I met with a 70-year-old third generation Japanese-American in Los Angeles a day after the inauguration ceremony of U.S. President Donald Trump. He expressed concerns over his country under the new administration, saying that he felt like everything that the U.S. has worked to build could collapse all at once and that he was worried about society going back to its exclusive state seen in the past.
Some 120,000 Japanese-Americans in the United States were sent to internment camps during World War II. The aforementioned man's parents and grandparents were forced into the camps. The struggle continued even after the war ended. It was not until 1988 that the U.S. government under President Ronald Reagan officially apologized over the Japanese-American internment policy and in 1999 the United States completed compensation payments to surviving former detainees.
The United States has built a free and tolerant society with diversity by overcoming conflicts derived from differences in ethnicity and race. The man I talked to says all that could go up in flames under President Trump. He told me that he thinks discriminatory labels placed on Muslims and illegal immigrants from Mexico could be placed on Japanese-Americans.
In today's United States, immigrants from different countries take roles in various fields to support American society. I used taxis and Uber cabs during my stay in the U.S. and the drivers were immigrants from countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia and the Philippines. An Ethiopian driver said they have five children and they ask why a person like Trump could become president. The driver is an Arabic language teacher during the day and works as a cab driver on weekends and during the night to support their family.
President Trump's policy measures, including the plan to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall and the executive order banning entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees to the United States, will frighten immigrant workers and their families in America, ultimately harming various industries.
Because each person is different and there are various opinions, and because such differences are mixed in harmony, new values that can change societies are born. People's anxiety is fueled in Trump's America, and the foundation of the dynamism of American society is on the verge of collapsing.
We Japanese cannot just observe what is happening in the United States as idle spectators. There is no doubt that changes in the U.S. will have a great impact on Japanese economy and culture.
Human rights activist and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Fred Korematsu (1919-2005), a second generation Japanese-American known to resist President Franklin Roosevelt's executive order on the internment of Japanese-Americans, voiced his opinion after the 9/11 attacks, saying that the United States must not repeat the mistakes it made against Japanese-Americans in the past on the people of the Middle East.
Google honored Korematsu's life with a doodle on Jan. 30, Korematsu's birthday, on its U.S. search screen. It is believed that the doodle was the tech giant's protest against President Trump's "Muslim ban" executive order.
It was Korematsu, who said, "If you have the feeling that something is wrong, don't be afraid to speak up." (By Kazuhiro Nozawa, Editorial Writer)