Day of Remembrance

February 19, 2017, is the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066. February 19 is the Day of Remembrance in the Japanese-American community to remember the internment (imprisonment) of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

For more information follow @Densho on Twitter; Densho, George Takei, Day of Remembrance, and Allegiance on Facebook. These are just a start; there are many other good resources such as the Japanese American National Museum, Japanese American Service Committee of Chicago, and Densho.

I am sharing a speech I gave at the Tom Carroll Torch Club in Lincoln, Nebraska, on January 18, 2016. It was written as a speech so I left out all my citations. Please know that I did a lot of research for this paper and apologize for the lack of citations as I share this online.

2Minutes2Run

About six months ago I read a short essay by Neil Gaiman. It was written as part of Chipotle’s cultivating culture series where they place short essays on their drinking cups. Here is that essay:

“I am thinking about the fragility of civilization. Look around you, at the building you are in, the road you travel on. What you see was made by people who agreed that they would get up in the morning and go to work and nobody would shoot at them or fire mortars at them; there would not be checkpoints at which they could be taken out and never seen again; that there would be food in the shops, and water in the taps, and shoes to buy and to wear. People who believed that the place you go to sleep tonight will be here tomorrow.

There are now fifty million refugees in the world today, more than at any time since the end of the second World War. And at some point, for each one of those people, the world shifted. Their world, solid and predictable, erupted or dissolved into chaos or danger or pain. They realized that they had to run.

You have two minutes to pack. You can only take what you can carry easily. You are going to have to walk a long way. You hope that somewhere, someone is going to take you in. I have started to think of humanity as family: a family that quarrels, but which must, when things get hard, put aside old arguments and divisions, and care for each other. Sometimes someone needs somebody to take them in, and that’s the function of family. It’s time to care.

You have two minutes to run. What will you take with you?”

Recently politicians have irresponsibly advocated barring Syrian refuges from the United States and rounding up Muslims and Muslim-Americans and placing them in internment camps. When I first began hearing that, I thought, “What? Did I hear that right? Have we as a country learned nothing, absolutely nothing from our past?”

Let’s go back in history – it is December 7, 1941. Pearl Harbor has just been bombed.

That same day agents of the FBI swept through Japanese-American communities in California, Oregon and Washington, arresting leaders who were identified as “potential threats” to the security of the west coast. Those arrested were leaders of Japanese-American community organizations, ministers of churches, teachers at language and martial arts schools, and editors of Japanese-American vernacular newspapers. Despite never having been accused of any crime or acts of treason, and without trial or representation, they were taken away to United States Department of Justice detention centers, many for the duration of the war. Their families did not know where they were taken or if they would ever see them again.

On December 7, 1941, Rev. Hiram Kano had just said mass at the Church of Our Saviour Episcopal Church in North Platte, Nebraska. He was 180 miles from his wife and children at their Scottsbluff, Nebraska, home. But that morning he was arrested by the local police, taken to the police station, and dressed as a prisoner. He was not allowed to notify his family of his detention, but was sent to Omaha, Nebraska, to be dealt with by the district attorney. Rev. Kano spent the remainder of the war incarcerated with military prisoners, including soldiers who had been charged with crimes.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Presidential proclamations 2525, 2526, and 2527 to authorize the United States to detain allegedly potentially dangerous enemy aliens. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies arrested thousands of suspected enemy aliens, mostly individuals of German, Italian, or Japanese ancestry, living throughout the United States.

The Department of Justice oversaw the processing of the cases and the internment program. Although many were released or paroled after hearings before a local alien enemy hearing board, for many the adversarial hearings resulted in internment that, in a few cases, lasted beyond the end of World War II. Of those interned, there was evidence that some had pro-axis sympathies. Many others were interned based on weak evidence or unsubstantiated accusations of which they were never told or had little power to refute. Often families, including naturalized or American-born spouses and children, of those interned voluntarily joined them in internment.

By the end of the war, over 31,000 suspected enemy aliens and their families, including a few Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, had been interned at Immigration and Naturalization Services internment camps and military facilities throughout the United States.

These Presidential proclamations only addressed aliens or non-citizens. The 1870 naturalization act prohibited Japanese immigrants from naturalized citizenship. The 1907 Gentlemen’s Agreement between Japan and the United States halted immigration of unskilled workers from Japan. The Immigration Act of 1924 banned almost all immigration from Japan. Therefore, almost all Japanese citizens affected by this proclamation had been living in the United States most of their adult lives.

Anti-Japanese sentiment spread throughout the western United States, especially in California.

On December 16, 1941, J. Franklin Carter, a former news reporter and part of President Roosevelt’s informal intelligence network wrote to the President telling him that there was no substantial danger of fifth column activities by the Japanese and that he needed to reassure loyal Japanese and Japanese-Americans.

