February 19, 2017 was the 75th anniversary of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s executive order that put 120,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps. Most of them were citizens of our country.
As the children of aging parents who have seen so much political unrest during their lifetime, we often don’t agree with their politics or their unique points of view. I think it behooves us to try to see the past and the present through their eyes. I think a good example has shown up in the news with the anniversary of the internment of Japanese Americans.
We can only imagine the pain of being ripped from their homes, many losing their businesses and possessions to live in primitive conditions. What’s hard to understand is that most of them did not take to the streets or tell their stories to anyone who would listen. These dignified, hard-working people still seemed to be totally committed to the United States of America.
Recently the Sacramento Crocker Art Museum paid homage to those brave Americans by presenting Ansel Adams’ photographs of a California internment camp. Many who were forced to stay at the Manzanar Relocation Camp were from Sacramento which had a large population of Japanese Americans.
I think it behooves us to try to see the past and the present through their eyes.
The Greatest Generation
One local man was interviewed on a television news show who was 11 when he and his family were detained at the camp. The reporter asked if he hated living there and he said, “Not at all. It was a big adventure. We had food to eat and a place to sleep. We didn’t have to work like we did when we were home.”
I find his reaction amazing. But he is pretty close to being from the Greatest Generation.
The past is often forgotten but not by those who lived through it or live through the pain of loved ones who did. What is totally amazing is how those who suffered so seem to remember the kindness of others and the gratitude they still feel for those who did right by them.
In a Sacramento Bee article, Congresswoman Doris Matsui tells her own story of the camps. She was actually born in an Arizona internment camp where her parents met and married.
“My fathers’ Central Valley farm was preserved by the Sorenson family for him,” said Matsui, who finds a reason to be grateful despite the unfairness of it all.
Jean Kawano, 85, is still a resident of Sacramento where her parents had to leave their downtown grocery store when they were interned. What she recalled is a family who asked to rent the store and who deposited their rent money into an account they kept for her family until the day they were released. When they were released, they had enough money to buy a home near the store.
Another woman remembers “fighting not to go” until she was told they did not have to go back to Japan.
I am so struck by the amazing grace of these people who endured the turbulent times after World War II. Their grace also has endured to shine.
Photo Credit: Children at the Weill public school in San Francisco pledge allegiance to the American flag in April 1942, prior to the internment of Japanese Americans. Photo attributed to Dorothea Lange(w). Public Domain.