George Takei (AP/Victoria Will)

George Takei invites Roanoke mayor who positively invoked Japanese internment camps to see "Allegiance," his play about them

"I am officially inviting you to come see our show," he said, "perhaps you will come away with more compassion"


Scott Eric Kaufman
November 19, 2015 9:49PM (UTC)

Many have condemned Roanoke, Virginia Mayor David Bowers for writing that, in times of historical struggles involving immigrant populations, the optimal philosophy is "better safe than sorry" -- and for using, by way of a positive example, the internment camps created for Japanese-American citizens after the bombing of Pearl Harbor -- but few have forgiven him, and of those none have done so with the eloquence of George Takei.

In an official statement released Wednesday, Mayor Bowers requested "that all Roanoke Valley governments...suspend and delay any further Syrian refugee assistance until these serious hostilities and atrocities end." He added that he is "reminded that Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then."

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In response posted on Facebook, Takei -- whose new musical, "Allegiance," is about attempting to locate and rescue family members from the internment camps -- noted that not only does Mayor Bowers lack the legal authority to make such a request, he demonstrated a "galling lack of compassion for people fleeing these same [ISIS] terrorists."

He also pointed out the gross historical errors in the mayor's statement, foremost among them that the "internment (not a 'sequester') was not of Japanese 'foreign nationals,' but of Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens."

"I was one of them," Takei added, "and my family and I spent 4 years in prison camps because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. It is my life’s mission to never let such a thing happen again in America."

Instead of attacking him for his ignorance, Takei offered to educate him, writing that "one of the reasons I am telling our story on Broadway eight times a week in 'Allegiance' is because of people like you. You who hold a position of authority and power, but you demonstrably have failed to learn the most basic of American civics or history lessons. So Mayor Bowers, I am officially inviting you to come see our show, as my personal guest. Perhaps you, too, will come away with more compassion and understanding."


Scott Eric Kaufman

Scott Eric Kaufman is an assistant editor at Salon. He taught at a university, but then thought better of it. Follow him at @scottekaufman or email him at skaufman@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

David Bowers George Takei Japanese Internment

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