HORSE’S MOUTH: I Didn’t Do So Badly This Time

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA
(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on August 13, 2011.)

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Wednesday. I just came back from you-know-where.

Since I attended the Manzanar Reunion, I spent one more day in Vegas than I usually do. Three days is usually the longest I stay there.

I have to thank Grace Sakioka for inviting me to the reunion.

The turnout this year was down from the one I attended last year, but I would estimate that there were about 200 in attendance.

Even though I’m not a Manzanar person, I always enjoy going to their event because I meet a lot of familiar faces.

Heck, the first night I sat at the same table with Bruce Kaji and his wife along with Rosie Kakuuchi and her sister, Grace.

Of course, the second night I sat with Grace Sakioka, since she is the one who invited me and my wife.

I want to thank the emcee for introducing me to the audience. Yes, she called me the “Horse’s Mouth.”

Since I was a guest, I don’t want to be too critical of any segment of the two-day affair, but I was sort of confused by a pair of speakers who consumed about 30 minutes.

I guess they would have lasted longer but someone must have also felt they were on the stage too long because one of the committee persons went to the podium and they cut short their presentation.

So, what confused me?

The two participants were Caucasian ladies. When they started their presentation on the evacuation and JAs being placed in internment centers, I wondered to myself, “Why?”

Yes, I can see some Nisei speaker chatting about camp, but two Caucasian ladies?

And judging from their appearance, they probably weren’t even born when we were hauled off to camp.

I asked several people about their participation in the program, but nobody really could provide me with an answer as to how two “hakujin josei” were included in the program about evacuation and life in camp.

Oh well, since I am mentioning this, if they have another reunion some of the committee people might say, “Hey, don’t invite that clown Horse to another reunion. Let him go to the Heart Mountain get-together if they hold another one.”

Speaking of Heart Mountain, I was kind of surprised when I read the story in the Rafu that over 1,000 people will attend he event in Wyoming.

Wow! One thousand people!

Sure wish I could make it. I’m sure I would run into some folks I haven’t seen since camp days. Hey, that’s over 65 years ago.

What a sight that would be. Most of those who were in camp in those days are now in their 80s. That’s a lot older than our Issei parents were when they went to camp.

The names of guests who will be in attendance, as listed in the Rafu, is quite impressive.

I assume that someone from the Rafu staff will be covering the event since it is a major happening involving Japanese Americans.

If not, they can always send me. Heh, heh.

Since I am still staggering from my four days in Vegas, I looked around to see if I could find some column material that I can reprint and save myself from a few hours sitting at the keyboard of my computer.

I found one in my email sent to me by George Wakiji. I checked with the Rafu’s latest edition to see if it was published, but since I couldn’t find it, I hope it won’t be a repetition.

(Maggie’s comment: Mr. Y did not realize this article was in the Wednesday, Aug. 10, issue since he did not receive the paper prior to writing his column. Please forgive duplication.)

At any rate, the message is entitled, “Setting the Record Straight,” written by Gerald Yamada. It reads:

“In his National Director’s Report (Pacific Citizen, July 14-Aug. 4, 2011) Floyd Mori provided readers a narcissistic account of how the National Park Service grant program came to be authorized by Public Law 109-441. As national coordinator for the Japanese American National Heritage Coalition, I am compelled to set the record straight.

“Mori wrongly attributes passage of Public Law 109-441 to support from JACL and John Tateishi. The record shows that the National JACL Board initially voted to not join the Heritage Coalition and therefore not to support the Heritage Coalition’s initiative to create a new grant program to preserve the confinement site.

“When asked by a member of the audience about the initiative at the Arkansas All-Camp Workshop, Tateishi stated that he did not think the legislation had any chance of passing. Although JACL did eventually join the Heritage Coalition, Tateishi never returned any of my phone calls to discuss the legislation strategy.

“The record also shows that not a single communication went from Tateishi or Mori to the JACL chapters, asking them to support the legislation. Nor does the record show a single letter of support sent to a member of Congress by National JACL or a JACL chapter. At critical points, when I asked members of the Heritage Coalition to contact their senators and representatives, at every point, my friends in the D.C. JACL Chapter said that nothing was sent by the National to the D.C. Chapter about supporting the legislation.

“This lack of vision, leadership and support made JACL largely irrelevant to the successful passage of Public Law 109-441 and its implementation.

“Mori was right to say that Congressman Bill Thomas was extremely helpful in moving the legislation through the House. But Mori was wrong about what motivated Thomas. It is simply delusional to say that Thomas, a very conservative Republican out of Bakersfield, sponsored the bill out of ‘close friendship’ to Mori.

