Blog entry

This Place Matters
Join me in petitioning the FAA to stop the building of a fence that would block an important landmark in U.S. history

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When I was but a small child, my family and I were forced at gunpoint from our home in Los Angeles and spent years in two internment camps, first in the swamplands of Arkansas, and then into a notorious “punishment” camp in Northern California at a terrible place called Tule Lake, reserved for “disloyal” internees.

My parents were considered “disloyal” because of their answers to an infamous “Questionnaire” circulated by the U.S. government. This is the same government that had taken everything we ever had and sentenced us, without charge or trial, for the crime of looking like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. It was the most egregious of violations of our constitutional rights. So when the government asked my parents in the questionnaire where they would agree to serve in the army wherever ordered, and whether they would reswear allegiance to the United States after what it had done, they took a principled stand and answered “no.”

No: They would not repledge their loyalty to a nation that had broken its most fundamental promises to them and held them and their children for years in deplorable conditions. My father, though from Japan, had grown up in San Francisco. My mother, brother, myself and my sister were in fact U.S. citizens, born in California, but we had no rights either. We were all prisoners in our own land.

Tule Lake had a “stockade” concrete prison block where those who vocalized their opposition to the internment were held in solitary confinement and tortured. It was our own Guantanemo. Brad and I undertook a pilgrimage back to Tule Lake and visited the stockade, a sad but important reminder that when our democracy fails, any one of us could be its targets.

I have spent my life ensuring that we never forget, and never repeat, these mistakes of the past. The culmination of this work is the musical “Allegiance” which is coming to Broadway next year, which I hope many, many people will see. 

I recently learned, however, that the FAA has proposed to construct an 8 foot high, 16,000 foot long fence to close off the Tule Lake site, ostensibly to protect the airstrip (used primarily for cropdusters) along the campsite firebreak road. This fence, which is overkill simply to keep out wildlife such as deer, would prevent any visitors to the grounds of the former internment camp, include the infamous stockade. It would be a body blow to our efforts to keep this critical piece of American history, however blighted, from fading from our collective memory.

I ask, as a favor, that you join me in sending a petition to the director of the FAA, Michael Huerta, to stop the building of this fence. While many petitions never see the light of day, this one will reach the FAA, and the more signatures it has, the most the FAA will listen. You can sign the petition here. Thank you for listening.

– George Takei

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