Sunday, May 9, 2010

Japanese Internment Memorial

The Japanese Internment happened during World War II. The date was December 7, 1941, a day that went down in America’s history and a tragic one. It was Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
It was a sneaky and well-executed attack on United States Navy's battleship and over 2400 Americans were killed. After the attack, America declared war on Japan; so on February 19, 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.
The order was to force the evacuation of all Japanese Americans, stripping them also of their constitutional rights to be protected as American citizens in the name of national defense. The order also bans people of Japanese descent who were living on the West Coast from getting a liviehood in certain locations in America. Now perceived as the enemies of the state, the U.S. government forcefully uprooted more than 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes, schools, farms, jobs, and businesses.
They were forced to live in bleak, horrifying remote camps with deplorable conditions, behind barbed wire and under the watchful eyes of armed guards. From 1942 to 1945, almost four years the Japanese Americans stayed in the Internment camps.
Ruth Asawa is one of America’s highly recognized women artists of the 20th century. She is an advocate for the arts that celebrates the richness and beauty of everyday life. She is able to use grace and intricate forms to create her famous masterpiece wire sculptures. She is also called the "fountain lady" because she displayed so many of her fountains art work for public view in San Francisco.
Born in Norwalk, California in 1926, Asawa is the fourth child of seven children. Her parents who are immigrants from Japan works as truck farmers growing seasonal crops for a living until she and her family were forced to go to the Japanese American internment camp during World War II. As a teenager, she experiences the deplorable condition in the camp but she used her experience to express her work in artistry.
As proof of her work, in 1994, she made the Japanese-American Internment Memorial Sculpture put on display in San Jose. In San José over 3,000 Japanese Americans lived in the Valley before World War II period.
After the war, many Japanese Americans came to San José to re-establish themselves. As the started-over, San Jose's historic Japan town was founded.
It is like starting over after the Japanese internment policy was revoked in December of 1944. There is also the Japanese American Resource Center in the Santa Clara Valley. The purpose of the Center is to preserve the rich history Japanese Americans contributions to the American growth in arts, culture and the significant development of the Valley.
One of the vignettes that I found very compelling was a picture of a man trying to comfort his little daughter holding her doll, who would not stop crying after seeing her home with their mailboxes on the side is for sale and a huge “Evacuation” sign on it. I understood the little girl’s pain because it is devastating that place you grow up or things that you are use to be suddenly taken away from you. Another picture of a U.S guard holding a gun and shoving Japanese Americans and their frightened children toward the houses in the camp.
The third vignettes has a picture of a huge train that is transferring hundred of Japanese-Americans to various Internment camps in the country and many of their friends and relatives holding their hands from the train windows and waving goodbye to them, not knowing if they will see their friends and families ever again.
As I went studied the history of Japanese-American lives in American, I looked into the events and the factors which led to Japanese American internment.
The Japanese were treated the same way the Nazis treatment the Jews on the concentration camps. After 75 years, I know horrible events like this will never happen again.
Browsing the web, I came across a photograph by Dorthea Lange from the National Archives. It was a picture of a Japanese American posted a banner saying “I AM AN AMERICAN” on his store front the day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and shortly before he was sent to an internment camp. Seeing this, it shows that nobody or country wants to have America as an enemy. I believe America has matured over the last 75 years to know how the deal with terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

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