I’m working on a new feature film called Executive Order 13800. It’s a film that asks the question, what if what happened to Japanese Americans seventy-five years ago during World War 2, happened today to Arab and Muslim Americans?
I started working on this project with my friend and writing partner Mustafa Rony Zeno about a year ago. But we abandoned the project because it felt too far-fetched at the time. However, the day after the recent presidential election, I called him and told him that we needed to drop all the projects we were doing and start working on it again.
Executive Order 13800 follows an Arab American family after two 9/11 type terrorist attacks within less than a month of each other. President Trump issues Executive Order 13800, which gives the family two weeks to pack up their things and report to a government location. The film follows the family during those two tumultuous weeks as their worlds completely flip upside down and as they begin to lose their civil rights—things such as a curfew laws, not being able to gather in public, etc.
Although the above events are fictional, they are pretty much what happened to Japanese Americans following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and 1942.
I’ve dedicated my life to telling the Japanese American story. For those who know don’t know me, I spent almost thirteen years at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) doing tours, exhibitions, and public programing around the “internment” camps.
But it’s more personal for me. My dad’s side of the family was incarcerated at Sand Island, Hawaii; Topaz, Utah; Tule Lake, California; and Crystal City, Texas for the duration of the war, plus a few years. Just like the other 120,000 other Japanese Americans, their only crime was looking like the enemy. It should be noted that my entire family were American citizens.
My family was so traumatized by what happened no one really talked about it. When I was young, my father told me a few stories about when he was at “camp.” But what I remember most was his trauma. Even though he was so young at the time these events occurred, I could see the pain in his eyes and knew it was something that he would never be able to forget.
It is the memory of my father’s eyes, that pushes me to try to get Executive Order 13800 off the ground—despite all the Internet Trolls and frankly racist comments that I’ve seen since launching this campaign. Because almost no one or group came to my father’s defense so many years ago, I realize how important it is that I be a voice. I need to remind people what happened to my family seventy-five years ago to prevent it from happening to anyone else ever again—today it’s Muslim and Arab Americans, but who knows who our “enemies” will be tomorrow? In fact, I tell my toddler that we have a moral responsibility to speak out.
Do I think what happened to Japanese Americans would actually happen to Muslim or Arab Americans? A year ago, I would have said it was a long shot. Today, I’m not as sure. And let me be clear, this isn’t just because Trump was elected president. There has been rhetoric on both sides that have been disturbing.
No one else can or wants to do this project. That’s why we are depending on YOU. We need fifty thousand dollars to make this cautionary tale a reality. Please take a moment to visit our Indiegogo campaign and consider making a donation.
To read my family’s story, please visit my earlier article, United States Vs. Takaichi Sakai.
Follow me at @ksakai1.