Actor George Takei, who was placed in Japanese-American internment camp during World War II at age 5, has written a scathing indictment of the Donald Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that separates children from parents in the prosecution of all people crossing the U.S.’s southern border illegally.
“At least during the internment of Japanese-Americans, I and other children were not stripped from our parents” writes the former Star Trek actor in today’s op-ed column for Foreign Policy magazine. “We were not pulled screaming from our mothers’ arms. We were not left to change the diapers of younger children by ourselves.”
In 1942, Takei’s family was forced to live at Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas for internment and, later, the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in California. Takei starred in the 2015 Broadway production Allegiance, based on his family’s experience in the internment camps (the musical was written by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione and directed by Stafford Arima).
“At least during the internment,” Takei writes today, “we remained a family, and I credit that alone for keeping the scars of our unjust imprisonment from deepening on my soul. I cannot for a moment imagine what my childhood would have been like had I been thrown into a camp without my parents. That this is happening today fills me with both rage and grief: rage toward a failed political leadership who appear to have lost even their most basic humanity, and a profound grief for the families affected.”
Comparisons between the internment camps and the Trump zero-tolerance policy also were made by former first lady Laura Bush, who wrote Sunday in the Washington Post that the images from our southern border “are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in US history.”
Writes Takei: “My family was sent to a racetrack for several weeks to live in a horse stall, but at least we had each other. At least during the internment, my parents were able to place themselves between the horror of what we were facing and my own childish understanding of our circumstances. They told us we were ‘going on a vacation to live with the horsies.’ And when we got to Rohwer camp, they again put themselves between us and the horror, so that we would never fully appreciate the grim reality of the mosquito-infested swamp into which we had been thrown.”
He continues: “When a government acts capriciously, especially against a powerless and much-reviled group, it is hard to describe the terror and anxiety. There is nowhere to turn, because the only people with the power to help have trained their guns and dogs upon you. You are without rights, held without charge or trial. The world is upside down, information-less, and indifferent or even hostile to your plight.”
Read Takei’s column here.