Assistant to the Attorney General, James H. Rowe, Jr. wrote that internment of Japanese citizens and their Japanese-American family members would require suspension of habeas corpus. He wrote that it was not the solution to the anti-Japanese hysteria in California.

In a meeting on February 1, 1942, Attorney General Francis Biddle stated that the Department of Justice would have nothing whatever to do with any interference with citizens or with a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

On February 4, 1942, before a Congressional subcommittee, Gen. Mark Clark, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, said that he thought the Pacific states were unduly alarmed. While both he and Admiral Harold Stark agreed that the west coast defenses were not adequate to prevent the enemy from attacking, they also agreed that the chance of any sustained attack or of an invasion was-as General Clark put it-nil.

“In fact, no proved instances of sabotage or of espionage after Pearl Harbor among the west coast Japanese population were ever uncovered. “

“There were better if less tangible grounds for suspecting that some of the Japanese people-citizens as well as aliens-might become disloyal in the event of a Japanese invasion. The Navy report mentioned above indicated that a small but significant minority of the west coast Japanese could be expected to be highly undependable in a crisis; and subsequently the war relocation authority concluded that for this reason ‘a selective evacuation of people of Japanese descent from the west coast military area was justified and administratively feasible in the spring of 1942,’ although it concluded also that a mass evacuation such as was actually carried out was never justified.”

Within this setting Colonel Karl Bendetsen on February 4, 1942, wrote a long memorandum to General Allen Gullion that stated at the outset his conclusion that an enemy alien evacuation “would accomplish little as a measure of safety,” since the alien Japanese were mostly elderly people who could do little harm if they would. Furthermore, their removal would inevitably antagonize large numbers of their relatives among the American-born Japanese. After considering the various alternatives that had been suggested for dealing with citizens, Colonel Bendetsen recommended the designation of military areas from which all persons who did not have permission to enter and remain would be excluded as a measure of military necessity. In his opinion, this plan was clearly legal and he recommended that it be executed by three steps: first, the issuance of an Executive Order by the President authorizing the Secretary of War to designate military areas; second, the designation of military areas upon the recommendation of General Dewitt; and, third, the immediate evacuation from areas so designated of all persons to whom it was not proposed to issue permits to re-enter or remain. Colonel Bendetsen assumed that, if military areas were established on the west coast in place of the restricted areas thus far recommended by General Dewitt, about 30,000 people would have to be evacuated.”

Note that this called for evacuation only, not internment

The widely-read columnist Walter Lippmann publicized accusations of sabotage on the part of Japanese Americans in his syndicated column on February 12, 1942, titled “the fifth column on the coast”. These unfounded accusations fueled the California hysteria.

In a February 17, 1942, letter to President Roosevelt, U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle said that over 60,000 of the Japanese-Americans are U.S. citizens . “My last advice from the war department is that there is no evidence of imminent attack and from the FBI that there is no evidence of planned sabotage”.

The Justice Department initially resisted any relocation order, questioning both its military necessity and its constitutionality. The Attorney General acquiesced after the war department relieved the justice department of any responsibility for implementation of the internment.

FBI director J. Edgar Hoover described the demands for internment as a “capitulation to hysteria” and told [treasury secretary] Morganthau that arrests should not be made “unless there were sufficient facts [probable cause] upon which to justify the arrests” He contended that the rights of American citizens should be protected, and protested the dragnet procedures. He was overridden.

On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the forced removal and incarceration of more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans from the west coast. Families who were evacuated could only take what they could carry.

No martial law was ever declared, and there was never a suspension of habeas corpus.

Under the authority of Executive Order 9066, the western portions of California, Washington and Oregon were declared as military zones, and in April 1942, the military imposed a curfew and travel restrictions on Japanese-Americans. Singled out by race alone, Japanese-Americans became the target of racial policies that deprived them of their rights as American citizens. Soon after the curfew, the military posted notices in all Japanese-American communities, ordering all citizens and resident aliens of Japanese ancestry to abruptly leave their homes, schools and businesses and report to assembly areas, bringing with them only what they could carry. The government euphemistically referred to this program as an “evacuation” to “relocation centers,” when in fact it was the forced removal and incarceration of American citizens into concentration camps.

Under direction of armed police and the military, Japanese immigrants and Americans of Japanese ancestry were herded onto buses and trains for the forced journey to government detention camps. Without regard for due process or basic constitutional guarantees, over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of whom were American citizens, (the issei – or first generation – were ineligible for citizenship due to discriminatory naturalization laws) were imprisoned in ten concentration camps located in remote, desolate areas in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and Arkansas. Approximately 10,000 people were imprisoned in each camp surrounded by barbed wire and armed military guards.

There has been recent speculation on why President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 after receiving information from both the Army and the FBI that the Japanese and Japanese-Americans did not pose a credible threat.

In a column written by the President for the Macon Telegraph on April 30, 1925, he wrote:

“Californians have properly objected on the sound basic ground that Japanese immigrants are not capable of assimilation into the American population.”