“Thomas, once an instructor at Bakersfield College, told me at our first meeting that he deeply regretted what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II. Thomas was the lead sponsor of the legislation that designated Manzanar at a National Park Service unit. Mori’s characterization of Thomas’ support would have allowed opponents to label the bill as ‘special interest’ legislation and thus kill it in the committee.

“Mori’s awkward attempt to enhance his personal history should not come at the expense of Japanese Americans whose hard work in fact produced the legislative success. Congressman Bob Matsui had agreed to be the lead Democratic sponsor but died before Thomas was able to introduce the Heritage Coalition bill in the House. Thomas then asked Congresswoman Doris Matsui and Congressman Mike Honda to join him in a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter sent to the House members asking for their support. It was this joint letter plus the over 200 Heritage Coalition letters that produced 114 bipartisan co-sponsors.

”In the Senate, Sen. Dan Inouye was the bill’s sponsor. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas was the lead Republican co-sponsor. Sen. Daniel Akaka was the ranking minority member on the committee with jurisdiction over the bill. Sens. Inouye and Akaka successfully opposed unwanted amendments to the bill and created the legislative history making all member organizations of the Heritage Coalition eligible to apply for the NPS grants. Today the Heritage Coalition numbers 33 national and local organizations.

“Public Law 109-441 is authorizing legislation. To implement the program, annual appropriations legislation is also needed. Every year Public Law 109-441 has passed, Congresswoman Matsui has taken the lead in sending out a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter asking other members to join her in asking the Appropriation Committee to fund the NPS grant program. Congressman Honda has been equally helpful but is constrained because he is himself a member of the Appropriation Committee.”

I want to thank George Wakiji for the foregoing. I’m sure many will find it of great interest.

Since the National Park Service was mentioned a couple of times in the foregoing, I should mention that going to the Manzanar Reunion gave me a chance to meet Alisa Lynch, who is with the NPS and is one of the key members of the Manzanar Project.

I met her last year when she wanted to do a “short interview” with me about my personal experience with the evacuation and life in camp.

She was such a charming person that our “short interview” lasted over two hours, but since our conversation was so interesting it seemed more like two minutes.

I’ve always wanted to get over to the Manzanar camp site, but I guess I can always blame old age for keeping me from making the four-and-a-half-hour drive.

Yeah, I know. Some of you will say, “Hey, if you can drive to Las Vegas, Manzanar is about the same distance.”

Well, maybe if Alisa can get some slot machines at Manzanar, the drive may not be that much of a problem.

Okay, I know what some of you are thinking.

That would be, “How did you do in the casino?”

Surprise, surprise. I didn’t make more than pocket change, but it sure is a heck of a lot better than coming home as a loser.

Contrary to what I’ve been hearing lately about “tight” slot machines, I found that they were a lot “looser” than on my previous trips.

Heck, a couple of times, people playing a few machines from me hit jackpots.

I had one fairly nice win that kept me on the plus side for the four days I spent there.

“That’s life,” as the old saying goes.

 

Another tidbit on the Vegas trip.

I met a gent who told me he knew of my interest  in horse racing and said he was the one who mailed me a copy of the book “Kokomo Joe,” the story of the first Japanese American jockey to ride in the U.S.

Since he said I didn’t write about his mailing me the book, he brought me another one to hand to me personally.

In fact, this copy had an autograph by the author of the book, John Christgau.

Thanks to the gent for packing the book in his bag to bring it to Vegas and give it to me.

A couple of short opinion pieces mailed to me by readers about my writing.

The first one read: “I like to read your jokes, but I was disappointed at one of them when you ended it with ‘I used to like Erick, the little SOB.’

“I came from Hawaii to Los Angeles in 1955. In the Islands, calling someone an ‘SOB’ is fighting words. We can take even the ‘F-word’ but it’s not as insulting as calling someone an ‘SOB’ in the Islands.”

This other short note touches on what’s correct in naming the camps we were sent to.

He wrote: “I like ‘war relocation camp’ rather than ‘concentration camp.’ I graduated from Heart Mountain High School and I think you were a member of that class.”

Yeah, I guess I did sneak in and graduated with the first class to receive diplomas.

Since the camps didn’t have the pre-camp records of those in the classes, I’m sure a lot of graduates were either previous graduates or still not seniors when they arrived in camp.

Just a thought.

Let me end with a moral:

An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing.

A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, “Can I also sit like you and do nothing?”

The eagle answered, “Sure, why not?”

So the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

The moral of the story: To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.

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George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

 

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