December 14, 2015,
Dear Friends and Family of the Diocese of Eau Claire,
The first six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan was a dark time for our country. Americans watched Japanese soldiers overrun Indochina, the Malay Peninsula, capture Singapore and bomb Darwin, Australia. Most humiliating was Japan’s taking from the United States the Philippine Islands, Wake Island, and Guam. People in Hawaii and on the West Coast feared Japanese invasion. The situation brought forth one of the worst decisions in American history.
Urged by West Coast state officials, especially California Attorney General Earl Warren—a future Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. It allowed military commanders to designate “military areas” from which any or all persons may be excluded. The military areas came to include all of California and parts of Washington, Oregon, and Arizona. By the spring of 1942, 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent were removed from their homes and land. In most cases the states confiscated the land while the military forcibly moved American citizens into concentration camps in the Rocky Mountain states.
Few people objected to Executive Order 9066. J. Edgar Hoover, opposed the decision and called it the result of, “war hysteria.” First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt deplored her husband’s decision and spoke openly about mistreatment of Japanese Americans. The Los Angeles Times responded by saying the First Lady should be forced to retire from public life.
We live again in a time of fear. As we encounter repeated acts of terrorism, especially in connection with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, let’s remember the two most important documents of our nation. The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution are statements that recognize God cares about the dignity of every human being and government exists to protect individual rights. Together they advance the American dream.
These lofty goals were not accomplished in 18th century America. The European majority excluded African slaves and native Americans. Still, the ideal was proclaimed, and we have labored to make the dream a reality for all our people. We are most tempted to restrict freedom and curtail the dream in fearful times. We can’t repeat the nightmare of Executive Order 9066 or anything similar. When we hear of someone attacking any part of our citizenry, we should consider that we could be in the next group. Love drives out fear. In the name of our loving God, let’s do our part to live into the American dream! With my love and best wishes, I am,
Your brother in Christ,