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Matinee: 'Manzanar: Their Footsteps Remain' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

21 November 2020

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 280th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Manzanar: Their Footsteps Remain.

This 3:46 video is a walk-through of the Northwind Arts Center exhibition of the same name. Running through Nov. 29, it features the photographs of Brian Goodman, who for 40 years has been returning to the site of the war relocation center to document what remained of the infamous incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Today is, in fact, the 75th anniversary of the day the camp closed. In a statement introducing his work, Goodman concluded:

Today, seventy-five years later, in the post 9/11 world that we live in, it's more important than ever that we look back at places like Manzanar and learn from our history. We must educate ourselves and teach our children to look beyond their fear, to be compassionate and tolerant. And we need to fight for our rights and the rights of our fellow human beings. As the Japanese phrase states, "Nidoto nai yoni -- Let it not happen again."

Yet, as we mark this somber day, we can't say we didn't let it happen again. Or even that it is not happening now. On our southern border.

It is a chastising thought.

Whatever we imagine ourselves to be as Americans, we have continued to fail to live up to that vision of this country as the "home of the brave." We are too easily manipulated by our fears. We put children in cages, we try to overturn legitimate elections, we look the other way at systemic injustice. Because we are, in a word, afraid.

Manzanar was a sordid episode in the history of this country, incarcerating a racial minority, two thirds of whom were American-born citizens, simply because we were afraid of them. Denied their freedom, they instead exhibited a bravery the rest of the country failed to find.

In 1943 Ansel Adams documented life in the camp in 200 images now housed at the Library of Congress.

"The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment," he wrote in a letter offering the collection to the Library.

Like Adams, Goodman photographed Manzanar in black and white. They are gorgeous shards of a broken history that, put together, tell a dramatic story.

As the video explains, after the camp was closed, it was demolished like the other concentration camps.

But you cannot erase history.

As Goodman shows in these powerful images, the footsteps of those who suffered there remain. In the land of the brave.


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