It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Here is a movie about people who insist they are Americans, even when small and evil-minded people in power would treat them as if they were not. Most of the characters in "Come See the Paradise" are Japanese-Americans who were thrown into prison camps at the outset of World War II, even though there was no evidence that they were less patriotic, less "American," than members of other ethnic groups such as the Germans or the Italians. Their imprisonment was essentially racist, translating into laws that said they were not entitled to the same constitutional rights as their fellow citizens.
Another character in the film is an Irish-American who is a left-wing labor organizer. He gets involved in a stupid and illegal action against a movie theater chain, flees from the East Coast to the West Coast, and changes his name. But he cannot change his ideas, and after he gets a job in a fish cannery he is soon supporting the right of his fellow workers to strike. That means he, too, is not an "American" - at least not in the eyes of the company goons.
Although we make much of our tradition of freedom in this country, we are not so clever at understanding what freedom really means. Even our president, for example, cannot understand that among the rights symbolized by the American flag is the right to burn it - or honor it, if that is our choice. I have always wondered why the people who call themselves "American" most loudly are often the ones with the least understanding of the freedoms that word should represent.
When the country is threatened, our civil liberties are among the first casualties - as if we can fight the enemy by taking away our own freedoms before the enemy has a chance to. That is what happened in the early days of World War II, when a wave of racism swept the Japanese-Americans out of their homes and businesses, confiscated their savings and investments, and shipped them away in prison trains to concentration camps that were sometimes no more than barns and stables. Later on some of these same Japanese-Americans fought with valor in the same war, perhaps because they understood better than their captors what they were fighting for.