And “anyone who has traveled in the far east knows that the mingling of Asiatic blood with European or American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results.”

This column may have shown some bias on the future President’s part.

In January 1943, the United States Department of War announced that Japanese American volunteers would be accepted for military combat duty in Europe. Most of the volunteers came from Hawaii, but there were also those who volunteered from within the concentration camps on the mainland. Japanese-American citizens were also drafted. The draftees and volunteers were assigned to a segregated Japanese American unit – the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. For its size and length of service, the 442nd eventually became the most decorated American unit in United States military history. In 2010 a Congressional gold medal was awarded to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS).

There is a much more complex story of resistance from individuals drafted from the internment camps and the requirements for internees to sign loyalty oaths, but that is a story for another day.

In 1943, the US Supreme Court upheld the convictions of Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui for violation of a curfew against Japanese-Americans, both were us citizens.

On December 18, 1944, the US Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Fred Korematsu, a Japanese-American man and a US citizen who refused to submit to the exclusion order.

On December 18, 1944, the same date as the Korematsu decision, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Misuye Endo, a Japanese American woman and US citizen. This case was brought as a habeas corpus proceeding, and the court unanimously ruled that the United States government could not continue to detain a citizen who was “concededly loyal” to the United States. This case led to the end of the internment of all Japanese and Japanese-Americans.

In 1948 Congress passed the Japanese-American evacuation claims act. Internees could claim real and personal property losses that occurred as a consequence of the exclusion and evacuation. It did not allow for claims for lost income or for pain and suffering. Approximately $37 million was paid in claims, this amount was far below full and fair compensaton for actual economic losses because elaborate proof of loss was required and incentives for settling claims below their full value was built into the act.

In 1972 the Social Security Act was amended so that internees over the age of eighteen during their internment would be deemed to have earned and contributed to Social Security during their detention.

The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians was established by an act of Congress in 1980. This Commission was directed to accomplish three tasks: (1) review the facts and circumstances surrounding Executive Order numbered 9066, issued February 19, 1942, and the impact of such Executive Order on American citizens and permanent resident aliens; (2) review directives of United States military forces requiring the relocation and, in some cases, detention in internment camps of American citizens, including Aleut civilians, and permanent resident aliens of the Aleutian and Ribilof islands, and (3) recommend appropriate remedies.

Recommendations were published by the Commission in June 1983 in a report called “personal justice denied”. The report found:

“In sum, Executive Order 9066 was not justified by military necessity, and the decisions that followed from it – exclusion, detention, the ending of detention and the ending of exclusion—were not founded upon military considerations. The broad historical causes that shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership. Widespread ignorance about Americans of Japanese descent contributed to a policy conceived in hate and executed in an atmosphere of fear and anger at Japan. A grave personal injustice was done to the American citizens and resident aliens of Japanese ancestry who, without individual review or any probative evidence against them, were excluded, removed and detained by the United States during World War II.”

It is estimated that, as a result of the exclusion and detention, in 1945 dollars the internees lost between $108 and $164 million in income and between $41 and $206 million in property for which no compensation was made after the war under the terms of the Japanese-American evacuation claims act. Adjusting these figures to account for inflation alone, the total losses of income and property fall between $810 million and $2 billion in 1983 dollars. It has not been possible to calculate the effects upon human capital of lost education, job training and the like.”

“Less tangibly, the ethnic Japanese suffered the injury of unjustified stigma that marked the excluded. There were physical illnesses and injuries directly related to the detention, but the deprivation of liberty is no less injurious because it wounds the spirit rather than the body. Evacuation and relocation brought psychological pain, and the weakening of a traditionally strong family structure under pressure of separation and camp conditions. No price can be placed on these deprivations.”

“[O]ur nation’s ability to honor democratic values even in times of stress depends largely upon our collective memory of lapses from our constitutional commitment to liberty and due process. Nations that forget or ignore injustices are more likely to repeat them.”

“The governmental decisions of 1942 were not the work of a few men driven by animus, but decisions supported or accepted by public servants from nearly every part of the political spectrum. Nor did sustained or vocal opposition come from the American public. The wartime events produced an unjust result that visited great suffering upon an entire group of citizens, and upon resident aliens whom the constitution also protects.”

“The belief that we Americans are exceptional often threatens our freedom by allowing us to look complacently at evil-doing elsewhere and to insist that ‘it can’t happen here.’ recalling the events of exclusion and detention, ensuring that later generations of Americans know this history, is critical immunization against infection by the virus of prejudice and the emotion of wartime struggle. ‘It did happen here’ is a message that must be transmitted, not as an exercise in self-laceration but as an admonition for the future. Among our strengths as a nation is our willingness to acknowledge imperfection as well as to struggle for a more just society.”

