In the height of the war between America and Japan, the Japanese experienced many challenges. This is because American authorities wanted to ensure that the Japanese in America do not help their natives to win the war. Therefore, the Japanese were confined into camps, where they faced many dehumanizing conditions and attitudes. Japanese fighters bomb Pearl Harbor, and the president signs a document that gives the military power to arrest people who appeared to be threats for national security (Hanel, 54). As such, the Japanese in America were taken to be sympathizers of the war, and they faced lots of problems; they were arrested and t concentrated in camps where they could be monitored. As much as many people argue that this helped America win the war, the results of these displacements affected people, and they led to disintegration of the Japanese families and community.
Justification for the Internment
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Many people have blamed Americans for the internment of the Japanese Americans. The public knew that America was in war with Japan, and the presence of people of the Japanese descent seemed to lower the morale of the people in supporting the war. Therefore, this compelled the government to seek measures to remove all Japanese Americans from the public life of other Americans. The government could only do this by forming special camps that the Japanese could be confined. These camps were situated far from settlements, and Manzanar was two hundred and twenty five (225) miles from Los Angeles, in the desert. This distance separated the Japanese Americans from the rest of America; they could not reach out other people. In these camps, these people were also monitored, and they were subjected to some dehumanizing life that led to the breakage of many families. The author says that there was much suffering, and she goes back to the site of the camp to prove that these things were true, not imagined. This shows that the people endured hardships; they could not understand why the governments made them endure this; however, they note that it made history, and they were part of that history.
Greg Robinson, an author who researched the Japanese American internment, (49) says that the American government feared that there were some Japanese spies in America, and they were informing Japanese command about tactical maneuvers. This made the government feel that all Japanese people should be concentrated in to camps where they could be monitored. Greg says that the government was not wrong in doing this, and he notes that the political atmosphere in America, at that time, required such actions to ensure that the state was secure. He believes that some people were still loyal to Japan, and they were angered by the American invasion. Therefore, according to Greg, they wanted to support Japan in the war. This can be proven by the fact that Jeanne’s father had a Japanese flag; this showed his loyalty to Japan. In fact, his arrest by the FBI was imminent.
Wendy (an author who sought to understand the internment) (231) also supports the idea that America was justified to impose internment to the people of Japanese descent. He feels that the country (America) needed to preserve its sovereignty, and it could do this by proving the loyalty of the foreigners. The internment of the Japanese during this time was necessary, and America needed to do this to ensure that there were no enemies within the borders. Wendy supports his claim by saying that the prisoners in the camps refused to obey the American authorities, and they refused to comply with the stresses of the Americans. They were angered at the people, who proved to be loyal to America, and they called these people ‘dogs’. They also wanted to seek out these people and punish them for their loyalty. Jeanne’s father was arrested in the camps, and he was taken away for a whole year. He had been suspected in advancing Japanese sentiments in the camp. The Americans (soldiers and FBI) did not want people to show loyalty to their country of origin, but Jeanne’s father ignored that.
Wendy (235) also believes that the American president wanted to garner the support of Americans, and he wanted to advance sentiments that will secure the life of all Americans. According to Wendy, the president could only do this through ensuring that he supports some policies that secured Americans; thus, he signed the Executive Order 9066. This gave the military and FBI the signal to arrest people who were suspected to be threats to the American security. In this case, these people were the Japanese Americans, including Wakatsuki’s family. This can be proved by some prejudices that existed between the Americans and the Japanese. However, these prejudices just existed in abstractness, and it was not realized until people started interacting. For instance, the girl, Radine, was amazed that Jeanne is able to speak English. Apparently, Radine’s American culture had taught her that the Japanese are unable to speak English (Wendy 237). However, these were things that were not spoken about, and people coexisted in oblivion of these facts.
Most of the Japanese Americans, according to Harth (79), wanted to escape the war in their countries of origin, and they were not involved in organizing or supporting the defeat of their host countries (by their home countries). Harth felt that it was unfair to concentrate people in camps; people needed to be treated in an impartial manner, and the rule of law needed to be followed in relocating people to these places. People were subjected to unfair treatments in these camps, and they were malnourished. Thus, the society and the family life of the Japanese Americans were destroyed from that moment. Jeanne’s family faced problems in these camps, and they kept on shifting from place to place; they were forced sell their belongings since they could not move with them, and this shows that concentration of people made them stop developing (Robinson 57). This affected people and they felt that their lives could not take other forms. In fact, they went to these camps believing that they could not help the situations.
