Visiting Manzanar

November 13, 2017

Eliza Clarke

When one thinks of the National Parks Service they may drift immediately to Yellowstone, Yosemite, or Arches National Park. However, it goes much further than that. Just a few other things included in their management are parks, monuments, and historic sites. This has become much more obvious the more we explore the American West.

Manzanar means "apple orchard." However, to certain people the word takes on a completely different meaning. Manzanar, California is a place where executive order 9066 allowed over 10.000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants to be held against their will. Many of these people were American citizens. Their ancestry and the United States' fear allowed them to become much more than that. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor anyone that looked Japanese became a threat as inside spies or conspiring. In reality they were small business owners, parents, children, or farmers trying to make it in the world. A total of 120,000 people of Japanese descent were held in camps all across the American West. Today we remember those who were betrayed, dishonored, and confined because of their ancestry.

Two rocks with plaques on the ground at Manzanar National Historic Site

Manzanar is a national historic stie managed by the National Parks Service. My experience at the site was extremely informative and personal. When wandering through the exhibits you see artifacts, photos, and personal family stories of survivors. The parks service does a great job displaying the injustice in an informative and productive way. With everything they may manage, I was surprised by the efficiency of the visitors center. There wasn't sugar coating or sympathizing with the oppressors like I expected a government agency to do. They obviously recognize and show no support of what happened there. Included in the visitors center was a gift shop, which seemed strange to be a part of the memorial. However, it was filled with propaganda against creating something like this ever again. It drew out the parallels between issues today and executive order 9066.

A memorial at Manzanar National Historic Site

A guestbook in the museum showed a window into the other visitors' experiences by leaving notes of condolences and urging to never let this type of discrimination be carried out by our country again. Let us learn from these mistakes.

Note on a table at Manzanar National Historic Site

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