January 30th is Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in California, Hawaii, Virginia, and Florida.
Mr. Korematsu is truly an American hero. We owe him a massive debt of gratitude for his willingness to fight for his country - even if it meant he had to fight his country. The horrifically unjust Japanese internment remains one of the great shames of this country, and he helped show us how wrong we were, and how we can be better.
I met Mr. Korematsu once, at a reception held in his honor at my law school in - I think - 2003. He was an elderly man at that point, and his health had already clearly been failing. But his sheer presence and fight was as obvious as ever. Even in his 80’s, he was still a badass. It remains one of the distinct honors of my life to have met him, and to have split a beer with his wonderful wife, Kathryn. Mrs. Korematsu, too, was a badass warrior for justice in her own right, after all.
In the 8 years since Korematsu Day was first established in California - by a Republican governor in 2010 - the need for such a day has never been so stark and so urgent. Three days before this year’s Fred Korematsu Day, and the same day as Holocaust Remembrance Day, our current President signed an executive order that’s effectively the start of a ban on Muslim immigration. Right wingers and Trumpkins will try to use weasel words to say it’s not a Muslim ban, but be real: it shuts off the flow of Muslim refugees and immigrants - even legal residents - from a number of countries, and it’s intending to be the start of one. Rudy Giuliani even admitted as much.
Setting aside the illegality of the order, its sheer stupidity, and how much it will help those who hate us recruit, I am convinced this order will be a significant chapter in the volume of shame in the vast encyclopedia of America's legacy. That order reflects the worst in humanity - fear and hatred of the ‘other’, lumping 99.99% of the good with the .01% of the bad, and putting political posturing and gains over the well being of untold thousands. The unholy union of sheer malevolence and the same dark place that birthed Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 in 1942 establishing Japanese internment birthed this order. The fact that so many Americans are already ashamed of this order is a cause for hope, but make no mistake - this is a stain on our national soul.
One of Mr. Korematsu’s last words reportedly were “I'll never forget my government treating me like this. And I really hope that this will never happen to anybody else because of the way they look, if they look like the enemy of our country.” I’m sure Mr. Korematsu would be ashamed of his country right now.
The question I have for myself is, what is the best way for me to fight, not just this order, but the battles that will be coming over the next 4 years of this presidency? I’m still sorting that out, and I have to admit to being scared. But I’m going to. I need to. I may not be half the person that Mr. or Mrs. Korematsu were, but I can learn from their example, and fight for my country by fighting it.