On February 1, 1983, Minoru Yasui petitioned the Oregon Federal District Court for a writ of error coram nobis due to the discovery of the falsehoods promulgated by the Department of Justice. This writ is only available to people who have already completed their imprisonment, and can only be used to challenge factual errors from the case. Yasui claimed in his writ that the government withheld evidence at the original trial concerning the threat of a Japanese attack on the United States mainland. The court dismissed the original indictment and conviction against Yasui, as well as the petition for the writ on request by the government.

Fred Korematsu’s conviction for evading internment was overturned on November 10, 1983, after Korematsu challenged the earlier decision by filing for a writ of coram nobis. In a ruling by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted the writ (that is, it voided Korematsu’s original conviction) because in Korematsu’s original case, the government had knowingly submitted false information to the Supreme Court that had a material effect on the Supreme Court’s decision.

In 1986 and 1987, Gordon Hirabayashi’s convictions for curfew violation and refusal to submit to the internment order were overturned by the U.S. District Court in Seattle and the federal appeals court, because evidence arose that the Solicitor General’s office (led by Charles H. Fahy) had cited examples of Japanese American sabotage in its 1943-44 Supreme Court arguments, despite having researched and debunked all the rumored incidents.

The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 awarded $20,000 to each individual interned during World War II. Payments began in 1990 and went first to the oldest individuals. Only those who were alive at the time the act was passed were eligible for the payments. The legislation stated that government actions were based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership” as opposed to legitimate security reasons. A total of 82,219 individuals received redress checks from 1990 through 1993.

In 2009 the University of California system decided to offer honorary degrees to the approximately 700 Japanese American students who were forced to withdraw from school because of the internment. This included schools at Davis, Berkley, Los Angeles and San Francisco. John Kashiki from my father’s army unit received his honorary degree from UC-Davis, and someone many of you may know, Kim Hachiya, accepted an honorary degree on behalf of her father Keay from UCLA. Her Uncle George Hachiya received his honorary degree from Berkley.

In 2011, acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Kumar Katyal publicly confessed his department’s ethical lapses in regard to the Japanese-American internment. In speaking of the internment, Katyal stated: “the solicitor general was largely responsible for the defense of those policies.”

“By the time the cases of Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu reached the Supreme Court, the Solicitor General had learned of a key intelligence report that undermined the rationale behind the internment. The Ringle report, from the Office of Naval Intelligence, found that only a small percentage of Japanese Americans posed a potential security threat, and that the most dangerous were already known or in custody. But the Solicitor General did not inform the court of the report, despite warnings from Department of Justice attorneys that failing to alert the court ‘might approximate the suppression of evidence.’ Instead, he argued that it was impossible to segregate loyal Japanese Americans from disloyal ones. Nor did he inform the court that a key set of allegations used to justify the internment, that Japanese Americans were using radio transmitters to communicate with enemy submarines off the west coast, had been discredited by the FBI and FCC. And to make matters worse, he relied on gross generalizations about Japanese Americans, such as that they were disloyal and motivated by ‘racial solidarity.’”

“The Supreme Court upheld Hirabayashi’s and Korematsu’s convictions. And it took nearly a half century for courts to overturn these decisions. One court decision in the 1980s that did so highlighted the role played by the Solicitor General, emphasizing that the Supreme Court gave ‘special credence’ to the Solicitor General’s representations. The court thought it unlikely that the Supreme Court would have ruled the same way had the Solicitor General exhibited complete candor. Yet those decisions still stand today as a reminder of the mistakes of that era.”

It is highly unlikely that any of these remedies would have occurred without the relentless work of dedicated civil rights attorneys, and the sons and daughters (nisei) and grandsons and daughters (sensei) of Japanese-American internees who would not give up on these cases.

February 19 is the day of remembrance, an annual event held by the Japanese American community to commemorate the signing by President Roosevelt of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, which authorized the forced removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans from the west coast during World War II.

And a new generation of Japanese-Americans is working hard to make sure we never forget what happened in 1942.

In 2012, ninth grader Matthew Shimura’s video the constitution and the camps: due process and the Japanese American internment won C-Span’s Studentcam Video Documentary Grand Prize. It is an excellent video and can be viewed on C-Span’s website.

Girl Scout Lauren Wong has created a special Girl Scout patch program for the Japanese American National Museum. She created an educational tool called experience the past, available in three separate worksheets geared toward elementary school students, middle school students, and high school students/adults. The worksheets, which can be requested at the Japanese American national museum’s front desk, are designed to accompany a visit to the museum’s core exhibition, common ground: the heart of community. They pose questions and suggest exercises that are designed to help visitors identify with the exhibition, think more deeply about what they’re seeing, connect it with aspects of contemporary life, and converse with others about their experience.

At the end of their visit, participants who complete a worksheet earn a custom patch that she created.

This patch is a reflection of the Japanese American community’s ties to girl scouting. According to a blog dedicated to chronicling Girl Scout history, Girl Scouts university, there were 743 Girl Scouts registered in the Topaz, Utah and Manzanar, California, concentration camps by December 1943.

