George Takei: We Can’t Go Back.


My mother was born in Sacramento, the daughter of Japanese immigrants, and my father grew up in San Francisco. They met and married in Los Angeles, where I was born in 1937, and where we lived happily until December 7, 1941.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, life changed for our family and thousands of other families like us. Suddenly we were presumed to be the enemy. We were questioned, followed, suspected, and accused of being spies or saboteurs simply because of our ancestry. The government that was supposed to protect us against mob rule suddenly had become the mob. It is hard to describe a more gripping, more pervasive sense of terror.

Just a few weeks after my 5th birthday, the military forcibly removed us from our home. Two soldiers with bayonets marched upon our driveway on Garnet Street, pounded on the front door, and demanded we vacate immediately. We took only what we could carry. My younger brother and I both held a suitcase; my mother, tears streaming down her face, held my baby sister with one arm and a duffle bag with another. We lost our home, our car, my father’s book collection.

I will never forget that day.

George Takei’s full article is here, and it’s one everyone should take to heart.


  1. Kengi says

    I’m not sure people realize how close to this we already were under GWB. I had friends who were followed, tracked, and under surveillance during those years because they were Muslim students who, because of their visa status, were required to travel back home regularly (TERRORIST!) to get their passport updated.

    Another who was a non practicing Jain from India (“those people” all look alike, amiright?) who was followed, and eventually interviewed, by the FBI because his wife talked to her mother on the phone (in a foreign language!) about how she was worried they lived downtown so close to Sears Tower right after 9/11.

    And lets not forget what Giuliani and the GWB feds did to the Muslim communities in NYC for years while producing zero leads of any kind. It looks like Amerika under Trump will be much worse.

  2. says

    I have always been surprised by people’s reactions to these things. I imagine that if someone did that to me, I would return and begin an insurgency. The victims of nationalism usually seem to be happy to shrug it off and move on with their lives, as George Takei has done, allowing it to inform their philosophy without becoming a basis for revenge. But surely people fall on a spectrum: doing such things probably creates a few implacable enemies.

    In my recent post about nationalism I stumbled across the story of the jews who fled Germany before WWII, only to be interned by the British as “immigrants of German origin.” This kind of stupidity ought to create more fifth columns and enemies than it prevents.

  3. Onamission5 says

    @Kengi #1:

    A parent from my kid’s football team whose family immigrated from Iran in the 70’s, her uncle was detained for weeks after 9/11 simply because, as far as she knew, he maintained connections with and sent money to relatives back home. Her family wasn’t even particularly religious, and they resided on the opposite coast from the attacks.

    If I put myself in her shoes, it would be like me getting arrested after OKC because my grandmother came from OK and I’d sent Christmas money to a family member who attended a fundamentalist church, whether or not they or any member of that church had any ties whatsoever to the bomber, simply because they shared some theology.

  4. says

    I’m often wondering if this is how my grandparents felt in the 30’s: You see that shit rise, you fight, but it’s like a flood you cannot stop. ONly worse because we know where this can lead.

    Marcus Ranum
    The crimes against the Palestinians seem to me to be the one example where the lessons learned from history are “it’s OK when we’Re the ones doing it.” There are German Jews who re-immigrated to Germany because they couldn’t bear that.
    In short: people are complicated. But yeah, somehow the oppressed seem always much more willing to extend grace to the oppressors than the other way round.

  5. cubist says

    “We can’t go back”? Nonsense. Of course we damn well can go back—never mind whether we should go back, never mind whether the ‘back’ we’re going to was a ghastly clusterfuck of racist bigotry.

    I just hope we don’t go back.

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