March 8, 2007
Silence is not Golden
Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment
I always find it very curious when members of the United States Congress start meddling into the affairs of other nations.
Of particular interest to me, on this International Women's Day, is Representative Michael Honda’s Congressional joint-measure demanding a Japanese apology for the mistreatment and subjection of women as sex slaves during World War II.
It’s understandable that Rep. Honda (D) feels the need to speak on behalf of all those were mistreated and abused during WWII – as a child he was held captive in an American
concentration internment camp simply for being Japanese.
And while I have the utmost regard and respect for anyone and everyone who survived the atrocities of WWII, I do believe the old adage that when pointing one’s finger, one must always remember there are four pointing back at you.
Lest we forget, the United States government was also complicit in silencing a great number of people during WWII, including photographer Dorothea Lange, whose documentary photographs of US concentration camps were impounded and censored by the American government.
While Lange’s images of White American women certainly served a purpose during the depression, the suppression of her photographs documenting Japanese-American children living behind razor-wire in California certainly served another.
On this international day of recognizing women, I'd like to give a shout-out to one of last century's most important photographers, who was silenced by our government for simply telling the truth.
Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment
This indelible work of visual and social history confirms Dorothea Lange's stature as one of the twentieth century's greatest American photographers. Presenting 119 images (there were more than 800 in all - Rob) originally censored by the U.S. Army — the majority of which have never been published — Impounded evokes the horror of a community uprooted in the early 1940s and the stark reality of the internment camps.
With poignancy and sage insight, nationally known historians Linda Gordon and Gary Okihiro illuminate the saga of Japanese American internment: from life before Executive Order 9066 to the abrupt roundups and the marginal existence in the bleak, sandswept camps...
Impounded, with the immediacy of its photographs, tells the story of the thousands of lives unalterably shattered by racial hatred brought on by the passions of war.
I join Mr. Honda in demanding that the truth about mistreatment of women, children and families be spoken.
It’s important to remember, however, that the apology be uttered in English (and numerous other languages) as well as Japanese.
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Related: Federal prosecutors seek to muzzle a Washington D.C. madam from identifying her clients.
Her johns are, after all, some "very important people" in D.C. - and, according to our government, her (forced) silence is certainly preferable to big-wigs having to admit their own complicity in illegal activity.
Some things, it seems, never change.