Having the 'face' of the enemy

As Japanese Americans learned during World War II, sometimes you only have to look like the enemy in order to be treated like the enemy. As Middle Eastern and South Asian Americans learned after Sept. 11, not much has changed in the last 60 years. "Face To Face: Stories From The Aftermath Of Infamy" offers reflections from both communities about how it feels to have the face of the enemy.

A production of the IndependentTelevisionService, this Web-only presentation was launched in late August, and is available in both HTML and Flash versions. (The latter version will launch automatically if you have JavaScript enabled.) The Flash production reveals 18 Japanese, and Muslim and Arab Americans recounting the days following the Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Each clip lasts a minute or two, and includes audio and a slideshow of black and white images of the speaker. As each clip ends, the next is launched automatically, mingling stories from the 1940s and from the past year – illustrating just how lamentably interchangeable the speakers' experiences have been.

Clips are divided into such themes as Aftermath, Fear, FBI, Being American, and Never Again. As each theme is finished, the next loads automatically, so it is possible to run the entire collection simply by loading the first Flash page. Visitors who would rather take more control of the presentation can simply click on a "+" symbol in the main window. This loads an interactive index grid that allows access to individual clips from each theme, after which the rest of that theme's entries will play unless interrupted. Another link also provides access to each participant's narrative in the form of a transcript, while tabs along the top of the browser window open pages with viewer responses, a glossary of Japanese- and Muslim-American terms that appear on the site, and suggested educational resources and lesson plans.

(If you don't have Flash installed, or choose to disable JavaScript for the faster loading HTML version, "Face to Face" offers the same features, although the personal accounts are now accessible from an index of the participants' names, which lead to text transcripts and audio-only QuickTime clips.)

Stories range from the fear of physical attack, to a child's embarrassment as an FBI agent reads her diary, to the unsettling revelation that the government has been watching you since long before any attacks on your country. One recipient of the 9/11 backlash compares social isolation to a virtual internment camp, while a survivor of the World War II camps appeals to Americans to not "let it happen again in 2002."

While "Face To Face" isn't likely to create a nationwide enlightenment, it should help on a smaller scale, by giving visitors a glimpse of what life is like when your face or your name is enough to mark you as an enemy.

Face To Face can be found at http://www.itvs.org/facetoface/.

Jim Regan is a graphic artist, writer, and humorist who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has been links producer for csmonitor.com since its launch in 1996.

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