Can the Japanese-Internment be applied to the post-9/11 discrimination?

Our Poetry

One Sentence Poems

The Outside Perspective:

Give us 30 minutes, and we’ll show you your world,

But only the parts you’re supposed to see,

And we’ll take creative license as well, If only to ensure,

You will think the way you’re meant to,

And accept the stories we tell you, like a child before bed,

So that you will ignore completely

The past laid out behind you, in order to maintain the status quo,

of having you believe

your lifestyle is in peril, and we have a clear enemy,

clearly distinguishable

in the forties as a man, woman or child of Japanese descent,

and today as an Arab,

because a war a world away means they are enemies.

A Changing Society:

Inform:

such person or classes of persons

as the situation may require –

deemed a threat the United States of America;

all enemy aliens,

all persons of Japanese ancestry,

aligned with the emperor,

(taken for their protection)

Breaking:

the loyal among them say we’re right,

as we’ve provided buses, facilities –

being that even their people are ashamed of those free,

look at their smiles

see how close that naval base is

to your children,

different than theirs by sight, but

Now:

due process is not for terrorists,

have to trade up liberty for security,

and must look to peaceful Israel and find the bomber,

not the bomb,

by reporting suspicious activity,

any activity at all:

perpetrated by a color, you see

Breaking:

they hate our freedom and liberty

and train their children to hate us too,

what does it mean to be American now, but

let’s ask the expert:

terrorism is only against the US,

all inside can be spies

How important is their voice?


Frightened and Free

Frightened and Free

I am like the Bedouin who travels on hostile sands,

Stranger to all, mistrusted, to be driven from the land.

I exalt peace with a hushed prayer and elicit fear,

Reason has died and I am left to weep before its bier.

My self is only what a frightened fool desires to see,

stripped of dignity, handcuffs in lieu of humanity.

Here in the land of the frightened and the free.

 

We dressed in suits and irony and spoke fine English, we thought.

The six of us awaiting takeoff performed our noon Salāt.

Love is blind, but Fear is not and someone raised the alarm:

Suspicious Arabs aboard the flight, intent on causing harm.

We Imams, we Leaders, we men of God and peace,

Played by all the rules but still lost out,

Here in the land of the frightened and the free.

 

They took us away in handcuffs, at a whisper’s beck and call,

Worse yet I saw the faces, fear or hate covered most all.

In the face of such recklessness what good can reason do?

In all of History it’s been the same, the many rule the few.

The word “Imam” means leader, and so I’ve tried to be,

Yet in this world I’m suspect, my race is all they see.

And we’re still looking for equality,

in the land of the frightened and the free.


What More

I used to be able to walk around without the stares

Then after the bombs fell out of the sky                           Then after the planes fell out of the sky

And more than 2000 people died                                            And more than 3000 people died

Trapped by a fire that I did not create

 

I lower my head in shame                                                       I raise my head without shame

 

Because I did not do this.

I attract stares at the grocery store                                                      I attract stares at the airport

They tell me to stand in a different line and

Ask me questions about the government.                 Ask me questions about another government.

They say it is because of my eyes                                         They say it is because of my clothes

That I am treated like this

I speak English, I am almost a citizen                                   I speak English, I am a U.S. citizen

What more can I do?

 

I cannot change the color of my skin.


Disillusion

Attention to all Japanese:
the following instructions must be observed
lest your rights be forgotten.

All items must be safely packaged,
with personal articles securely marked.
When the officers say something,
you shall obey.

The officers don’t want
to harm you.
They are loyal Americans
with a job to do.

But if you disobey orders
and try to escape,
the guards will shoot
to preserve American freedom

We are American citizens, not foreigners,
Why do you treat us this way
and steal our freedom?

Thrust from our homes,
we are branded as an evil race
forced to abandon all hope,
remaining loyal yet being “traitors.”

The officers want
to harm us,
Though we are loyal Americans
with a Japanese hyphen.

What if we can’t hear the orders,
and the guards are trigger happy?
Will we be shot behind the fence
while the papers report our escape?





Japanese Americans: Pearl Harbor

You don’t really know what you have ‘til it’s gone,
‘til it’s washed away like lost lives in the Pacific,
‘til you experience Battleship Row, open water
purgatory where ships hope to live but come to die…
a date which shall live in infamy…December 7, 1941,
it is all over the news, as FDR’s voice masks fear with courage,
and we sense change…U.S. attacked by the Empire of Japan…
location: Pearl Harbor; method: fighter plane; reason: it is anyone’s guess,
but the decision wasn’t ours, we did not ask for blackness, death, bombs
dropped from ‘Zero’ fighter planes, smoke and sinking ships;
Americans remember, we regret: 2,403 dead, 188 planes destroyed,
a crippled Pacific Fleet; when the Empire of the Sun suffocated the sun
with smoke, it wasn’t just American lives that were changed forever:
as battleships kissed the ocean floor, we kissed our old lives goodbye.

Aside

The Wire

Before me dips Eternity,
Behind me cease morality,
the world through forlorn eyes,

racial lines, and barbed wire lens.

Thought we were spies,
the FBI deemed us
threats to national security:

We were not treated with respect.

How could we spy, my younger siblings and I?
A five-year-old doesn’t have enemies,
cannot send secret messages,

except to children in their class.

Yet everything was packed, two suitcases per person,
military police pointing loaded guns at people
loading then unloading luggage:

There was no persons limit on the train.

From lavish home to shelter, barrack, prison
made of tar paper, arranged in blocks;
20 by 25 feet at least six people deep:

Beds, like the barriers, made of wire.

Behind bars with prison guards
armed with rifle, bayonet: we spied
freedom through barbed wire,

but were too young to understand.

Now, I try to teach my daughter,
telling her of desert dust storms and disease.
We lost our livelihood and traditions in the camps,

and need to salvage what memories we have left.

I tell her I still see the wire, perpetually fenced in and surrounded,
but does that mean anything to her?
I show her my lone relic, an old shovel, of all things,

but does its meaning resonate?

“Never through this shovel away,” I say,
as I try to dig through my history,
the history of our people, our race,

digging for answers to excavate the truth.

And still I am brought back to the wire.
When I used to move I could hear and sense the wire.
I can still see the wire patterns on the mattress, on the walls, in my mind.

But for our people to truly heal, my daughter needs to see the wire too.


Fifty Years

Over fifty years later, after abandonment from the homes you built,

After evacuations, after internments,

After four years of suburbia, an isolation

With no recourse or route that could take you home

We send this letter as an apology

Fifty years later, if only

It could replace the hours lost, the time spent

Inside that asylum whose confines still

Have not been loosened, whose chains have not

Been broken; Fifty years and an apology of

Twenty thousand dollars to forget;

Fifty years later, there is an apology

That will not erase a fifty year ache

A fifty year burden had created.