One person can make a difference, even if it takes forty years.
– Fred Korematsu
Today would have been Fred Korematsu’s 98th birthday. In 1942, when he was 23 years old, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. This order lead to the eventual internment of over 100,000 Japanese-American men, women, and children, the majority of whom were American citizens. Fred Korematsu challenged the order and became known as a civil rights activist.
I discovered his story through today’s Google Doodle. As I read through his Wikipedia page, I was struck by an awful sense of dread. What is the difference between the removal of American citizens from their property and the prevention of the travel of legal persons when both orders are based on nationality? What happened to our federal laws against such discrimination?
And most dreadful of all: How could we the people have let this happen?
Forty-six years after Fred Korematsu was captured and forced to live in an internment camp, he and other survivors finally received recompense. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 offered $20,000 to each living person affected by Executive Order 9066. Ah, yes. There’s nothing like receiving cold, hard cash as a replacement for all the loss of human dignity that comes with being treated like an outsider by your own country. At least the act also came with an apology and went on to state that “these actions were without security reasons… and were motivated by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”
I found these statements to be jarringly relevant to today’s state of national affairs. I could not help but to wonder how our political scenery could have become so ugly.
Yet as I saw the rising protests, I was heartened by my fellow Americans and proud that there were people willing to stand up for what they believe is right. My apathy was replaced by anger. My cynicism changed into hope. My avoidance of politics transformed into a rising sense that I could no longer profess ignorance or neutrality. I wished that I could join in the protests!
Alas, I have to work.
That doesn’t preclude me from starting conversations with the people around me. Changes in population health come with the care of one patient at a time. Likewise, changes in attitudes must also be passed on from person to person.
And so I, too, have my part to play.
Today’s Daily Post Writing Prompt: Replacement