Culture

Why Former Japanese-American Internees Are Supporting Donald Trump

In her debut opinion for The New York Times, NBC reporter Amanda Sakuma recounted the American internment of her Japanese  family during World War II. Ironically, they now support Donald Trump.

The memory of Japanese-American internment camps has been making rounds recently. Last month, Carl Higbie, a former spokesman for the pro-Trump Great America PAC, spoke on Fox News’ “The Kelly File” with a claim that the World War II internment of Japanese-American citizens was a “precedent” for the president-elect’s plans of establishing a registry for all Muslims living in the United States:

“We’ve done it based on race, we’ve done it based on religion, we’ve done it based on region. We’ve done it with Iran back—back a while ago. We did it during World War II with [the] Japanese.”

To this, host Megyn Kelly responded, “Come on, you’re not proposing we go back to the days of internment camps, I hope.”

It did not take long before reader responses to the same subject in the Los Angeles Times’ “Letters to the Editor” section angered many Asian-Americans for their apparent insensitivity. In the end, they were deemed unfit for publication for not meeting standards of “civil, fact-based discourse.”

This time, immigration reporter Amanda Sakuma shared her family’s story over The New York Times.

Sakuma grew up with her family telling her that the literal prison was a “camp.” Apparently, for her great-grandparents and their 10 children confined for about three years, it was no biggie:

“When I prodded them for details, I heard stories that lacked even hints of anger or bitterness. Instead there was a fierce resolve to forgive the country that had imprisoned them.”

But what seemed to disturb Sakuma more was the fact that despite going through the internment, some of her kin voted for Donald Trump. Her great-aunt Lillian said, “I’m thinking more highly of him lately.”

Sakuma figured that her family’s “rapid assimilation” into the American culture defined the response they now have about the internment:

“For my relatives who were interned, that assimilation, and love for this country, found a new expression in supporting Mr. Trump.”

Sakuma said she had never heard any of her interned relatives complain, and she may be just as convinced that they still won’t anytime soon.

Sakuma ended by speaking of her grandmother when they visited what was left of her “camp” in Heart Mountain in Wyoming:

“I remember seeing Baachan tear up at the vast nothingness; it was as if her history had been erased. But she never said a word of anger or reproach. Because, of course, she wouldn’t.”

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