By Contributor on August 10, 2013

Twenty-five years ago on Aug. 10, President Reagan signed a law that finally apologized and made reparations for the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II. But we haven't fully learned the lesson from that embarrassing episode.

After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government rounded up Japanese-Americans, the majority of whom were U.S. citizens. Soldiers evicted them from their homes and placed them in desolate prisons because of the government's irrational fear that their ethnic ties would make them enemy sympathizers.

Many Japanese-Americans, such as Grant Ichikawa, volunteered from their confinements to serve in the military to show their loyalty to the United States. Ichikawa had graduated from the University of California with an accounting degree but could not find a job because firms were not hiring anyone of Japanese descent. He was working as a farmer when he was forced into the detention center, where he lived in a horse stable and slept on a mattress filled with hay.

Ichikawa went on to serve in the Military Intelligence Service, where he received the Congressional Gold Medal for his service, as did 6,000 other Japanese-Americans.

Today, Ichikawa spends his days gardening at his home in Virginia. He recently attended a Japanese American Citizens League briefing at the National Archives, which is showcasing the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and Executive Order 9066 (the February 1942 order that led to the forced removal of Japanese-Americans).

Has America learned from its mistakes?

Consider what happened after Sept. 11, 2001, with the passage of the Patriot Act. Muslim-Americans, and others who looked "suspicious," were incarcerated as suspected terrorists. Many were victims of racial profiling. This crackdown created a social stigma, which sometimes resulted in hate crimes perpetrated simply because of the color of the victims' skin.

Today, the government can still pick up someone suspected of terrorism and detain that person indefinitely, without formal charges. This is chillingly similar to the military authority used to incarcerate Japanese-Americans during World War II.

I hope there will be no more need for our government to issue mass apologies, such as the one belatedly given to Japanese-Americans.

Our country is better served if we all work together and ensure all Americans are afforded their civil rights.

Priscilla Ouchida is the executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League. Ouchida was formerly chief of staff and legislative director for two California state senators. One of her major accomplishments was the passage of legislation that provided monetary redress to Japanese-Americans who were unfairly fired from their jobs with the state of California after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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