Column: Our past is our future if we forget

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Margaret Mellott

Managing editor

mmellot1@jccc.edu

Today is Remembrance Day. It also happens to be President’s Day, but don’t let that distract you. President’s have committed crimes and done horrible things to the American people.

As Winston Churchill once said, “History is written by the victors.”

He’s right. Countries across the world have left things out of their history books, especially in the United States. The surface level education we’re given in high school barely touches on the horrific crimes that the U.S. has committed in the past.

Which is why we remember this day 76 years ago, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. This forced those of Japanese ancestry into internment camps. This country interned over 120,000 innocent people, including children.

They even made people of Japanese ancestry register on a list. This list is still accessible today on the National Archives website.

These internment camps were in horrible and remote locations with terrible weather. Often times, these harsh conditions combined with unfair treatment led to death; the death of children, death of the elderly, death of friends and family. It’s devastating.

This day is something that hits close to home for me. You can’t tell by looking at me, but I am of Japanese ancestry. Growing up, I didn’t think much about my grandmother being a half Japanese woman. It’s just who she was, but as I got older, I better understood how strong she was growing up after WWII. I cannot imagine it being easy. Her dad, my great granddad, was a Japanese-American man during the internment camps. He even fought in the 442 Regimental Combat Team for the same people who relocated him and his family.

My family means so much to me, and it infuriates me to think that they were treated this way.

In these internment camps, people stood by complicit. Americans let fellow Americans die by declining proper medical care and living conditions.

And you know what? It wasn’t even until 46 years later when the U.S. government, under President Ronald Reagan, finally apologized and signed the Civil Liberties Act. Even then, this apology had to be fought for. People from the Japanese-American community campaigned for nearly 10 years to receive a formal apology and compensation money. If it hadn’t been for them, would America have ever apologized?

We cannot forget that the U.S. government committed these crimes against their own people.

However, things like this are still happening in the U.S. today. One of America’s biggest struggles is being there for their own people. This is why Remembrance Day is so important. As a country, we can’t let things we’re ashamed of be our downfall. We have history classes for a reason. We remember days like today so we don’t repeat our past mistakes. If we forget where we came from, then we are bound to make the same mistakes again.

There is so much more to be said, but I’ll leave you with this: The U.S. has a dark history that we’re ashamed of. However, it’s something we must not forget. We cannot let history be written by the victors. Both sides must be heard.

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