My bonsai instructor Hiro Matsuda handed me an article from the Rafu Shimpo Newspaper at class today. He knows about my commitment to the Civil Rights Movement. This article was fascinating to me because I knew nothing about Mr. Seeger other than that he wrote music that inspired me and that he had been involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
What I didn’t know was that he was investigated by the War Department and the FBI who compiled a 1,700-page report recently released by the National Archives under the Freedom of Information Act. It was not until the seventies that the investigation ended.
Seeger opposed the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and he wrote a letter to the American Legion indicating his disagreement with that internment and with the Legion’s suggestions for the people interned at war’s end. He was engaged to Toshi Aline Ohta, a Japanese American. He was a Communist.
So, what does this have to do with Donald Trump? Seeger penned this letter to the American Legion;
“I felt shocked, outraged, and disgusted to read that the California American Legion voted to 1) deport all Japanese after the war, citizen or not, 2) Bar all Japanese descendants from citizenship!!
“We, who may have to give our lives in this great struggle — we’re fighting precisely to free the world of such Hitlerism, such narrow jingoism.
“If you deport Japanese, why not Germans, Italians, Rumanians, Hungarians, and Bulgarians?
“If you bar from citizenship descendants of Japanese, why not descendants of English? After all, we once fought with them too.
“America is great and strong as she is because we have so far been a haven to all oppressed.
“I felt sick at heart to read of this matter …
“I am writing also to the Los Angeles Times.”
The letter was forwarded from the American Legion to the FBI and the witch hunt began.
So, what does this have to do with Donald Trump. I’ve highlighted “Japanese” above twice. Now listen for Trump’s voice and change “Japanese” to “Mexican.” (He hasn’t gotten to Muslim Americans yet.)
I agree with Seeger that “we’re fighting precisely to free the world of such Hitlerism, such narrow jingoism.” I love history so, as I read this, I thought of Fred Korematsu. In 1942 Korematsu was arrested for refusing to go to an internment camp. His punishment was to be sent to such a camp. In 1944 the Supreme Court sided with the government because we were at war. “Later that year a federal court in San Francisco overturned the conviction, stating that the government’s case at the time had been based on false, misleading, and racially biased information. In 1988 Congress passed legislation apologizing for the internments and awarded each survivor $20,000.” (Infoplease, Fred Korematsu)
Unlike me, I do not think that Trump is a fan of history, because he advocates exactly the same actions: 1) deport all Mexicans, 2) bar all Mexican descendants from citizenship!! Trump does add a third possibility, allow no Muslims to enter the country in the first place. Such actions might not cost much now (especially if Mexico builds the wall between the two countries), but what will the cost be forty-six years from now when another congressional decision apologizes for the deportation of people and awards each survivor a pay check. For more information about Pete Seeger’s investigation, go here.