However, in an interview with Densho, internee Shimako “Sally” Kitano recalled trying to rejoin a Bainbridge Island, Washington, Girl Scout troop upon her return but being told, “the kids are too far advanced now so I don’t think that you would fit in.”

Chief Justice Earl Warren, the architect of Brown v. Board of Education & other key civil rights decisions, was the Attorney General of California in 1941. He was an advocate of the internment. And in 1943, as Governor of California, he opposed the early release of Japanese Americans from internment, even though there was emerging sentiment for closure of the camps.

However, in his memoirs, Justice Warren voiced his regrets for his part in the internment. It is important to note that Warren voiced very few regrets about other parts of his career and was known as a man who never admitted he had been wrong.

Warren wrote that he had “since deeply regretted the removal order and my own testimony advocating it, because it was not in keeping with our American concept of freedom and the rights of citizens.” He then articulated his guilt feelings in terms that, for a father of six and a devoted family man, were vividly personal: “whenever I thought of the innocent little children who were torn from home, school friends, and congenial surroundings, I was conscience stricken.” On reflection, Warren believed that “[i]t was wrong to react so impulsively, without positive evidence of disloyalty. . . .”

So I leave you with the two questions we started with tonight – have we learned anything from our past? – and you have two minutes to run. What will you take with you?

 

 

I don’t care what Jane thinks!

Who is Jane Nitze, and should I care what she thinks? The answer to this question is: “I don’t care and neither should you.”

Jane Emma Kucera Nitze is the face of a $2 million advertising campaign supporting the judicial nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch. This campaign is funded by the Judicial Crisis Network. In the $2 million ads, she says: “I’m 100 percent comfortable with Judge Gorsuch becoming the next Supreme Court Justice.” And I say, “so what?”

Nitze comes from white privilege. She has bachelor’s, master’s, and law degrees from Harvard University. She is the daughter of Dr. Emma Koukol Kucera (an endodontist) and Dr. Jan F. Kucera of Boston (a neurology professor at Boston University). She clerked for both Judge Gorsuch and Justice Sonia Sotomayor (who conducted her marriage ceremony), worked as an attorney advisor in the office of legal counsel at the Justice Department in Washington, and now is a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School.

Jane’s husband has an even more impressive pedigree, which I won’t go into; but suffice it to say that he has clearly led a life of white male privilege.

Now I am happy that Mr. & Mrs. Nitze have a very nice, privileged life. But I object to Jane telling me she is okay with Judge Gorsuch and implying that I should be, too. The only thing I have to say to that is: “HOBBY LOBBY!” In the infamous Hobby Lobby decision, Gorsuch argued that the requirement that employers cover birth control for their employees would force business owners “to underwrite payments for drugs or devices that can have the effect of destroying a fertilized human egg,” despite arguments from the law’s supporters that an exemption would allow owners to impose their faith on employees. BTW I am still boycotting Hobby Lobby (and I’m a knitter!). The picture above was taken at a Hobby Lobby after a protester rearranged the letter blocks.

In Little Sisters of the Poor, Judge Gorsuch suggested that the opt-out allowed in the federal health care law “imposes a substantial burden on that person’s free exercise of religion.”

Reproductive healthcare for everyone, free birth control for women paid for by their employers, preservation of the Affordable Care Act – these are the things I care about – not whether Jane likes Judge Gorsuch.

The Judicial Crisis Network has invested over $1 million in the Republican Attorneys General Association, over $4 million in state judicial races (aren’t you glad Nebraska doesn’t elect judges), funded the ad campaign touting Jeff Sessions as a “civil rights champion”, and now is funding the $2 million campaign for Jane to tell us  that Judge Gorsuch is a good guy.

Judge Gorsuch writes scary opinions (even if he is an Episcopalian), and we should be concerned about him becoming the next Justice on the United States Supreme Court. Don’t listen to Jane.

Tomorrow is Day 31 at the Nebraska Legislature. There are still no permanent rules. However, they have extended the temporary rules through Day 50. Stay tuned for more action/inaction.

 

February 19, 2017 – 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066

February 19, 2017, is the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which ordered the internment of over 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. It is also the day when Allegiance will be shown nationwide for the second time. Allegiance is the musical production which appeared on Broadway for a short time, was filmed and was shown in theatres around the country on December 13, 2016. Allegiance stars George Takei and Lea Salonga and depicts one Japanese American family’s journey from February 19, 1942, to  the present. See the trailer here.

This movie is important because many people still bear the scars of the internment. I saw the movie in December, and it was a very difficult experience for me. It was hard to see dignified Issei (1st generation Japanese Americans) and their families be herded onto trains, race tracks, and barracks while they tried to show their loyalty to their new country by obeying this incredibly racist and unjustified policy. Second generation Japanese Americans (Nisei) were less accepting, probably as a result of being more Americanized. They were also almost all U.S. citizens, born and raised in this country.

