FBI, FDR, ACLU, JACL, WRA. I’ll bet you’re preparing yourself for yet another commentary on The Evacuation, a dissection of the cap letter organizations that so influenced our history. Nah, let’s take a break this week.
Even I get disenchanted sometimes rehashing the wartime past [not really]. There’s got to be something else worthy of footnote besides the constant recreation of our own version of infamy, no? It’s a known fact CR2S never gets tired rehashing the past, especially if it includes crew cut hair styling, corduroy pants, starched dress shirts hanging untucked, canned wieners and sauerkraut and Glenn Miller serenades.
So let’s hear what reader Max Schnell has to say:
“[You] seem to not appreciate that young people can have valid memories, too. A friend has a granddaughter who is able to read at age 2 and also learned Spanish from looking at TV (parents are English speakers and do not know any Spanish). I have memories from age 3. I was 6 y.o. when we were sent to Santa Anita and have many memories from that time and in ‘camp.’ One’s self-worth was easily damaged in these formative years but I was able to mostly overcome them because of parents and culture.
“Fred Korematsu and others who fought against this injustice are heroes and some youngsters appreciate this, such as Matthew Shimura, 9th grade, Punahou School, Honolulu, HI., who won the 2012 C-SPAN Grand Prize (topic) ‘The Constitution and the Camps: Due Process and Japanese American Internment.’
“Horse, being a teenager without much of a future and little to lose, may have benefited from his experience but if you were an adult with a business or dental or medical practice and losing your home, career, etc. without any legal basis, it was a completely different story. I am deeply disappointed in your not understanding how much of a sacrifice men like Korematsu and a handful of others risked in having their views expressed.”
[First an explanation for using complete text and identity, which is not CR2S policy: The name, for one, intrigued as did his statement about being incarcerated at Santa Anita. Second, to remind letter writers short and to the point is the best formula. Only columnists have the privilege of being long-winded. Let’s respond to writer Schnell’s beliefs and revelations:]
Dear Max: Kudos to your friend’s daughter on her reading and language (suggest Chinese next) skills at such an early age and your memory retention at age 3. How your 6 y.o. self-worth was damaged at SA and ‘camp’ life later might be of interest to a psychologist. And congrats to master Matthew, a youngster immersed in Japanese American history rather than computer games. You’re a bit presumptuous where “Horse” is concerned, but he can defend himself.
As far as older Nisei are concerned, *I’ve talked to numerous collegians disrupted by the war, all of whom eventually graduated (somewhere); as well as responsible JAs who never had higher education as an alternative. *I’ve engaged in conversation with a slew of 100th and 442nd combat veterans, all denying any level of heroism, but many openly scoffing at the idea patriotism prompted their enlistment; a chance to get off the Islands or out of relocation camp was their incentive to volunteer. [*Note I don’t describe any as interviews. I learned early on talking with a beer in hand beat the whey out of holding a microphone, tape recorder or notepad when it came to unfiltered answers.] I’ve conversed with Tule Lake repatriates, Kibei dissidents and “No No” respondents to hear their stories. Nothing other journalists haven’t done, but not bad for a guy who wields chopsticks right-handed and shaves with his left.
Engaging in debate re: Fred Korematsu’s heroic community stature is fruitless. I readily admit my minority view is a pipsqueak compared to you and his other admiring minions. But please note: The legal team of Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui et al were responsible for the successful challenge of the Supreme Court. In defiance of the evacuation edict, Korematsu changed his name, tried to alter his appearance and hid from authorities to stay with a girlfriend. Cupid’s arrow didn’t pierce EO9066 and a lovelorn teenager wound up in federal penitentiary.
Eventually awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor by our president, he also has a state holiday named in his honor. Korematsu an example of Niseidom’s resilience and determination? I contend testosterone rather than democratic defiance. Without Hirabayashi and Yasui, there would have been no story. And what about the young lady who first challenged the constitutionality of the evacuation and failed? I rest my case.
W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.