Euphemisms that Feed on Silence

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By KAILA YOSHITOMI

Words are the expression of the mind
Flowing through our bodies
Taking a memory, an experience
And painting a picture
For a stranger

You see that memory in your mind and you describe your feelings
The surroundings, the smells, the details
Down to the very crimson of the lipstick your mother was wearing
The path that the tear fell across her cheek
The smell of your father as he holds you close
The sound of his voice telling you that everything is going to be okay

But somehow the only lasting memory that makes it
Through the test of time
Are the ones of baseball and dances
Of art and childhood friendships forged not in playgrounds and classrooms
But from behind barbed wires and staring down the barrel of a gun

Somehow the picture you painted in your mind was altered
The words you carefully chose to describe your memory
Were replaced
Somehow the pain of being an enemy in your own country
The hurt of being called a JAP

Was somehow okay
Because the delusion of the good ol’ “Camp Days” lives on
And reality pushed aside
People have pushed the hurt aside, buried it deep
As if it never happened
Covered with delusions of happiness

This was OUR past, softened around the edges with euphemisms
Today it’s upon us to bring those memories back into focus
We are the masters of our history
Not to change it, or push it behind us and into the margins
But to use the power of words to immortalize the darker parts of this country’s history
Because if we let it be forgotten, we are as guilty as those who stood outside the barbed wire fence and said nothing.

Presented at the Power of Words workshop at the 2012 National JACL Convention in Bellevue, Wash.

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