Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Art and the Human Spirit, Part I

Thought for the day:  Creativity takes courage.  [Henri Matisse]

Survival takes courage. Creativity takes courage. The ability to create beauty while struggling to survive under disheartening conditions takes the most courage of all.

It is in our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. [Aristotle Onassis]

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, fear prompted the United States to incarcerate all persons living in the country who were of Japanese descent. More than 120,000 men, women, and children, most of whom were American citizens, were transported to what the government euphemistically called relocation centers.

If it were not for hopes, the heart would break. 
[Thomas Fuller]

For many of these Japanese-American citizens, this country was the only one they knew. This is where they were born, raised and educated. Where they owned homes and businesses, and where they raised their own families.

They could hang signs declaring their love of this country, and they could wave the flag, and pledge their allegiance. No matter. They couldn't change the way they looked.

Strictly limited to what they could take with them, these people were forced to leave behind most of their possessions, their homes and businesses, and were packed into buses for relocation to numerous camps around the country, where they lived in barracks, horse stalls, and various makeshift buildings, and were confined within barbed wire-topped fences under armed guard. For three and a half years.

           Yet even so, even under these conditions, creativity survived.

The purpose of art is nothing less than the upliftment of the human spirit. [Pope John Paul II]

In light of the times, do you think the internment was justified? Did it protect the country from them ... or did it maybe protect THEM from the hatred of their fellow citizens?

                                               On Friday, the story continues...

                               Until then, take care of yourselves. And each other.


  1. As one who grew up in a '40s-'50s farming community of Japanese and Portuguese families who depended upon each other for support and sometimes sustenance, I think you can surmise my feelings here. But I'm sure interested in where this theme is going. Intriguing as always, Susan!

  2. The same happened in the UK with those of German descent. I suppose they needed to do it, just in case a few Nazi sympathisers tried to throw spanners in the works. A very sad state of affairs.

  3. It is very unfortunate that hatred and fear have caused innocent people to be persecuted in one way or another throughout history.
    It happened to American Germans during WWI, and American Japanese during WWII. It's futile to even mention the massive atrocities that occurred at the hands of Hitler and his cronies.

    In answer to your question - -
    no, the internment of these people was certainly not justified - - and yet, perhaps it did serve to protect them from their enemies.

  4. We get so blind when we are frightened.

    We did the same thing here in Oz, but to people of German and Italian descent.

  5. It was not justified, and it was unconstitutional. But apparently, we feel free to disregard our Constitution when certain hot button topics are concerned. Racism is one of them. There are others. This is a scary chapter of our history, and what's worse -- given the rhetoric of some people in this country, I believe it could happen again. :(

  6. It was not in the least justified. Sadly, where fear is concerned, common sense often flies out the door.

    If it were a matter of protecting the Japanese Americans from angry neighbors, the government could have set up voluntary sanctuaries. But I doubt many would have chosen to move to them.

  7. Canada did the same. We have since apologized. Big Whoop. Too little, too late.

  8. Wrong no matter how you frame it. In school we were told it was for the "good of all"- to protect both the security of the country and the interned from their neighbors. And why were all their possessions taken by the government and sold? It's all shameful.

  9. Very frightening; what's more frightening is that (many) people refuse to learn from the past and harbour those same nasty beliefs. They'd do it all again with the right excuses.

    The old man in the video seems so lovely, too. How you survive these things without becoming bitter, I don't know.

    Great post, Susan.

  10. Geo- And I'm intrigued about that Japanese-Portuguese farming community. I'll bet you could spin some interesting stories about it.

    Cro- Yes, it was a sorry state of affairs, but as you say, perhaps understandable in light of the times. Some Americans of Germanic or Italian descent were also incarcerated in the U.S., but only a small number of them.

    Jon- Agreed. Incarceration may have indeed served to protect them, but only as a side effect. The idea of protective custody might be more palatable if the government had entered into the whole relocation plan with protection as its intended purpose.

    Al- Yeah, you're right. Sad, but true. Altruism and good faith too often fly out the window when fear storms in.

    Dianne- It IS a scary... and shameful... chapter of our history, and I'm afraid you're right in saying it could happen again. "When will they ever learn?"

