Photographer's Note

As I've mentioned on occasion, I'm a high school history teacher in the United States. Today was my school district's first day of school, so in honor of that I'm making today's a historically relevant post.

This shot is of a display at the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. One of the rotating exhibits they were featuring during our visit was the art of Japanese Internment Camp prisoners during World War II.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7 1941 - the act which drew the United States into the war - anti-Japanese (and, to a much lesser degree, anti-German and anti-Italian) sentiment skyrocketed in the United States. The country's West Coast contained a Japanese community, many of whom were immigrants while others were second or even third generation Americans. Some within the United States feared that those of Japanese descent might form a 'fifth column', a force working on home soil for the Japanese government. This was, of course, wholly unsupported by facts and enhanced by propaganda and racist paranoia, but that did not stop the Roosevelt administration from creating and carrying out policies that moved first immigrants themselves and later whole families into internment camps in the interior West - New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Idaho - generally barren and unwelcoming areas where they were kept as prisoners for the remainder of the war.

Many of those kept in camps responded to this humiliation and dehumanization by turning to art, and the art they made is what was displayed in the exhibit we visited. The piece here particularly struck me. In the foreground are origami cranes in the colors and design of the American flag. However, behind the flag is a copy of an order issued by the Western Command of the US military in San Francisco, California calling for the forced removal of Japanese-Americans from their homes in the interest of national security. The piece uses a historical artifact in juxtaposition with the American flag to show the hypocrisy of American ideals in the act of Japanese internment - 'hiding behind the flag' in order to commit acts that expressly contradict the highest ideals of American society, something the US has too often failed to live up to.

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Additional Photos by Andrew Lipsett (ACL1978) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 884 W: 75 N: 1695] (7511)
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