What is the meaing of the last line of the poem "To the Lady"  "All are punished"?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yamada spends the poem describing the different responses that she could have had to the injustice of the Japanese being put into internment camps.  She goes over various possible reactions: protests, bomb threats, marches, "screamed bloody murder", "kicked them in the groin", "run off to Canada", "self immolation", and many other options.  Then she ends the poem with a profound statement, saying "You let 'em, I let 'em, all are punished".  In other words, the events in American history happened.  The anger over those events is real, it can be voiced in a variety of ways that she mentioned, but the reality is that it happened, everyone let it happen, and that's just the way that it is.  And, just as everyone let it happen, everyone takes the blame for it; everyone suffers.  It is an embarrassment in American history, we are all ashamed that it happened.  The Japanese suffered, yes, but everyone else suffers also because we have the weight of knowing that we let it happen-there is shame, guilt, betrayal, and heaviness in the knowledge of that weight.  We are worse people for it.  Hence, everyone suffers.

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