Wednesday, December 09, 2009

It Was a Different Time, Post-Pearl Harbor

All of us, especially those of us who grew up in California, know about the executive order that compelled Japanese and Japanese-Americans to be incarcerated at the beginning of World War II. I attended Kohler Elementary, on the grounds of the former Camp Kohler, which we knew had been a Japanese relocation center (historical marker information here). As a child I played and built forts in the ruins and remnants of Camp Kohler. So stories like this strike very close to home here in the Central Valley:

Japanese-Americans who were forced from their studies in the 1940s at the University of California, Davis will be given honorary degrees Saturday.

Forty-seven people who were students at UC Davis when the United States entered World War II will receive honorary degrees, although few will attend. Some of those being honored will be represented by friends and family.

It happened almost 70 years ago. In the interim a national apology has been issued, and financial reparations have been paid. I've known two people who were relocated and imprisoned, and they were both babies at the time.

I guess this is a nice gesture, but I wonder whom the intended audience is, and why.


Unknown said...

My position on this kind of thing is although it's better to right a wrong and admit fault while it still matters to the people involved, it's never too late to do so. This specific scenario of giving honorary degrees to those who were forced from their studies has been going on for awhile now and I think is a worthwhile gesture for every college to do. Earlier this year I remember thinking about how worthwhile it is to apologize when most of those involved are dead when Gordon Brown apologized for the British government's treatment of Alan Turing. At least this gesture was voluntary and didn't need to be prompted by an online position.

Darren said...

Ronnie, while I agree with you about the nice gesture, my closing question remains unanswered.

Unknown said...

My point was the gesture itself is worthwhile so no true specific audience is necessary. I, and I assume probably many others, are pleased that it is being done and since it's a worthwhile gesture why not do it? As a country we honor the same people that have been dead for sometimes over a hundred years ever year, so I see no problem honoring specific people who have only been acknowledged in a national context. Why does there have to be an audience or reason other than those who appreciate it and it being worthwhile?

allen (in Michigan) said...

It's a rhetorical question Darren.

You know as well as I do that the gesture, since it's just that, is self-referential.

It's an overt display of generosity by people who give up nothing and an apology by people who have no responsibility, and thus no guilt, for the original act. Gestures - which is all this is - are to moral courage what a computer combat game is to war.

miriam sawyer said...

This meaningless gesture makes the giver feel good about himself, while doing the recipient absolutely no good.