It seems appropriate to share this on the 4th of July. A friend just sent me George Takei's talk at TEDxKyoto last month in which he talks about his heroes - his dad who taught him about democracy and the nisei who fought in the 442nd. He started by talking about his incarceration by the US government when he was just five years old. I've heard him talk about it many times but I think this was the first time I heard him refer to the camps as "prisoner of war camps" (5:30 on the TED video and 5:33 on the YouTube video). George doesn't mince words when he talks about what happened to him, his family, and the 120,000 other Japanese and Japanese Americans who were imprisoned without cause during WWII. He portrays it as the terrible injustice is was.
Being American isn't about the color of your skin, the shape of your eyes, your religion, or what kind of utensils you eat with. It's not even about where you were born. It's important to keep this in mind as the immigration debate rages on and some Americans continue to believe you have to be straight, white, and Christian to be a true American.
Thanks, George, for continuing to remind the younger generations of Japanese Americans of the sacrifices the issei and nisei had to make for us to be here.
"They are my heroes. They clung to their belief in the shining ideals of this country, and they proved that being an American is not just for some people, that race is not how we define being an American. They expanded what it means to be an American, including Japanese-Americans that were feared and suspected and hated. They were change agents, and they left for me a legacy."
- George Takei on the 442nd
If you don't know about the Japanese American incarceration during WWII, you may find my introductory post helpful.