Thursday, September 11, 2008
Respecting History - Both Our Fears and Our Tears
"The great event Present hides the Past; but through the din
Of its loud life hints and echoes from the life behind steal in."
- John Greenleaf Whittier.
The illustration (on the left) is a artistically colored stock paper black and white photocopy of official US governmental identification from the World War II era once carried by my now deceased immigrant Japanese grandmother, Chiyo Yoshikawa.
My intention is to include it in a future family history art collage for private use. But above its special personal signficance to me this week, if offers food for thought on this day when we as a nation pause to remember the events and honor the lives lost on this historic anniversary of September 11, which my fellow blogger Lorraine Hart has eloquently recalled.
I was reminded only yesterday of this slip of paper while pulling through a pile of assorted items saved for possible blog ideas that yesterday, September 10, marked twenty-seven years since I volunteered to speak on a panel entitled "Impact on the Sansei" around the noon hour when the US Congressional Commission on the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) was held on September 10-13, 1981 in the auditorium at Seattle Central Community College, 1701 Broadway.
According to an article in the Seattle Times dated September 9, 1981 (Japanese Americans to testify on internment) "former internees are expected to testify about: loss of property during the expulsion, deaths and permanent disabilities due to inadequate medical care, mental breakdowns, suicides, financial losses, forced renunciation of American citizenship, and loss of educational and job opportunities" during three days of hearings at the college.
The article went on to note that the Commission held nation-wide hearings in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco before their stop in Seattle. Additional hearings were scheduled in Anchorage, Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands, St. Paul in the Pribilof Islands and Chicago, IL, which would include testimony "about military decisions and wartime "yellow journalism" calling for the ouster of all "Japs" according to the committee."
As we go about our day being mindful of the sacrifices that have been given to safeguard our freedom, I assert that it does not minimize, reduce or take away what pain, loss, or concerns we may have today. And as a direct descendant of two West Coast families (including my parents and their siblings who were all US born citizens) of Japanese-American heritage whose lives were upended after the bombing of the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor and subsequent events, it is by no means irresponsible to give an equal moment of sober reflection to the larger universal context in which the history of our nation and that of all humanity takes place.
(Note: For those who may be interested in reading more about my experience at the CWRIC hearings in 1981 click this link.)