(Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt of a statement released by the Japanese American Citizens League on “Allegiance — A New American Musical.”)

WASHINGTON — The Japanese American Citizens League is the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States. JACL commends the producers and writers of “Allegiance — A New American Musical,” which premiered on Sept. 19, for promoting an increased awareness and interest in the Japanese American experience during World War II.

The fictional story is roughly aligned with the treatment of Japanese Americans following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Much like the 120,000 Americans and immigrants that were incarcerated by the United States government, the characters experience many of the emotional issues faced by the Japanese community after their forced removal from the West Coast and placement in illegal detention centers. The government’s program, which many historians attribute to Gen. John DeWitt and authorized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, caused deep divisions in the community. As the confinement of the community lengthened with no access to due process, there was heated disagreement on the best response to the injustices perpetrated by the government.

The incarceration created deep psychological wounds that sadly, still persist today. Although veterans and resisters are represented in the musical by fictional characters, it is unfortunate that writers have used Mike Masaoka’s name to represent those who promoted Americanism, and portray them in a negative light.

“Allegiance” portrays the experiences of a single family at Heart Mountain, and focuses on one perspective of JACL and Mike Masaoka. Concerns remain that the musical pieces together different elements of Masaoka’s contributions during the period, and lacks the historical context to give audiences a broader sense of the external role of the government, press, politicians, military advisers, and others.

“Allegiance” is a reminder that Japanese Americans exhibited many forms of patriotism during World War II. There were patriots who volunteered and served in the U.S. armed forces with extraordinary courage and honor. There were patriots who challenged the government to provide the due process and civil rights promised every American. There were patriots who supported and contributed to the war effort that defeated the Axis powers. These Americans demonstrated loyalty in their own personal way. It is time to embrace the difficult choices each individual made to be a better American, and create a better America.

The lesson of World War II is a difficult pill for many Americans to swallow. JACL, as a national advocacy organization, has worked to ensure the lesson is not lost. JACL shares the conviction that is central to “Allegiance” — that the circumvention of constitutional rights should never be repeated again.

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