Japanese American families are given a number to wear on their jackets as armed American soldiers order them to leave their homes. The young children hold tight to their parents’ hands. They are filled with feelings of fear and uncertainty as their families are put onto trains and buses that will take them away from the homes they have established to live in guarded, fenced prison camps. The United States government sent Japanese Americans to prison camps because of fear and hatred for the Japanese people after Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The surprise attack killed 2,335 American military men causing America to declare war on Japan. (Sakurai 4) Many Americans felt hate toward Japanese people because of the attack. Even towards their fellow Americans who were Japanese and living in the United States. Americans felt that they had a right to have fear and hatred toward the Japanese because their surprise attack took the lives of so many American military men. The Japanese Americans had done nothing wrong, but because they had Japanese ancestry and looked like the bombers of the Pearl Harbor attack, people became prejudiced toward them. Just as John and Elizabeth Proctor were targeted for being associated with witchcraft and were unfairly persecuted, the Japanese Americans were persecuted because of fear, paranoia, and hysteria. Fear can cause people to overreact, persecute and intimidate others who are “different” in situations like these.
In 1941 there were about 160,000 Japanese Americans living in Hawaii. Another 125,000 were living in other States, most in California. More than half were born in the United States and were good American citizens, but after the Pearl Harbor attack, other Americans thought they looked like the enemy. This caused strong feelings of fear. They were thought of as a possible danger to America. Japanese Americans were taken from their homes to be questioned. Many times a member of a Japanese American family would be taken away and the rest of the family had no idea when or if they would be coming back. A few weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, many U.S. citizens feared that there would be another attack by the Japanese. They believed that Japanese Americans could be spies, so thousands of Japanese Americans were arrested and put in jail. (16) In The Crucible, fear caused Abigail and other girls to blame innocent people and put them on trial. They were questioned by friends and family, put in prison and some were killed. People feared that they were under the devil’s influence. In both of these situations, fearing for their safety was one of the biggest factors leading to mass hysteria. When Mary Warren said, “I can lie no more. I am with God, I am with God” (Miller 107). Mary decided to lie and go along with Abigail and Tituba and she admits that she was lying. This is an example of people going along with mass opinions and shows the mass hysteria in The Crucible. This also relates to the Japanese Internment camps because many people lied and went along with what everyone else was doing and that led to 120,000 Japanese Americans being targeted and locked up (Stanley 27). In both situations, there was nothing to prove that they were guilty of being an enemy, and out of fear, the people overreacted causing innocent people to be put into prisons.
The Japanese Americans were being targeted by the American Government. President Roosevelt signed an executive order that caused Japanese Americans to be restricted to staying in their homes and they could not travel. (Sakurai 12) Soon all Japanese Americans were ordered to report for registration and to be moved to a prison camp. Tags with a family registration number had to be worn on their clothes at all times. They were moved into little shacks inside the prison camps and were locked up. Japanese Americans described it as humiliating to be put in prison and to be suspected of being a traitor (20). Just like fear, intimidation was also another big reason for the hysteria to spread through the masses of people. Abigail’s intimidation and control over the situation were another cause of hysteria in The Crucible. Judge Danforth would question Abigail and ask her if she was telling the truth. Abigail would accuse him of working with the devil, intimidating him, and this caused the judge to listen to whatever she said. 'Let you beware, Mr. Danforth. Think you to be so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits? Beware of it!' (Miller 113). With everyone concerned and in havoc over Pearl Harbor, suspicion over the Japanese Americans was rising and many citizens wanted them gone. They both lost their freedom and their constitutional rights. They lost what it meant to be an American. Both of these examples are of loyal, law-abiding citizens who become prisoners in their own country. In both, The Crucible and the Japanese internment camps, intimidation was used to force powerful leaders like the judges and the President to give in to the demands of the masses and go along with the hysteria. After all the trouble that was happening to the townspeople of Salem and the Japanese people, the people in power started to realize how everything was getting out of hand.
Even after being treated so unfairly, the Japanese Americans still felt a strong loyalty to the United States. They were described as respectful people who were not the type to rebel and act out against government leaders. The Japanese Americans agreed that they should cooperate with the government. They thought that was the best way to show their loyalty and that they wanted to help their country. Their choice to cooperate eventually paid off and the people in the U.S. saw how wrong they had been treating the Japanese Americans. To try to make it better, the United States congress gave the Japanese some money to get their lands and businesses back (Sakurai 34). In The Crucible, the leaders and judges started to see that all the hangings and people being thrown in jail were getting out of control. As a way to make it better, they tried to have people confess to witchcraft to end the whole thing. “I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another. I have no tongue for it.” (Miller 148). Proctor confesses to having an affair with Abigail but will not accuse anyone else.
The Crucible from 1692 and the Japanese Internment camps of the 1940s occurred hundreds of years apart from each other but both are examples of sad and embarrassing times in United States history when innocent people were treated wrong because of fear. The fear caused people to listen to rumors and led to mass hysteria. We can see this type of hysteria and persecution continuing today when there are bans put on groups of people that the leaders of the country feel fear. It causes bad or thoughtless decisions to be made. As we have seen in the past, these types of decisions end up being regretted and stopped. The Salem witch trials and the Japanese Internment camps both showed how hysteria and fear can bring out the worst in people and cause them to act out and intimidate the people who may seem “different” in their community who in reality, are fellow citizens of their own country.