On Thursday, the Oregon Nikkei Endowment will host a reading by Priscilla Wegars, author of Imprisoned in Paradise: Japanese Internee Road Workers at the World War II Kooskia Internment Camp. The camp, located in north central Idaho, held 265 men of Japanese descent designated “enemy aliens” by the government. The talk accompanies the organization’s exhibit on the Japanese American internment experience, FBI: Taken, which received an Oregon Humanities Responsive Program Grant.
This event brings to mind last month’s Portland City Council hearing on the Department of Justice’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, during which the question arose of history’s relevance to the security and civil rights issues of today.
In a letter sent after the hearing to Commissioner Dan Saltzman, Scott Sakamoto, past president of the Portland Japanese American Citizens League and the son of an internee who testified before the City Council, wrote, “History rarely repeats itself in exactly the same way as the past. In the 1940s, it was the Japanese Americans targeted by the FBI. Today it is well documented that the FBI targets those of the Muslim faith or Middle Eastern background. My father’s testimony on behalf of our community was intended to remind all of us of how, under the guise of fear, we violate the fundamental rights of those in our country.”