Comment: A tribute to resisters - Allegiance, the musical

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A tribute to resisters - Allegiance, the musical

Excuse the length of this, but judging from the subject and comments, some of you may appreciate reading a little personal background on what happened via Executive Order 9066.

Believe it or not, my father was serving in the US Army as a Sergeant (I'm not making this up!)when two young men, acting upon the infamous EO, came by with papers (as my mother described it) to take my mother and father’s possessions including a brand new piano, her silverware and valuables. My mother was pregnant at the time, and I fear the internment took an irreparable physical toll which later resulted in the loss of her first born in camp. She had constant high blood pressure, headaches and other symptoms in camp. The medical treatment was very lacking the first year and half. There was a lack of protein so they raised their own chickens.

The internees in Manzanar had it even worse where they woke up every day and went to sleep every night with dust everywhere…in their food, on their clothes, hair and everywhere breathing it day and night. The deaths due to illness and stress I read somewhere was over 10 percent. That figure matches the death rate for a high school alumni class of members in their mid to late-60’s; so it only took several years to do what decades of aging does.

I and many cried who saw Allegiance in San Diego. It broke all of the attendance records while it played, and its success I am told has guaranteed a Broadway run. Finally, a play written to highlight the resisters in the Japanese-American internment camps; they are the unsung heroes who spoke out against the injustice
of the theft of their homes, property, livelihoods and dignity. Mike Masaoka is a pivotal real life character in the play whose name elicits resentment for his collusion with the JACL (Japanese-American Citizens League) and the US government to punish resisters who would not sign loyalty pledges. They were bullied and intimidated and sent to a high security camp which George Takei (Star Trek actor) wrote about in his book, To the Stars (1995). He stars BTW in Allegiance. Even the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was a setup to send men onto the battlefield as sacrifices; Masaoka the first to sign up knew they were being led to die in brutal battle situations. That is a whole story unto itself. Over three decades after internees were released from camps and a civil rights movement began (started in 60's) among the Japanese-Americans, I eschewed the JACL being very distrustful of their cozying up to government bureaucrats. I chose instead to support the class action law suit spearheaded by my friend William Hohri who lived through the constant strain of monetary depletion and no sleep for close to five years while he enlisted the support of his friends and like-minded community activists. His approach was more no nonsense, calling a spade a spade vs. the JACL's weak "go along to get along" approach. He was very gratified when the government did issue a formal written apology to all surviving internees, and the law suit had a major impact on that outcome.

To this day I tell people what happened and some still believe the camps were for the protection of the Japanese-Americans. They don’t appreciate how it affected the people’s spirits and instilled a sense of shame and guilt for not being a white American. The internment was swept under the rug it was such a painful chapter for internees. Very few Americans are informed of the miserable conditions that prevailed in the camps especially the first year and a half. I discovered what my mother endured by reading the papers made available from the Freedom of Information Act. We lost Bill almost two years ago. He wrote two books. I am sorry he is not featured in Allegiance partially because the play focuses on what is going on among internees vs. the reparations movement decades later; he represents the spirit of the second and third generation of Niseis and Sanseis who would not allow this matter to rest without an examination and apology for the injustice of the camps. The two set DVD Conscience and the Constitution is an excellent two hour PBS documentary of the largest organized resistance to the WWII incarceration which many of you DPrs may appreciate.

To this day I weep over my older brother’s loss of life at his birth, something that haunts me to the very core. Had the medical conditions been better, my uncles and aunts feel he would have survived the complicated birth made worse by the doctor arriving late, lack of proper meds etc. I have fantasies that he is living well in some parallel universe where freedom reigns, and that gives me consolation.

Books by William Hohri, sold at Amazon:
Repairing America: An Account of the Movement for Japanese American Redress (Mar 1988)
Resistance: Challenging America's wartime internment of Japanese-Americans (2001)

CONSCIENCE AND THE CONSTITUTION – new Two-Disc Collector's Edition DVD - purchase a videotape copy of CONSCIENCE AND THE www.resisters.com or via orders@resisters.com.

Conscience and the Constitution – PBS Public Broadcasting
www.pbs.org/itvs/conscience