Sunday, July 21, 2019

Do all lives still matter?

My friend Jane and I sat in our garden on a bench just before dusk, catching up on our lives. Jane, whose son is half Japanese, was telling me about the passion of  George Takei, the former Star Trek actor, who spent his childhood between ages 5 and 9 in a Japanese internment camp in the swamps of Arkansas, his family forced to abandon their belongings and start over with nothing on Los Angeles' Skid Row after the war. The internment camps that proliferated on the American landscape during the Second World War are often left out of history books and are seldom discussed by Japanese American families who see no reason to stir the shame they still feel at the way they were treated.

But now, George Takei sees a reason. At 82, he wants to make sure all Americans know what was done to some of its citizens. "This nation has a long and tragic history of separating children from their parents, ever since the days of slavery, " he says. "I have to tell this story before there is no one left to tell it." Takei's new graphic memoir, They Called Us Enemy, has just been released and next month he will appear in an AMC series, The Terror: Infamy, set in a Japanese internment camp.


As we all know, the internment camps are back with a vengeance. History doesn't repeat itself, I heard someone say, but there sure are sequels. Well, then, let's rewrite the sh*t out of this one. As a bumper sticker my cousin sent me the other day said:




11 comments:

  1. I was listening to George Takei speaking on NPR the other day and it struck me that I never would have dreamed, all those years ago while watching Star Trek that Sulu would end up being the voice of so many marginalized people. And such a powerful voice! Of course then, I had no idea he'd been in an internment camp. I may or may not have known what one was. And as to him being gay? The thought did not cross my mind. And here he is- speaking out so forcefully, so intelligently, so truthfully, so deep from his heart. I love him in some indefinable way even as I acknowledge how incredibly painful the truth he tells is.

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  2. I went online so I could order his book. I am on a waiting list but that is alright.
    I had no idea of his childhood and I also didn't even know about the camps until I was in my 40's. Yes we didn't learn about this in school. Never mentioned it at all.

    Thank you for your informative blog. I always learn something new... Have a great Sunday. Beth Reed

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  3. George Takei is just a gift to this country, so was Star Trek. Why can't we have that future? My husband knew about the internment camps because he is from Bainbridge Island, which had a large Japanese population. They raised strawberries. The islanders were decent people and kept the farms going and when the internees returned, they still had a way to make a living. In the Kent Valley and Bellevue, not so far away, Kemper Freeman managed to take possession of the Japanese land and built shopping malls. We have visited Manzanar several times, it makes a person weep to be there.
    This is an interesting book about Bainbridge.

    https://www.amazon.com/Defense-Our-Neighbors-Milly-Woodward/dp/0974951072/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=in+defense+of+our+neighbors&qid=1563730114&s=gateway&sr=8-1

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  4. Every so often we go through periods of nasty nationalism here too and during one of these in the 1990s, petitions made the rounds to outlaw dual citizenship. I was in town with my 14 yr old dual nationality daughter at the time. (Of course, these petitions are not aimed at blonde Irish-German teens but are always used as a way to discriminate against the Turkish/Kurdish/Muslim population here.) But my daughter walked up to the two upright neonazis with their clipboards and asked for their help in her best damsel in distress way, what should she do, cut herself in half, deny her father's or her mother's birthright, emigrate, cry herself to sleep every night, hide . . . she went on and on and even managed a dramatic sniff. The two guys became more and more uncomfortable and finally asked her to leave them alone. Hypocrites, idiots, nazis, she hissed and we ran.

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  5. the brutal truth is that all lives have never mattered in this country. only white lives.

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  6. Lives mattered if one was white, male, capable of breeding and making money. That is it and that is what the current administration believes and reflects. This country has never lived up to its ideals and it does not now.

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  7. I wish I had words that could express the angst and fear I feel. My extended family died in Auschwitz. I am a brown-skinned woman. I can only hope that 2020 helps to resolve this downward spiral of our country.

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  8. All lives matter. I don't know how tRump has managed to brainwash people, actually I do know, fear and scapegoating. It's the same recipe that's been used for centuries by despots.

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  9. What a beautiful shot of that tree, 37p.

    I think Ellen has put the whole thing into a short sentence.

    I was shocked when I learned as an adult about Japanese internment camps in North America (including in Canada, by the way). They lasted until well after WWII was over, and Japanese families were never able to get back their land and possessions in many cases. It wasn't even mentioned in our schools when I was growing up.

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  10. I think schools have become better about teaching the history of Japanese-Americans during World War II. (I know our school discusses it, for what it's worth.) It's great that Takei is telling the story and making people our age -- who didn't hear about that tragic history in school -- more aware.

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  11. Four years in the camp? I had no idea they were there that long. Thanks for the heads up, I will look for his book.

    And - they matter to me.

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