Last week I was fortunate to be able to see the Broadway sensation Allegiance. A taped performance was available for screening on December 13th, which was an opportunity I simply couldn't pass up. And boy, I'll tell ya - I'm glad I saw it.
Growing up in Seattle, the internment of Japanese Americans was something we covered in school and we knew kids whose grandparents had been interned. Internment isn't talked about enough, but it is something people grow up knowing. In grad school I was surprised to learn from my fellow expats how little other regions of the U.S. cover internment in their public school curriculum. It's easy to forget, in this connected world, how large America really is and how vastly different our experiences of past events have been. Last year, while living in Klamath Falls I experienced the history of internment on the other end of the process. Just a few miles away is Tule Lake, the site of a hard labor camp designated for "no-no's". The Klamath Falls community experienced Executive Order 9066 from a completely different perspective than their contemporaries in Seattle or San Francisco.
With all this in mind, I watched George Takei, Lea Salonga, and Telly Leung tell the story from a perspective I have never and will never fully comprehend - that of the interned. The show follows the story of a family which is forever changed by internment and attempts to portray the immensely broad experiences of Japanese Americans during WWII. The writers did a wonderful job of exploring the roles of patriot/rebel, oppressor/oppressed, and bravery/cowardice. Every character comes through this story changed in meaningful ways.
The show is phenomenal. I literally cried, more than once. As a privileged individual in America it can be very challenging to understand how oppression impacts the lives of the oppressed. Allegiance does a great deal to address this misunderstanding and shed light on a subject which still brings shame to our nation. If you find yourself in the position to see this show, hear the story of an interned person, or visit the site of an internment camp - do it. The more we expose ourselves to the pain and hurt of history, the better we can help each other heal.
Unfortunately, this is still very much a relevant issue today. Registration and forced incarceration of American citizens is a BIG DEAL. It has happened before and we must ensure it never happens again. Not ever.
Allegiance Wikipedia Page