Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Remembering Assembly Day

In Monday's post I talked about memorials to those soldiers of Japanese descent who fought in World War II in the 442nd regiment. But there are another set of memorials devoted to the experience of internment for the citizens who spent the war in the camps.

Among the most moving is this one in Merced, California. The fairgrounds there served as an assembly center. This sculpture depicts a little girl sitting on her family's belongings while they await instructions.

It's always easy to stir passions by reminding people of the children who are swept up into wartime. But they weren't the only innocent victims, by far. Of course, *all* of the internees were innocent in the sense that they had done nothing to deserve being treated as less than loyal citizens, but what I mean is that they were not the only people who couldn't even make sense of what was happening to them.

The elderly and mentally challenged were also given a brutal shock, unable to grasp what was happening to them, afraid to protest and punished if they did.

I found this photo deeply moving as well as disturbing. This man, who is waiting to be transported on the day of assembly, looks so lost to me.

In the camp, elderly men often crouched outside in the shade in warm weather, and by the barracks heater in the winter. There was little for them to do but wait - and, I imagine, wonder what the hell had happened to them.

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