The U.S. govt. orchestrated the internment process largely out of wartime security needs and racialized paranoia. Yet when it came to questions of loyalty to America, certain members of Jeanne's...

The U.S. govt. orchestrated the internment process largely out of wartime security needs and racialized paranoia. Yet when it came to questions of loyalty to America, certain members of Jeanne's family were very divided. How did her family express (or not express) loyalty to a country that was distrustful of them?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The question of loyalty to America strikes at the heart of Jeanne's family.  Their different opinions help to form how Jeanne will view her time as Manzanar as an adult, as well as how she will view herself in American society, in general.  On one hand, Jeanne's father reflects one aspect of the Japanese- American perception of America.  Jeanne's father was trusting of America.  He believed in it as he wanted to be a good American.  Yet, with his imprisonment in the wave of racialized paranoia, Jeanne's father changes. It tears at him and causes him intense and internalized pain:  "When your mother and your father are having a fight, do you want them to kill each other? Or do you just want them to stop fighting?”  Such a question is reflective of the intense pain that is the result of living in a country that was distrustful due to wartime security.   Jeanne notices this change in him.  He becomes "ill-tempered, alcoholic, and abusive."  From being a man of honor and belief, he devolves into a shell of his former self: "He didn’t die there, but things finished for him there, whereas for me it was like a birthplace."  Jeanne's father represents one part of the family's expression of emotion to a country that was distrustful of them.

On the other side of the coin would be Jeanne's brother, Woody.  The brother who is most paternal  expresses his loyalty to a country that is distrustful of his people by not internalizing it. Woody represents the younger generation in how he deals with the rebuke from the American people. Unlike Papa who internalizes such disdain as a part of his psyche, Woody keeps it as a distance. Woody becomes the head of the family when Papa leaves, and also joins the army.  In joining the war effort, Woody demonstrates his loyalty to his country that was not loyal to he and his people.

In both expressions, the entire spectrum of Jeanne's experiences were displayed.  Jeanne struggles with post- war identity issues that arise from how to exist in a nation within a nation that was distrustful of Japanese and Japanese- Americans even after the war.  She recognizes there is a fundamental need to repel these paranoid reactions, as Woody demonstrates, but she also internalizes them, as her father did: "As I came to understand what Manzanar had meant, it gradually filled me with shame for being a person guilty of something enormous enough to deserve that kind of treatment.”  It is for this reason that everything in Jeanne's life "comes back" to Manzanar in one way or another.  It reverts back to Manzanar because it comes to represents what it means to be an outsider in both social and psychological terms.  This is where Jeanne recognizes that her family's expression of loyalty, or lack of expression, to a nation that was distrustful of them plays a significant role in her identity.

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