April 24, 2004: The Grand Opening Ceremony is kicked off with the Presentation of the Colors. The American flag is borne by Mr. Carl Miyagishima  of the Sadao Munemori VFW Post. The Lone Pine VFW Post provides a color guard. The men of Lone Pine are involved because the Independence (town north of Manzanar) VFW Post refused to participate. Residents of the northern Owens Valley town of Bishop circulated a petition to stop the visitor center. Threats were made to burn the museum to the ground.  Obviously America is not yet quite done with its myriad hatreds. There are several speakers, including the Director of the National Park Service, Fran Mainella. The prevalent theme is the importance of remembering our past so that we don't make the same mistakes again.
. . .
Below right, Director of the National Park Service, Fran Mainella, addresses the crowd. At far right is
Sue Kunitomi Embrey, Chairperson of the Manzanar Committee. Lower on page, the Manzanar Cemetary. Largely symbolic,
only a handful of internees were buried or remain buried here.
"He who forgets his history is doomed to relive his past mistakes." --George Santyana
Santyana's famous adage is often quoted but we largely ignore it. On September 11, 2001, America was heinously attacked, as it had been sixty years before. As before, people reacted with horror and grief at the death and destruction, and fear about the possibility of another attack. And, of course, anger at the perpetrators.
And again, as before, citizens were urged to pull together for the common good. Dissent and discussion became viewed as disloyal and unpatriotic. Our support was coaxed with fear and not reason. Yet the agendas of politicians and special interest groups still don't necessarily coincide with the national interest or with what is right.
This time, the politicians heightened our fear with endless talk of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The validity or proof of their claims took a back seat to the claims' ability to engender fear. Sadly, we forget these things all too quickly. The irrational, mad dash to the hardware store for plastic sheeting and masking tape is all but forgotten.
We believe ourselves to be the freest, most just, greatest society in the history of humankind. It is the favorite discussion topic of our politicians and pundits. It's much easier than facing hard truths that invariably end up hidden on the back page and forgotten. However there is an obligation that goes with this status. The rest of the world expects our means to be as honorable as our ends.
The Patriot Act in its present format allows the government to access your medical records, your library records, your web surfing, tap your phones, search your property, and detain you. It can be done secretly and without a warrant if the government deems it a national security issue.  Yet the public is largely apathetic about it.
The torture and abuse of prisoners of war under the euphemism of "coercion" has become widely reported.  Yet the public is largely apathetic about it. In fact, the CNN.com Quick Vote of May 3, 2004, indicated that 45% of respondents think that torturing prisoners can sometimes be justified. On the other hand, we have always been outraged when American POWs are ever forced to give more than their name, rank, and serial number, or are otherwise abused.
One of the most completely hidden stories is the death of tens of thousands of civilians, perhaps more , arising out of our preemptive war, its botched aftermath, and the ongoing insurgency. The politicians, pundits, and press refuse to discuss it because it's so horrific. Probably not one of these dead civilians had anything to do with the 9-11 attacks. Probably not many had anything to do with the evils of Sadaam Hussein either. We saw a lot of happy Iraqis voting on TV but a lot of others didn't get to vote on account of being dead. Our politicians say, well Sadaam Hussein was a lot worse. This is obviously true.
Yet we can never justify our own dubious deeds by saying that monsters did worse.
So, have we learned from the past and done a lot better than before? Maybe better, our racism has definitely diminished, but we leave a lot to be desired. Do we really believe that if we're heinously attacked, that anything goes? The lesson of Manzanar is how easily things can go out of control when we're in panic mode. We ought to consider this issue without the spin control and hype of politicians and pundits of either party.
The Constitution and Bill of Rights attempt to guarantee us individual liberties. Neither guarantees us a risk-free life. Consider that there are over thirty thousand deaths every year caused just by domestic criminals and drunk drivers.  Pretty much the same, year in and year out. Enough people every ten years to empty out a city the size of St. Louis, or Minneapolis, or Cincinnati, and no WMD is necessary. Yet we live our lives without being obsessed about it. We don't deprive ourselves or others of civil rights or life, as a preventative.
Suppose a terrorist succeeds in detonating an atomic bomb in an American city. Will the President declare martial law? Will large numbers of people who look like or worship like our enemies be rounded up and held without any due process of law? Will terror suspects be tortured to find out where the next attack will come? Difficult questions to answer, but there is one that is easy to answer: Will the American public be so angry and fearful that they would wholeheartedly agree with all of those measures? Absolutely, yes!
Our enemies can never defeat us on the battlefield. They understand that. Their goal is to make us change our way of life, change who we are, and become more like them. If they are successful, then they win.
"There are those in our own country, too, who today speak of the protection of country, of survival. A decision must be made in the
life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then it seems the only way to survive is to use
the means of the enemy, to rest survival on what is expedient, to look the other way.
"Only the answer to that is: survival as what? A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of oneself. It's what it stands for.
It's what it stands for, when standing for something is the most difficult.
"Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here in our decision this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the
value of a single human being."
--Judgment at Nuremberg, 1961 (movie and book) Writer, Abby Mann 
Colonel Ed Wakayama, born in Manzanar and whose father was forced to surrender his U.S. citizenship at gunpoint, was decorated for his heroism on September 11, 2001, during rescue operations at the Pentagon. 
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Please send us your comments.
Juliet Wong, Manzanar Committee:
Thank you for your thorough, thoughtful and truthful
article about the internment and its present effect on
how we deal with the challenges of staying true to our
democratic principals today.