The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians found: “In sum, Executive Order 9066 was not justified by military necessity, and the decisions that followed from it – exclusion, detention, the ending of detention and the ending of exclusion—were not founded upon military considerations. The broad historical causes that shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership. Widespread ignorance about Americans of Japanese descent contributed to a policy conceived in hate and executed in an atmosphere of fear and anger at Japan. A grave personal injustice was done to the American citizens and resident aliens of Japanese ancestry who, without individual review or any probative evidence against them, were excluded, removed and detained by the United States during World War II.”

The movie has received some criticism for some historical inaccuracies which you can read about here. But I believe it captures the fear, anger, and despair of the people who knew they were loyal Americans but were imprisoned for their ancestry alone.

This movie comes out at a pivotal time in our country. Unless you are Native American (Indian), you come from a family of immigrants. They may have come to this country on the Mayflower, or they may have come last week. They came for various reasons – seeking religious freedom, involuntarily as slaves, involuntarily as prisoners, seeking a better life, fleeing war, starvation, and genocide, or innumerable other reasons. But for those of us who are descended from immigrants, we have no right to deny to today’s immigrants and refugees the hope and promise that was given to our families.

There are Day of Remembrance and Never Again activities planned all around the country to honor the memory of those interned by Executive Order 9066.

Allegiance is showing in Lincoln at the Marcus Grand and in Omaha at the Village Point Cinema and Twin Creek Cinema.  All showings are at 12:55 pm on Sunday, February 19, 2017. I could not find any other Nebraska showings, but you can check here. I encourage you to see the movie if you can.

Update on the Nebraska Legislature – Tuesday, February 14, 2017, is Day 29 of the session – still no permanent rules.

 

 

Do I have white privilege?

This blog post is not meant to be a definitive look at white privilege or to make judgments about people or to make them feel bad. It is simply to raise some awareness about how easy it is to make someone feel excluded, different, or unwelcome. A person cannot change their race, but they can understand what role their race plays in how they are treated by others. And during these trying times, I think it is especially important to try and be kind and thoughtful.

A quick quiz – answer yes or no, has anyone ever said the following things to you or have you had the following experience?

  1. Your English is very good.
  2. Where are you from? And when you answer North Platte, have someone ask further, no, where are you really from?
  3. Are you a Buddhist?
  4. Do you know [insert random Asian person]?
  5. What are you?
  6. When you travel and/or when you heard about the ICE raids and ICE checkpoints being set up, did you start putting together the additional forms of ID you intend to carry in case there are problems? Along with this, have you ever felt you were singled out for additional security checks because of your appearance?

If you can answer no to all of these questions, you probably have received the benefits of white privilege. I, on the other hand, can answer yes to every one of these questions. In addition, I have been asked these questions many times and generally by virtual strangers or people I was meeting for the first time. Hint – It is good to have some appropriate small talk in your repertoire – in Nebraska you can always talk about the Huskers or the weather and be in pretty good shape.

The “real” answers to these questions:

  1. English is my first and really only language. My college French is pitiful, but was useful in France to buy train tickets and order food.
  2. This is a particularly offensive question because it implies I don’t belong here or just got off the boat. Or perhaps they think I came from another planet (something that might be true).
  3. Sorry, no, a third generation Episcopalian (a cradle Episcopalian to boot). Also, how often is one of your first questions to ask someone what their religion is.
  4. Probably the most common question asked. Now if they ask me if I know someone from my home town (North Platte isn’t tiny, but I probably know them), that’s okay. That’s a Nebraska thing – we’re always trying to find people we know in common from people’s home towns. But if they think I know every Asian person in the world, or even in Lincoln,  it’s pretty offensive.
  5. That’s kind of an unanswerable question. I’m a lot of things, but probably nothing the questioner is interested in.
  6. Yes and yes. I always carry at least two forms of photo ID and my Nebraska State Bar Association card. I’m not sure what I think my bar card will do for me, and I’ve never used it; but I’ve always thought I could use it to make them think twice about messing with me. That may be delusional behavior, but you never know. Until I started getting TSA pre-check, it was very unusual for me not to get additional (so called random) checks at airport security lines (Lincoln being the exception).

An interesting fact is that Donald Trump’s mother, Mary Anne Macleod Trump  was born in Scotland. She immigrated  to the United States in 1930. She became a U.S. Citizen in 1942. Barack Obama’s father was not a U.S. citizen, and his citizenship was questioned by Trump. Both presidents had one parent who was a natural born citizen and one who was not. Apparently that is the only thing they have in common.

I just need to note that both my parents were natural born U.S. citizens, just saying. My grandparents immigrated to this country during the period of 1910-1920. They were prohibited from becoming U.S. citizens until the passage of the McCarran–Walter Act of 1952.

