Human Behavior and the Social Environment Term Paper

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Farewell to Manzanar

The intact Wakatsuki family consisted of Papa George Ko, Mama Riku Sugai, Bill the eldest, Eleanor, Woodrow or Woody and Jeanne, the youngest, who co-authored "Farewell to Manzanar (2001) (Sparknotes 2005)" with her would-be husband, James. Jeanne was born on September 26, 1934 in Inglewood, California. She spent early childhood with her Japanese family in Ocean Park where her father worked as a fisherman, until things began to change. This is the background of the autobiographic novel written by Jeanne and her husband, as she interpreted the events, the environment and the characters. Being born in the U.S., Jeanne has identified more with American culture and is the most independent of the Watsukis children.

On December 7, 1941, Japan staged a surprise night-time bombing of the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor in the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Its 360 airplanes destroyed 18 U.S. ships and 170 planes and 3,700 casualties. The surprise attack signaled the start of World War II. In the autobiography, Papa burns his Japanese flag and Japanese identity documents but gets arrested for questioning by the FBI and Mama and the children move to the Japanese ghetto on Terminal Island and later to Boyle Heights in Los Angeles with other Japanese families, hoping to keep ethnic ties with them (Houston 2001). Out of fear that Americans of Japanese ancestry would assist the attackers, then U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942 to authorize the military to transfer thousands of Japanese-Americans into relocation of internment camps as potential enemies of the government (Houston). The U.S. War Relocation Authority built these camps in March 1942 for them in California, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Arkansas. The best-known camp was the Manzanar Relocation Center near Lone Pine, California, which operated from March 1942 to November 1945 where more than 11,000 were kept, the Watsukis among them.

Manzanar is a barren, unfinished setting with tents and rows of barracks, with holes through which wind and dust come through (Houston 2001, Sparknotes 2005). The families are cramped in the camp and made to share badly prepared food, broken latrines, poor privacy, insufficient warm clothing for the winter and illness. Mama gets most affected by the lack of privacy in the use of the toilet. Jeanne describes how children and adults eat on separate tables, some members of the family assigned to another mess hall. Mama gets a job as a dietitian and Woody as carpenter while Jeanne moves around more independently. The year following his arrest, Papa returns as a dismal, wilted and defeated person who dismays his family, except the liberated Jeanne. At this point of the autobiography, Jeanne recalls being told that he was the oldest son of a samurai family and that at 17, he decided to leave Japan, then to work as a valet, cook, chauffeur, mechanic, enroll in law school and, later, marry. When she was born, Papa was into fishing and paying a percentage of his catch to buy a boat from a cannery when Pearl Harbor was bombed (Houston).

Living conditions in the camp are more cramped and worse when Papa returns (Houston 2001, Sparknotes 2005). He begins to drink and, in one occasion, threatens to hit Mama with his cane, during which a son, Kiyo, stops him. The violence and the defiance signal the splintering of the family. Other ties begin to shatter too, as illustrated by the December Riot that began with a young cook who was trying to organize a workers' union and a leader in the Japanese-American Citizens League who was associated with the camp administration. Both are killed during the Riot. Jeanne also relates her, her brother-in-law Kaz's and their companions' frightening encounter with inexperienced military men who mistake them as camp escapees.

That Christmas, internee families in the camp are given a tree and options for better treatment in the form of getting drafted into the infantry, return to Japan, or relocation away from the West Coast (Houston 2001). The last option required a sponsor, a job and a loyalty oath. Papa and Woody come into contention, with Papa standing loyal to native country and Woody expressing willingness to fight for America. In a meeting, the heads of households also accuse Papa of being a collaborator and a fight ensues and breaks his spirit even more.

Manzanar camp conditions ease somewhat when many families take relocation options (Houston 2001). The Wakatsukis transfer to a barracks near fruit trees, which they pick and store. Soon, the camp resembles a small town with its own school, churches, dances and even a softball team. Kiyo and Jeanne also attend high school and elementary school but all within the fence built around the camp. In the meantime, she drifts more and more from Papa. When she needs advice, she consults Mama or Woody, instead. By 1944, only the aged and the very young have remained in Manzanar. Woody has been drafted into the infantry. That December, the Supreme Court comes out with a ruling that challenges internment against the will of the local citizen and that it will close all camps within a year. The ruling does not excite the Wakatsukis who, by then, have no home to return to and are apprehensive about living in the West Coast. Most of Jeanne's siblings choose the East Coast, but hoping they would someday meet again, especially that June when the Japanese cities, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, were bombed and the War over by August.

Jeanne (2001) also writes about Woody's visit to the house of Papa's sister, Toyo, at Ke-ke near Hiroshima where she treats him royally and warmly, indicative of the warmth, sentimentality and gracefulness of the native culture. This is in April 1946. At this time, Papa buys a car and the family loads it with foods, beddings and other items for a return to Long Beach. But they find no records of his fishing boats. Mama has to find work in the canneries to support the family.

Jeanne (2001) recounts being in the sixth grade and humiliated and guilty about her lost years in the Manzanar camp. She succeeds in school but sees that friendships beyond it will be limited. She keeps the reality of her camp life from others. The Wakatsukis move to San Jose when Jeanne reaches senior year. She is nominated and then wins as Carnival Queen in school, something that distresses Papa as a threat to Jeanne's Japanese heritage but makes Mama feel proud about her.

Jeanne (2001) becomes the first Wakatsuki to finish college and the first to marry a non-Japanese. She continues to repress bitter memories of internment until she revisits Manzanar with her family. In that return, she cannot find even landmarks of the camp. She has outgrown the shame and guilt of imprisonment but keeps aware that traces of Manzanar will always remains with her.

At Point A, the Wakatsukis are intact while living in Ocean Park with Papa as a fisherman. They are among the thriving Japanese-American migrant-families of the place and period and Jeanne is a California-born citizen. When Pearl Harbor is bombed and Papa is arrested, Mama takes the children to live with other Japanese families, first in Terminal Island, then in Boyle Heights. Executive Order 9066 authorized the military to take them to relocation camps for internment. The family is among those brought to the Manzanar Relocation Center where living conditions are substandard and undignified. Family members are forced to different places for meals and solid ties are subjected to pressure (Wikipedia 2005). Papa is arrested and imprisoned at an interrogation center in Fort Lincoln in North Dakota and Woody takes over Papa's position as family protector. The separation has a shattering impact on the sturdiness of the Wakatsuki's Japanese culture. Papa left his samurai or warrior family in Japan to protest the declining status of the samurai. All his life, Jeanne writes, he has conducted himself with that style and dignity. The interrogators' accusation of disloyalty and spying at the time of his lengthy detention insults him vehemently and erodes the very vitality of that dignity.

Point B. begins with Papa's return to his family and the Manzanar camp but as a different man altogether -- gaunt, wilted and defeated by crushing interrogations. He drinks heavily and turns violent, exerting greater pressure on the original family strength. His own son, Kiyo, punches his father on the face to protect his mother, in the process straining family bonds even more. This frustration spills over to, or is shared by, the other families and people in the Manzanar camp during the December riot. Three men are arrested for beating up the leader of the Japanese-American Citizens League who is helping the U.S. government and two are shot dead by the military police that respond to the unrest. That same night, Jeanne, her brother-in-law Kaz and fellow workers are accused of sabotage by a patrol group. The U.S. government issues a…[continue]

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