Day of Remembrance–Executive Order 9066

Eighty-one years ago today, the United States government made the decision to order the immediate relocation and internment of all persons of Japanese origin, citizen or non. The victims of this order were given nearly no notice and told they could bring only what they could carry. They couldn’t keep properties owned or pack their whole houses up. They got suitcases, stuffed into transport, and hauled off to live in shacks in desert locations.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to say anything about it this year on this day. This is a subject I deal with a lot, I feel like I’ve made an error, though. In the beginning, two whole-ass years ago, I was a bit mum on the conditions and intentions around my US purchases and restorations. I think I was just anxious because this monster has teeth. While it would be completely bullshit to suggest that it’s the only thing that I work on, I do absolutely seek them out on purpose and I have been for nearly a decade.

In recent posts, you’ve seen me be more vocal about what it is I’m contending with, and being honest about the ache that comes with knowing what I’m handling. This change is because of a number reasons, but one of the major ones is because I realized what a mistake it is to not mention it much. My intentions were good, but they were severely misguided. You see, I didn’t want to stomp on generational trauma or be seen as treating it flippantly as a spectator, sure. I can be honest, that’s part of it. But it’s only part of it.

But the biggest part, the biggest mistake that I made was believing the monster was at least mostly dead. I believed it was dead or dying until probably about five years ago. And boy did I get a fucking wakeup call.

It’s not dead. It’s sleepy, maybe. This monster is alive, well, and it still has teeth. It has, will, and continues to outlive its survivors. And because it’s not talked about enough, the monster is eating those survivors.

It bares its teeth every time I meet someone who didn’t know that this happened, because in some regions in the United States (not every region), we aren’t taught about it at all. It bares its teeth every time I receive an antique kimono, bought stateside, that has been treated with contempt. It bares its teeth every time I hear some Chad McWhiteboi try to devil’s advocate and justify the internment.

Yeah, about that. Word of advice, Chad muh boi. If you’re gonna be a crappy human, just own it. But otherwise, the devil can actually advocate for himself and doesn’t need your short-sighted and poorly educated ass pretending for him. WWII was fucky in all aspects in the way that it involved regular citizens. Shipping US citizens off to concentration camps because some of them are born in Japan is fucked up because we champion ourselves as the victors and the side of good in the war. Except when we deliberately forget and refuse to mention things like…I dunno, the fact there were Nazi rallies at Madison Square Garden. You look my dead ass in the face and tell me where the “good guys” are. Select Germans and Italians had a three tier process of exclusion, removal, or internment with only just over 11,000 of them being incarcerated vs over 100,000 Japanese–70,000 of which were US citizens. And don’t fucking lie to me and pretend we don’t know why.

It has been my experience that some of you reading this will have learned some of these things for the first time here. It won’t have been because you weren’t interested. I’m sorry for that.

Here is a reality, though; the one I’m working with. A woman, an American citizen, is sitting in a poorly insulated shack in a desert winter. She’s made some warmer clothes for her children. Some of her family members are off fighting in the European Theater. She’s not allowed to leave. She’s lost most of her possessions, including her wedding dress. She remembers being so excited to come to The United States to raise her family in the home of the free. The free. She has committed no crimes, but they call her enemy. Shikata ga nai, her Issei parents say dully as they try to make the time.

In a nice house in the suburbs, an officer or soldier presents his wife with one of those Jap kuh-monas like the geesha girls wear. She cuts the hem because it’s too long! Are you sure this isn’t for a man?! It’s got samurai crests on it! And when she spills her coffee on the sleeves, she throws it in the washer to get it out. Ugh, now it’s all weird looking. It goes in a bag in the corner and there it stays. Until it comes to me on eBay or Poshmark or Etsy or whatever as a Geisha Princess wedding kimono.

It didn’t belong to another soldier. It was stolen from a citizen, someone just trying to live their life through the chaos. But they called them spoils of war; prizes. My paternal grandpa, who went to fight in the Pacific Theater, told me once, “Wrong is wrong, Rebecca,” as to why we don’t have “war prizes.”

I do, though. I have a growing collection wedding gowns, stage items, and festival wear which were once reduced to war prizes. Some have their names back now. Some are on their way. Some cannot be saved, but will be used to save others.

Quite recently I was asked if I ever try to find their owners. No, I don’t. It’s not for lack of desire, though. That’s a near impossible task that would take more resources than I’ve got. However, if someone were able to identify a piece in my possession with some modicum of proof of it having belonged to their family and wrongfully taken, I will send it home.

What else can I do? How can I personally best drive my foot straight into the testicles of the Executive Order 9066 monster? Just field goal kick it right in the goddamn goonch? Well, I can fix them. Give them back their names. Love them as they were meant to be loved.

Of course this stuff makes me mad. But I don’t think anything that was born in hate and anger can be fixed with more hate. Anger is just an emotion, and feel your feelings. But we fix hate with either love or annihilation. I choose to annihilate it with love. Because that’s what I can do–kick it in the fucking goonch with my whole heart.

If you’d like to help kick the monster in the goonch with your whole heart, visit and support these things:


Topaz Museum Home


And that’s basically all I have to say today. Hear the stories. Remember what was done. Support ongoing efforts to preserve the history. I’ll see you in the next entry.


One thought on “Day of Remembrance–Executive Order 9066

  1. Keep kicking that fucking monster in the goonch and fighting the good fight. I get all misty-eyed every time I think about how you came upon your great grandmother’s fuisode. What a treasure that it came home to you. Thank you.


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