As a child, he believed the camp to be a magical oasis, where mythical dinosaurs prowled the woods at night. A native of Los Angeles, he marveled at the “flying exotica” of dragonflies, the treasures of rural life and, that first winter, the “pure magic” of snow.
George Takei spent ages 5 to almost 9 imprisoned by the U.S. government in Japanese American internment camps. A relentless optimist, he believed the shameful legacy of incarcerating an estimated 120,000 Americans during World War II would never be forgotten or duplicated.
At 82, Takei came to understand that he may be mistaken on both counts.
Stories fell into the sinkhole of history, given the omission of the camps from many textbooks and the shame felt by former internees, many of whom remained silent about their experiences, even to descendants. Takei takes no refuge in silence.
The “Star Trek” actor has lived long enough to see thousands of immigrant children jailed near the border. On Twitter, to his 2.9 million followers, he wrote, “This nation has a long and tragic history of separating children from their parents, ever since the days of slavery.”
Sitting in his Manhattan pied-à-terre near Carnegie Hall, the activist for gay rights and social justice calls his government’s actions “an endless cycle of inhumanity, cruelty and injustice repeated generation after generation” and says “it’s got to stop.”
Takei was fortunate. He and his two younger siblings were never separated from their parents, who bore the brunt of fear and degradation in the swamps of Arkansas and the high desert of Northern California. They shielded their children, creating a “Life Is Beautiful” experience often filled with wonder. His father told him they were going for “a long vacation in the country.” Their first stop, of all places, was the Santa Anita Racetrack, where the family was assigned to sleep in the stalls. “We get to sleep where the horsies slept! Fun!” he thought.
Takei had little understanding of his family abandoning their belongings, the government questioning their patriotism and their return to Los Angeles with nothing, starting over on Skid Row. As a teenager, he came to understand the toll. [Continue reading…]
The Border Patrol agent, a veteran with 13 years on the job, had been assigned to the agency’s detention center in McAllen, Texas, for close to a month when the team of court-appointed lawyers and doctors showed up one day at the end of June.
Taking in the squalor, the stench of unwashed bodies, and the poor health and vacant eyes of the hundreds of children held there, the group members appeared stunned.
Then, their outrage rolled through the facility like a thunderstorm. One lawyer emerged from a conference room clutching her cellphone to her ear, her voice trembling with urgency and frustration. “There’s a crisis down here,” the agent recalled her shouting.
At that moment, the agent, a father of a 2-year-old, realized that something in him had shifted during his weeks in the McAllen center. “I don’t know why she’s shouting,” he remembered thinking. “No one on the other end of the line cares. If they did, this wouldn’t be happening.”
As he turned away to return to his duties, the agent recalled feeling sorry for the lawyer. “I wanted to tell her the rest of us have given up.” [Continue reading…]