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by Susan Hayase (via IMC volunteer)
Saturday, Feb. 08, 2003 at 1:07 PM
Howard Coble is going around saying it was a good idea to intern the Japanese Americans. It's an argument for the incarceration of Middle Eastern and Arab Americans.
Subject: FW: Open letter to Congressman Howard Coble
FYI: I submitted this to the San Jose Mercury and the Washington Post.
Dear Congressman Coble,
My mother was a 17-year-old, straight A high school student in Ventura,
California in the spring of 1942 when she was taken away by her government
on a train with the shades drawn. She ended up in a U.S. Government
concentration camp in Gila River, Arizona, with barbed wire, guard towers,
and soldiers with guns pointed at her, her sister, and her elderly father.
This traumatic disruption in her life was preceded by a cacaphony of
hysterical racist slander from media pundits and politicians who knew an
opportunity when they saw it to pander to Americans' fears. It may have
been a legitimate act to take steps to deal with sabotage and espionage, but
it was illegitimate to smear all Japanese Americans with these suspicions.
General John DeWitt, of the Western Defense Command summed up conventional
"wisdom" of the time when he noted that although many Japanese Americans
were born and raised in the United States, "the racial strains are
undiluted" and the more succinct and pithy phrase, "a Jap is a Jap."
When you defend the internment of Japanese Americans you are disregarding
the dogged work of over fifty years of public education on the facts of the
internment by Japanese Americans, scholars of American history, civil rights
activists, constitutional lawyers, school teachers, artists, and ordinary
When you defend the internment of Japanese Americans you are contradicting
the findings of the Presidential Commission on the Wartime Relocation and
Interment of Civilians (CWRIC) which concluded in 1983 that the internment
was based on "war hysteria, racial prejudice, and the failure of political
When you defend the internment of Japanese Americans, you are repudiating
the words of Presidents Reagan and Bush, Sr. and the United States Congress
who apologized in writing and in public to Japanese Americans on behalf of
the American people, and who redressed the injury with individual monetary
When you defend the internment of Japanese Americans you are insulting the
many Americans who have taken to heart the constitutional principles of
justice, equality, and due process, and the many who have died to defend
When you defend the internment of Japanese Americans you are recklessly
endangering the individual constitutional rights of Arab Americans and
Muslims and any who have the bad luck to be from a country on John
And when you say that the concentration camps were to protect Japanese
Americans, you are being ridiculous. I'm glad you are not in law
enforcement, busily locking up potential crime victims, but it is alarming
that you hold these views as a lawmaker.
It may be that public education on America's concentration camps has not
reached your neck of the woods. It may be that this greater understanding
of individual rights and the dangers of scapegoating has not reached your
It would behoove you to find the time to educate yourself.
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