s decree for Quartz. “Who, exactly, was impacted by this? Where would they and their families go? What would happen to their businesses? Their homes? Details about the implementation of the order were unclear, and families faced confusion and fear about what would happen to them. With the stroke of a pen, their future was suddenly unknown. People’s lives had changed and they couldn’t even be sure how.
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