    Linda- Hmmm, it's interesting to contemplate how the Japanese-Americans would have reacted if the government had offered them voluntary sanctuary. Good point.

    Delores- Yeah, sometimes an apology doesn't carry much weight. Like Yogi Berra said, "A verbal agreement ain't worth the paper it's printed on."

  11. Austan- You're right; it is shameful. And years later, some of them were paid "restitution" to the tune of like a hundred bucks. A hundred dollars to make up for the loss of their homes, business, possessions, and three and a half years of their lives. Shameful.

    CarrieBoo- What's even more scary is that if the "right excuses" don't actually exist, far too many are willing to fabricate them.

  12. 'or did it maybe protect THEM from the hatred of their fellow citizens?'

    Fear prompts the most depraved of actions. The only comfort to be taken from such checkered histories is that we should learn from our deep error? This is the hope.

  13. We, as a country, have done some shameful things. When people fear, horrid things can happen.

  14. Suze- You're right; there's always hope. But is that hope based on wishful thinking, or on present-day realities? I've gotta say, some of today's political rhetoric gives me a wee bit of cause for concern.

    Arleen- Yeah, we've done a lot of terrible things in the name of fear, greed, and pride. Let's hope our country has matured enough to put that kind of behavior behind us forever.

  15. I believe the internment was very wrong. However, I did read something years ago (in Smithsonian magazine?) that talked about an incident in Hawaii that led to the government's decision to intern people. Still wrong, in my opinion, but it gave me more understanding as to why the gov't would make such a bad decision.

  16. A very insightful reminder that we do awful things to people and then justify it with rhetoric. Happens too often. I agree with so many who have already said that it was not justifiable. It is also a bit scary that it can happen again, any time emotion overrides reason and somebody in power makes a compelling argument.

  17. It's so very sad what we did to our fellow Americans durin' this time. No, not justified at all!!!

    Girl...'blog hoppin' is an exercise'...your crack me up in itty~bitty pieces!!!

    God bless ya and have a fantastic day sweetie!!! :o)

  18. Connie- I assume you're talking about some other incident besides the bombing of Pearl Harbor. That, in itself, was accepted by most Americans at the time as ample justification. But, in fairness, no matter what the actual reasons were, it's easy for us to look back and deem the decisions made at that time as being wrong, but we also have the luxury of judging them from a safe distance.

    Maryann- I guess it's up to "we the people" to discern the difference between facts and rhetoric, but unfortunately, that isn't always an easy thing to do.

  19. Nezzy- Yes, it is sad. I'm glad I made you laugh, though. (Cracking people up is actually my FAVORITE exercise.)

  20. Beautiful, sad post. And no, internment was not justified in my humble, relatively uneducated opinion. "Protecting" people--citizens of this country--by depriving them of their homes, property, liberty ... no.

  21. I wonder how long before we start locking up Arabs?

  22. In my opinion the internment was unjustified and did nothing to protect the public. Another shameful episode in American history.

    Unfortunately, this is what fear does.

    Looking forward to Friday's post.

  23. Knowing this history, I was terrified our government would try to round up people of Middle Eastern descent after 9/11. I don't think anything like this is EVER a solution. However, you raise a good point about it possibly saving them from fellow citizens. Still, from experiences after 9/11, I think it is safe to say that issues are a possibility, but that it is rare.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  24. Sarah- Well said. "Protecting" people like that is like beating a child black and blue "for his own good."

    Mr. C- Hopefully, we won't without probable cause.

    Marcy- Yes, shameful, but one could argue the possibility that one or two of those who were incarcerated might have done something subversive. Who knows? Seeya Friday.

    Annamarie- Good observation.

    Shannon- I think a lot of people had concern over how the government would react to Arab-Americans after 9/11. I'm not sure how accurate it is to compare the mood of the country then and the mood following Pearl Harbor, though. The Japanese-Americans were already treated like second-class citizens prior to Pearl Harbor, and hatred for them was pretty widespread after the attack.

  25. I also think the Japanese were treated horribly. Sadly, I don't remember learning about this until I was long out of school. Julie

  26. Julie- I don't remember learning much about this in school, either. Maybe a single off-hand sentence in a history book. That was it.