Some other perspectives on white privilege come from Christine Emba , who writes and talks about white privilege, the history of the term and what it means. Poet Gabriel Ramirez talks about what white privilege means to him.

In closing on this topic, please think before you speak. Even if you think you have good intentions in asking these types of questions (not sure what that would be except for personal gratification, i.e. being curious about a person and wanting the answer even if it is really none of your business), please remember that these questions are not a pleasant experience for the recipient. It is different if you are good friends and want to know more about a person and intend to tell them more about yourself. It is intrusive if you are a casual acquaintance or meeting someone for the first time. Boundaries, people, boundaries.

Update on the Nebraska Legislature – Monday, February 13, 2017, is Day 28 of the session – still no permanent rules. Stay tuned for more action/inaction.

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Why I Will Not Be Voting for Deb Fischer in 2018

When 2018 comes, I will not be voting for Deb Fischer for U.S. Senate. To be honest, I did not vote for Fischer in 2012 – not in the primary and not in the general election. However, this time I will be donating money to Fischer’s opponent, telling everyone I know not to vote for Fischer, and voting for Fischer’s opponent.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. Fischer voted to confirm Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. Sessions was touted as a civil rights champion by ads aired by the Judicial Crisis Network. In reality, at Sessions’ failed judicial confirmation hearing in 1986, testimony was presented that “Sessions had criticized civil rights groups as ‘un-American’ and ‘Communist-inspired’ and accused them of trying to ‘force civil rights down the throats of people.’ He also dubbed a white civil rights attorney a ‘disgrace to his race,’ according to a witness, and reportedly called a black lawyer in his office ‘boy.’ In his confirmation hearing, he admitted to referring to the Voting Rights Act as ‘a piece of intrusive legislation,’ and he later opposed efforts to update the landmark law. I fail to see how Sessions can effectively protect our civil rights and voting rights, duties of the U.S Attorney General.
  2. Fischer voted to censure Senator Elizabeth Warren for attempting to read a letter from Coretta Scott King, criticizing Jeff Sessions during his failed 1986 judicial confirmation hearing. Fischer’s vote blocked Senator Warren from further debate on the Sessions’ confirmation.  During later debate, four white male Senators were allowed to read that same letter. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invoked Senate Rule XIX, which states that: “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” This rule was passed in 1902 after a disagreement in the Senate resulted in a fistfight. It was passed to prevent Senators from calling each others names on the Senate floor and stifling debate – the rule was not passed to cover a situation where the Senate is working in their “advice and consent” role and debating the character of a Senator seeking confirmation as U.S. Attorney General. This was a purely political vote to silence a woman Senator quoting a female African-American civil rights leader during Black History Month.
  3. Fischer voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. DeVos is a proponent of school vouchers and charter schools. Her work with the underperforming charter schools of Detroit is informing. Nebraska is a public education state, with a provision in our state constitution stating: “The Legislature shall provide for the free instruction in the common schools of this state of all persons between the ages of five and twenty-one years.” Article VII, Section 1. Fischer stated: “I have received assurances from [DeVos] in writing that the Department of Education will not impose new federal mandates related to vouchers on our schools.”  I am doubtful, but we shall see.
  4. Fischer and her family lease federal grazing land at a greatly discounted rate – Democrats say they have paid about a quarter of a million dollars in grazing fees for a benefit of $2.9 million. I do not have an objection to Fischer receiving this benefit. I do object to her receiving this financial benefit and turning around to deny welfare benefits to other individuals and to oppose all aspects of the Affordable Care Act (I wonder if she realizes that she and her staff are required to buy their health insurance through the ACA exchanges, although they did get a special exemption to get more favorable rates.).
  5. Fischer voted to confirm Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Tillerson was the former CEO of Exon Oil, a company known to fund climate change denial. Tillerson also has personal and professional conflicts of interest.

Please note – I am a third generation Nebraskan who grew up and lived in the 3rd Congressional District and now lives in the 1st Congressional District. I wouldn’t want my opinions discounted as those of an outsider, an accusation made by Ben Sasse about phone calls he received.

The picture at the top of this page is a screen shot from Fischer’s Wikipedia page earlier today. It has since been changed.

And on Day 25 in the Nebraska Unicameral – still no permanent rules. Some people think they are making progress. I think we are in for many, many more days of no movement and new poems from Senator Ernie Chambers.

 

Separation of Powers

One thing is clear to me. Our schools have failed to teach constitutional law and the separation of powers to whole generations of Americans.

Schoolhouse Rock explained our government and the separation of powers very well in their Three Ring Government video.

There are three branches of government – Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The President is in charge of the Executive Branch. He or she runs the day to day business of the government through federal agencies such as the Department of Education (note – teach more about government), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and many more agencies.

The Legislative Branch is Congress. They pass the laws that govern this country. Congress gives “advice and consent” to the President in the appointment of Supreme Court Judges (all federal judges), the Attorney General, agency heads, and ambassadors. Congress also gives “advice and consent” to the President to sign treaties with other nations. Article II, Section 2, U.S. Constitution.

