A Notable Passing

I had never actually heard of this man before, but now that I am aware of his passing, I find it a sad note:

In 1942, a man named Gordon Hirabayashi was among a handful of U.S. Citizens of Japanese Ancestry to refuse to evacuate his home in Seattle to be herded into an internment camp.  For that “crime” he served one year in prison, and was not exonerated until four decades later by the U.S. Supreme Court, which finally acknowledged that the mass evacuation of and internment of Japanese Americans had been based wholly on prejudice and was without justification.

I hadn’t been aware there were some who resisted. I believe that what happened to Japanese-Americans during World War II was so heinous, they would have been completely justified in resisting the government with force of arms. Unfortunately, however, compliance was probably the path of least resistance. With racism widespread in mid-20th century society, and the Japanese having just bombed Pearl Harbor, I don’t think sympathy to this path would have been widespread, and they likely would have been crushed mercilessly. It would only have confirmed everyone’s bigotry. But would they have had the moral right? Absolutely.

One reason I’ve never been able to warm up to blogger Michelle Malkin is because she wrote this book, trying to justify what I think is not at all justifiable. It’s one of the things that made me very reluctant to identify with conservatives.

23 thoughts on “A Notable Passing”

  1. Never been a big fan of Malkin. I’m even less of a fan of the Democrats two disgusting racist heroes – Wilson and FDR.

  2. It’s one of the things that made me very reluctant to identify with conservatives.

    So are there things that make you very reluctant to identify with “progressive” left-wingers? At least you’ll never hear conservatives talking about banning guns, or the “need” for new gun laws.

  3. @ Ronnie: But conservatives DO want to send us to Gitmo without trial and waterboard us into confessing while using warrantless searches and wiretaps. Neither side has the answer, and they both trample on the rights of individuals as they see fit.

    1. And Obama the liberal just signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which will allow any of us to be arrested and detained indefinitely without being charged, but don’t worry, he only signed this “with reservations.”

  4. In hindsight, it’s easy to say that there was no danger of invasion, but our Pacific fleet was shattered and the Japanese ruled.

    Everywhere the Japanese invaded, local Japanese (and they had emigrated to many Asian countries) supported the invasion. Read about the Battle of Nahuii in Hawaii.

    As for Malkin – she’s Filipino, read about how the Japanese behaved there and you might not be surprised at her animosity.

    1. I think the danger of invasion was very real, but that doesn’t justify internment as a solution. And I’d note that internment continued, even after the danger of invasion had passed.

      1. But once a great bureaucracy gets underway, it is very difficult to stop the machine. By the time the relocation camps were actually built and occupied, the threat was past.

      2. I am going to have to disagree with you. I think it’s pretty clear that the internments saved many lives.

  5. The internments are definitely a big blot on FDR’s and the nation’s honor. Mind you, WWII was only 52 years after Wounded Knee. The nation’s racial attitudes have undergone massive readjustment since then, including creation of a very broad “white” identity that not that long ago excluded southern Europeans, anyone from the middle east, Armenians (the original Caucasians no less!), Jews, the Irish and even Germans, especially Catholic ones. As you probably know, Wilson, a natural-born Anglophile, made it illegal to criticize his actions in WWI, leading to the internment of many Germans. Go back now that much further in time and there’s an essay from Benjamin Franklin complaining about the “swarthy” Swedes not being white enough to be allowed to immigrate (Swedes–I’m not making this up.) Of course, at this point more years separate us from WWI than separated WWII from the Civil War–amazing really.

    There have been some detestable exceptions, like the moron who killed a Sikh cab driver whose turban made the killer think he was “Arab,” but considering the psychological trauma of the 9/11 attacks and the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, I think overall the nation has shown a maturity in the last decade when it comes to race and ethnic relations that is rare in our own history and certainly without much precedent at all in the rest of the world. It gives me hope.

    Agree with you on Malkin–she strikes me as another mouthpiece saying anything to get attention or justify her personal bigotries; sadly she has a lot of company across the political spectrum.

    1. Go back now that much further in time and there’s an essay from Benjamin Franklin complaining about the “swarthy” Swedes not being white enough to be allowed to immigrate (Swedes–I’m not making this up.)

      You might want to go back and re-read Franklin’s letter. He was concerned about German immigration because they were non-English speakers, were not likely to assimilate into the English-speaking colonial population, and might eventually replace the English colonists. (Does this sound familiar?)

