I remember shortly after 9/11 reading in the paper about the disillusionment of a young Filipino American man. He had written that he had always felt he was American until the day he was taken off a plane in the new post 9/11 reality and questioned by authorities because he had been mistaken as an Muslim militant simply because of the color of his skin. The experience shook him to the core and made him question things as he had never questioned before. Being American was no longer a comfortable given.
I was reminded of this incident recently when I read yet another story in the paper. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia surprised people when he bluntly told law students at the University of Hawai‘i that internment camps to detain Americans could eventually return. Although he admitted that the Supreme Court approval of internment camps for Japanese Americans was wrong, he followed up by telling the crowd that “you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again.” Citing a Latin expression he quoted an expression attributed to Cicero: “In times of war, the laws fall silent.”
I cite these two examples to people who might wonder why we continue to cover a historical incident that happened years ago and only affected one portion of the American population. The truth of the matter is that it could happen to you. If we are not vigilant, the rights we hold as American citizens could be taken away from us in a heartbeat. Which brings us to our short feature on the internment of Japanese Americans. Stanley Shikuma looks at two major books on Minidoka, the internment camp that many Japanese Americans in the Northwest were taken. Chizu Omori looks at several new books on internment history and briefly covers a recent art installation in California dealing with the topic. Locally, there are the annual pilgrimages to Minidoka and Tule Lake internment camps (all these events can be found listed online in my “Arts Etc.” events calendar), a performance at ACT Theatre in Seattle of a play on Gordon Hirabayashi, and a traveling Smithsonian exhibition entitled “The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942–1946” at Bellevue Arts Museum from July 3 to October 12. There is also the mounting of a major traveling exhibition by Seattle artist Roger Shimomura that takes on the Asian stereotype opening in the fall at the Museum of Art, Washington State University, and eventually surfacing at Tacoma Art Museum later next year. As the old adage goes, if we don’t remember lessons from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Enjoy your summer!
—Alan Chong Lau,
IE Arts Editor