70 years later, still blaming an ‘enemy within’

By Michael Honda

Sunday, February 19, 2012, marks the seventieth anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order (EO) 9066 – a tragic moment in our nation’s history.

On February 19th, 1942, “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership” overwhelmed the best angels of the American character. EO 9066 declared the West Coast a military zone. Japanese Americans were branded as an “enemy within.” 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced to evacuate their homes. My family and I were herded like cattle into the Amache internment camp in southeast Colorado. I was less than one year old at the time.

February 19th marks 70 years since Japanese-Americans were Interned Please refer to the following profile on Getty Images Archival for further imagery. The Internal Security Police Post still stands at the entrance to the Manzanar War Relocation Center south of Independence, CA, June 25, 2000 where 10,000 Japanese-American citizens and Japanese aliens were interned during World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. (David McNew – GETTY IMAGES)Today, I remember two men who showed extraordinary bravery in the face of EO 9066. Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi, driven by a bedrock belief in that most American principal of equality and justice for all, refused to comply with EO 9066. They were arrested and jailed for their courage and conviction.

Seventy years later, however, the true greatness of America recognizes both men as heroes. Since his passing in January, Gordon has been remembered as a civil rights leader in events from sea to shining sea. Two photos of Fred, who passed away in 2005, now sit in a historic place of honor – in the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit “Struggle For Justice.”

Fred and Gordon refused to stand idly by in the face of grave injustice. Instead, they became heroes. Today, their heroism is a lodestar for every American – guiding each one of us on a mission to forge a more perfect union.

For, make no mistake, we all still have great work to do.

We cannot stand idly by as an entire American community is demonized as a “religious enemy within.” We cannot hide our eyes when failed leaders like State Rep. Rick Womack of Tennessee declare that Muslims must be purged from our military or that Muslims pray to a false God. We must not stay silent as Rep. Peter King – during a recent hearing on the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor – uses tragic but isolated crimes and unnamed sources to proclaim that one group — Muslims— are the source of all homegrown terrorist threats to the military.

We cannot turn away as two American companies – Lowe’s and Kayak – pull their advertising from TLC’s “All American Muslim” television show in the face of Florida Family Association’s extremist assertions that the program misrepresents the “dangerous and radical truth” of the Islamic religion. And we will not stand idly by in the face of evidence that the NYPD and CIA are illegally and unjustly probing Muslim communities in New York City. read the entire article