(Blogged by Brad from the road...)
In 1942 the U.S. Government forced some 150,000 Americans of Japanese descent, two-thirds of them actually born in America, to leave their communities, sell their houses (if they were able to in the two weeks time they were given) and relocate to one of 10 "relocation" or "internment" camps here in the United States of America.
A few days ago, while on the road, we had the occasion to stop by and spend a few hours at what is left of the Manzanar Relocation Camp between Lone Pine and (ironically, enough) Independence, California. The remains of the camp are found on a quiet dusty stretch of lonely Highway 395 as it runs along the Eastern Sierras near Mt Whitney (at 14,000+ feet it's the tallest peak in the contiguous 48).
On the desert floor at the foot of the mountain range, lies the remains of Manzanar, shamelessly razed after 1945 as if to wipe out all memory of it's existence.
Some 10,000 Japanese-Americans, citizens, business owners, doctors, professionals, Army veterans and their families and thousands of children, were relocated into makeshift barracks in blockhouse rows here during WWII after the attack at Pearl Harbor. None of the interned were ever officially accused or convicted of "sabotage" against the United States.
This was our second time at Manzanar following the guided auto-tour along the ruins, imagining the life there for those four years. It was again a moving and troubling experience. In 1997 the area was taken over and protected by the National Park Service and finally, in April of 2004 --- over half a century after the camp was finally shut down --- a terrifically designed and very educational Interpretive Center has been opened in what had been the High School auditorium building, the only building still standing on the 800 acre site. The Center is chock full of information and artifacts which bring the place back to life after it has so shamelessly been relegated to the dustbin of Americas Forgotten History.
If you find yourself near Manzanar, set aside a few hours to learn and/or remember one of the shameful chapters in our country when we last panicked in the face of fear and gave in to our worst instincts in the name of "self protection". Last time it was under a Democratic President, this time it's under a Republican "President". Apparently, we haven't learned all that much from the last time we were attacked by an enemy we didn't understand and found ourselves willing to sacrifice much of what this country stands for in the name of giving in to our most base and unfounded fears.
The US Constitution, like our Tax Laws and our Welfare System has many flaws and loopholes to be exploited by those who care to for political or personal gain. It's our job, as Americans, to see to it that the spirit of that Constitution is upheld, no matter who the charlatans are who may wish to use our fears against what that document stands for.