The problems that Wakatsuki’s family faced acts as in indubitable evidence that internment of the Japanese Americans was wrong. The family, in the beginning of this book, was a close knit unit, and the members were concerned about the welfare of the other members. The father, for instance, acted as a role model who guides other members of the family. He was the rock that was the foundation of this family. However, he was arrested and this was the beginning of the break of the bond with the family.
In the camps, people were subjected to dehumanizing conditions that made them feel inferior to the Americans. People suffered from indignity, and they were unable to tolerate each other as they were used to. For instance, Jeanne’s mother was affected by the combined latrines. This removed any privacy for a person. Thus, the family started to disintegrate. They no longer sat at the dining table, and they ate at different places in the mess. Apparently, they started forming new friends based on common ideas of suffering. These people lacked the guidance of the family, and each followed the desires that seem to engulf a person in such moments. Jean started exploring the camp, and he started to listen to religious talks given by some nuns. The father was arrested, and he was taken away for a whole year. This affected the family since they lacked the rock that guides them. When the father returned, the family was unsure of how to welcome him. This is because he has been away from the family, and the family has lived too long apart. In fact, the arrest of the father made the family bond break very fast. Apparently, the experiences that the father underwent in prison have also broken him, and he drifted apart from the family. In fact, he started practicing some antisocial behaviors, such as drunkenness and bullying. At one time, he attempted to strike Jeanne’s mother with a stick (Houston 216) (Houston wrote a book that analyzed Manzaner’s book in great detail. He gives his views as well as a critical approach to the work). This made the youngest son strike the father; and this symbolizes the increasing gap among the family members.
The internment of the Japanese Americans also brought the American society to developing some distance with the Japanese Americans. This affected the cultural integration and the relationship between the two states; the people, who rejected to pledge allegiance to America, were deported. According to Hanel Rachael (studied the aftermath of the Japanese American Internment and sought to understand its implications to the new people in the society) (117), this deportation was inexpedient since these people were not accused of any acts of sabotage. They were just arrested on the basis of their racial background. This dehumanized these people, and they felt marginalized. The children of these families were also subjected to similar treatments with adults. The children did not know much about the war, but they had to endure the suffering caused by this war. They were also denied some basic rights, such as attending school. In the camps, there were no decent forms of schooling, and Jeanne explored, solely, things that could satisfy her hunger for knowledge. This did not give her time to explore other avenues, and she did this without guidance. Therefore, she got into the conflict with the father since the father felt that she was following the wrong path. However, the life in this camp did not provide much choice, and Jeanne took the every first opportunity that she got (Houston 147).
Hanel (119) also says that the Japanese Americans feared to go back to the American society since they were not sure of how they will be received. This is evident in this book, and most Japanese families did not want to be relocated to other places. When the court said that the internship was illegal, some Japanese felt insecure about integrating with other societies. Therefore, the government had to force some people to move from the camps. The reception of these people in the American society proved their predicament, and they were labeled foreigners (Harth 82). In fact, even the children from the rest of the American society were amazed that some children of the Japanese origin can speak English. Children reflect the values and plights of people, and this reflects the lives of the American society.
Significance of the Internment
The internment signified that countries could not trust each other in times of war. America and Japan were involved in a standoff, and the citizens, although innocent, suffered from this political situation. People were dehumanized, but the two governments could not sacrifice for the demands of the common citizen; the plight and the sovereignty of the two states needed to be preserved, and the two states continued with the war. This is an irony because every nation needs to protect the citizens. America assumed that Japanese Americans were refugees, yet they had some American citizenship; thus Americans of the Japanese descent were confined in to some dehumanizing conditions.
The difficulty of this situation is explained using the symbol of stones. Stones, in Farewell to Manzanar, are symbols of the endurance of Japanese. Kimi ga yo, the Japanese anthem (national), which the father sings after engaging in a fight launches the image of stones that persist unchanged through the years as well as the coatings of dense moss that make these stones look bigger than their actual size. This image proposes that the Japanese capability to endure the challenges of Manzanar could lead to progress. It is not very easy for Jeanne to tolerate ethnic bias, but her endurance empowers her to see beyond the prejudice and discern her identity. Stones, in this book, also denote solace and rest. For instance, the Issei men collect small stones to build calm rock gardens, and the father gazes at the gigantic Sierra Nevada mounts to emit his thoughts. These rocks endure even when Jeanne goes back to the camp about thirty years later. The survival of the concrete foundations and the rock gardens suggest that this camp will endure through the memory of those who occupied it.
The internment of the Japanese Americans caused problems to the families and the society. The families were subjected to hard lives in the camps, and the family structure was destroyed. This internment did not prove to be helpful since these people did not have allies in Japan. They were just subjected to suffering that made many people leave their families and abandon their moral values. Consequently, the court ruled out that this internment was illegal (Irons 235).
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