LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: A Response to Filmmaker Neil Simon

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Editor,

This is in response to Mr. Neil Simon’s letter of April 17. Because so few — other than academics and researchers — know about the Department of Justice (DOJ) camps and their connection to the Tule Lake Segregation Center, the film “Prisoners and Patriots,” may seem informative and even playful since the Santa Fe DOJ camp is portrayed as a fun place.

This is exactly why this film is misleading and riddled with misinformation, further muddling an already complex issue.

Several prominent academics, researchers and psychologists have shared their misgivings with Mr. Simon in private. It is curious why the filmmaker hasn’t taken their suggestions to heart and continues to defend himself.  Is it because the filmmaker wishes to see things in black and white?

For example, the film stresses that it was the Buddhist and Shinto priests who were the most dangerous elements of the Japanese American community, ignoring or only mentioning in passing that the U.S. government had also picked up fishermen, business leaders, journalists, educators and martial arts teachers.

The filmmaker also fails to explore the issue of loyalty. Any immigrant is going to have feelings for their mother country, but does that make them a potential threat? In a simplistic analogy, if a Canadian moved to Los Angeles, should we force this person to switch their hockey loyalty from the Vancouver Canucks to the L.A. Kings?

And rather than research the psychology of the Kibei, the filmmaker took the easy route and depicted the Kibei as the “troublemakers” who were sent to Santa Fe, while the rest of the population were the “good” Japanese.

At the JANM showing last Saturday, three or four people shared that either their fathers or grandfathers were at Santa Fe and their experiences were not as positive as depicted in the film. Is the filmmaker going to ignore these comments because it does not fit into his black-and-white thesis that Santa Fe was a good place to be?

Prominent psychologists within and without the Nikkei community have been studying the psychological impact of camp on the prisoners and their children. When the filmmaker only got responses that Santa Fe was a good place to be, why didn’t he research such issues as the Stockholm syndrome, which describes the seemingly contradictory phenomenon where the victim empathizes with the abuser? Patty Hearst’s support of her captors, the Symbionese Liberation Army, is a good example.

But the most important issue the film fails to tackle is the human and civil rights violation of indefinitely detaining the Issei without charge and the constitutionality of Congress passing a law to strip U.S. citizens of their birthright.

Again, the filmmaker needs to take to heart all the suggestions he’s been getting from the experts in their fields.

Martha Nakagawa

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