As an American citizen who was formerly stationed on a Japanese military base, this hearing was exceptionally difficult to watch. Even if the overall tone/result of this hearing was positive, the heartbreaking remarks from representatives Mineta, Matsui, and others still made it nearly impossible to sit through without wanting to cry. I can’t imagine speaking with the kind of restraint that these men do, considering all that had happened to them, their families, and the tens of thousands of Americans like them. The fact that they had to politic and haggle as much as they did for the little scraps the Japanese-American people received, is embarrassing on behalf of the United States government.
That being said, I was happily surprised by the respectfulness and adamant support received by these congressmen on behalf of some of the remaining members of Congress. The point by Representative Lowry about German-American citizens not facing this kind of discrimination despite their mother country’s many atrocities was a good one. As was Representative Dymally’s comment about the U.S. having a legal history of proven misconduct when it comes to the handling of Japanese-Americans’ internment. This was mainly in referring to a litany of court cases lost by the U.S. during its years of internment, namely for things like ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ for the way they dealt with breaches of curfew, as an example. Both of these men’s points about the $20,000 of financial compensation being imperative was reaffirming, especially considering the fact that neither representative was of Japanese descent themselves.
On the other hand, though, Congressman Lungren’s equivocating over whether or not to grant reparations was one of the most obnoxious things I have seen in my entire life. In watching this segment, the question that kept popping into my head was ”why?”. Was $20,000 for every Japanese-American proven to have been affected by internment really that much to ask for? Would his constituents really be that upset if he sided with the bill for that reason? What sort of precedent was he so terrified of setting? The kind of slippery slope fallacies sprinkled throughout his speech are things that are all too familiar with conservative politicians in the modern-day. In the end, I’m glad these congressmen didn’t get their way, considering I think the world is all the better for the financial reparations granted to Japanese-Americans following their internment.