The Judicial Branch is our court system. At the federal level there are District Courts (trial courts) in each state, 13 Circuit Courts of Appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court picks and chooses which cases it hears; the Circuit Courts of Appeal are often the final decision makers.

These three branches of government act as a system of checks and balances with each other. We are seeing this played out every day. Congress is deciding whether or not to approve the President’s agency appointments. The federal courts are telling the President he has overreached his authority with his Executive Order on immigration and refugees. State of Washington and State of Minnesota v. Trump. Our current government is a civics lesson on display for all to see each and every day. We rarely have the opportunity to see our system work so clearly or to hear constitutional experts tell us on national television how our system of government works.

As a lawyer, I have always felt that the courts and the law are the greatest protection we have as citizens.  My favorite scene from Robert Bolt’s play, A Man for All Seasons, sums this up very well.

“William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Thomas More: …And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned around on you–where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast–man’s laws, not God’s–and if you cut them down…d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”

As a self-professed law geek I am fascinated (and alternately appalled) to see this all play out. I will continue to monitor it all with great interest.

For those of you in Nebraska, an even more fascinating scenario is playing out in our Unicameral. Tune in to NET on demand and watch them in action, or perhaps inaction. Tomorrow is Day 24 of the session, and they have not adopted their permanent rules for this session. Senator Ernie Chambers (with a few other Senators) is holding the legislature hostage, promising to keep the Legislature tied up through the 90th day unless they stop trying to change the number of votes needed for a cloture motion (Cloture motions are filed when a supporter of a bill wants to end a filibuster). Senator Chambers is a master of the Legislature’s rules, and he tells the new Senators they have no idea what he can do. So he tells them what he plans to do, and so far they can’t figure out how to stop him. Stay tuned for a wild session.

Note: this explanation is a very simplistic explanation of our system of government and not meant to be a thorough examination of all the many intricacies of our Constitution.

 

Knitters are the Resistance!

Knitters, crocheters, and all crafters are the Resistance! I should know; I am one. I started knitting as a child, learning from my mother and watching my grandmother knit, even when her hands were crippled by arthritis. Both were strong women, determined that their daughters would get an education and make their way in the world. My grandmother sent all four of her children (3 girls & 1 boy) to college during the Depression. All 7 of her grandchildren graduated from college. All four of my grandparents were immigrants; all four of them enriched this country and made it a better place.

Prior to the election, I was following the following categories of people and entities on Twitter: knitters, yarny things, Husker Softball, Husker Women’s Basketball, Husker Baseball, Husker fans, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska, Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa, ACLU of Nebraska, and that’s about it. Little did I know that the resistance would begin with tweets from knitters. People who had only been tweeting about yarn and their latest project were now promoting resistance and knitting pink pussy hats, lots of pussy hats. The goal of the Pussy Hat Project – 1.17 million hats.  Yes, 1.17 million hats, based on the estimate of the number of people who could fill the Mall in Washington, D.C. Kat Coyle posted the Pussy Hat pattern on Ravelry for free. Casey F, the co-founder and code monkey at Ravelry created the photo above, a composite of hundreds of knitters and their hats.

womensmarch

As we all know, they were largely successful – a grass roots effort to knit a million Pussy Hats. At the Women’s March, they were everywhere.

Image found on Twitter: @rmayersinger

 

 

pussyhat  This is the hat I wore at the Women’s March on Omaha.

Many people have made fun of the pink hats; some even questioned whether they had been made in China. The truth is they were made all over the world. People learned to knit to make them. People made them who were going to the march, people made them and sent them to a march with friends; people mailed them to the march. People are still making them. This video tells you everything you need to know about the project.

The hats are on the cover of Time Magazine and The New Yorker this week.

Randy Prine@randyprine Jan 29 put this on Twitter.

Judge Eckhardt of Texas wears her pussy hat in protest of Abortion and healthcare bill.

And knitters continue to lead the resistance.

peacederesistance

Ivy Bristol @BristolIvy has made over $10,000 selling her mitten pattern Peace de Resistance for $6.(If you’re doing the math, this means she has sold over 1600 copies of the pattern.) She is donating the money to Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock Legal Defense Funds, Days for Girls, Environmental Defense Fund, Trans Youth Equality Foundation, Engender Health, Flint Kids, and more.
Nikol Lohr @ThriftyKnitter has posted on Twitter that she has a WIP (Work in Progress in KnitSpeak) for Pro Choice/Planned Parenthood mittens. The pattern will be released soon; all proceeds to benefit Planned Parenthood.
Donna Druchunas has a free ebook of patterns – Knitting as a Political Act .
knit-the-resistanceKnit the Resistance is a free pattern from JanuaryOneKnits @January_one.
Knitters are more powerful than you think (and they’re organized!). Remember that!