      While he did describe the Swedes as “swarthy,” his argument for discouraging immigration was to discourage immigration of Africans. Even there, his was an esthetic concern, not a racial inferiority issue. That letter explains that his goal in excluding “all blacks and tawnys… of increasing the lovely white and red?” Franklin thought the Indians were quite attractive, and hoped to see whites and Indians intermarry.

      There is a burst of narrow ethnocentrism that develops in the 19th century as evolutionary thought becomes dominant among the intellectuals. The notion of “the English race” and “the German race” and “the French race” as distinct, easily identified types is an outgrowth of Romanticism’s focus on regionalism and the need to develop a biological justification for imperialism and slavery. It is really quite astonishing to read early 20th century science books which assume white racial superiority in a way that was not common at the close of the 18th century.

      1. In some ways the 18th century was more honest: “we’re going to take it because you have it and we want it!” is actually easier to take swallow than “we’re going to take it because we’re superior and therefore entitled.”

        1. And attitudes about race were not quite as hardened as they became. There’s a black man who moves to Philly in the 1790s, and he has the skin disease that causes white patches to appear. (Whites get it too, but it’s less obvious on us.) Benjamin Rush actually writes an article arguing that perhaps race is environmental, and with enough time, all blacks living in America will become white.

  6. @Ronnie,

    Plenty of conservatives are all for revoking the gun rights of people they don’t like, or banning nontraditional guns.

    The original Federal AWB (the Bush I import ban) was the brainchild of William J. Bennett, darling of the Religious Right and arch-conservative family-values drug czar under George H. W. Bush.

    The second Bush administration proposed to summarily revoke the gun rights, without trial, of anyone placed on the secret watchlists for any reason. Thankfully that was shot down.

    And please read what Santorum had to say in his book about the Bill of Rights and the American tradition of individual freedom. It wasn’t good.

    1. Nobody outdoes the liberals and neo-Marxists when it comes to trampling all over our Second Amendment rights. We have Slick Willie Clinton to thank for things like the bans on semi-auto rifles with bayonet lugs and pistol grips.

  7. The resistance was very civil and polite, and primarily to challenge the legal authority of the relocation.

    The point of Malkin’s book was not that the relocation was completely wonderful, but that the motivations for it were a bit complex than is usually portrayed. There were Japanese spies among Japanese-Americans working at U.S. plants (although this information, from intelligence intercepts, remained classified until the 1990s). The U.S. had neither the ability nor time to figure out which of these workers were the spies.

    Army Air Force bases were built behind the Cascades (such as what are now Fallon NAS and Gowen Field) to carry out bombing raids on the West Coast, since it was believed that the Japanese would successfully invade, and only be held back at the mountain passes.

    1. Does Malkin’s book discuss the land grabs of Japanese property? “Follow the money” is still good advice when looking into the root cause of most things.

      1. Don’t recall.

        The land grabs are well known, and the widespread hostility to Asians on the West Coast is certainly a major factor in the relocation. (The 1919 initiative by California voters prohibiting land ownership by non-citizens was primarily aimed at Japanese farmers, engaged in unfair competition by intensive farming techniques and hard work.) The problem is that many textbooks teach that this was the only motivation, and the military concerns were completely without merit. I confess that I generally bought into those arguments when I was younger, because the intelligence intercepts had not been declassified.

        The Japanese embassy in Mexico was running the spy network, and was telling Tokyo that they had infiltrated Japanese-Americans into defense plants and military bases. In retrospect, the risks do not seem so high, and could have been dealt with in a more individual way. But by this point, the U.S. knew that Japanese immigrants in both China and the Philippines had played fifth column roles. David Bergamini’s Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy describes his personal experience of seeing a third generation Japanese in the Philippines wearing a Japanese Army officer’s uniform before the Japanese had actually arrived.

  8. Didnt a democrat FDR locked them up? Any conservative worth their brain cell would see the obvious issue with these kinds of racist, democrat party thingy.

  9. To me, this is true moral courage. Standing firm with nothing but your convictions against virtually everyone around you.

  10. “One reason I’ve never been able to warm up to blogger Michelle Malkin is because she wrote this book, trying to justify what I think is not at all justifiable.”

    Did you read the book? Or only know it from reputation? I’m not trying to snark, I’m just asking for clarification.

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