Karleen C. Chinen
In recent weeks, something World War II veteran and retired labor arbitrator Ted Tsukiyama told me — and other Sansei, I’m sure — has been on my mind. I’ve known Ted for many years and have had the honor and privilege of talking with him about his life experiences in the course of working on stories for the Herald and for the “Japanese Eyes, American Heart” series of books.
I have especially been thinking about Ted’s recollections of the days immediately after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. He said my generation would never know what it was like to be of Japanese ancestry in Hawai‘i in the aftermath of the bombing.
Ted’s right. My generation, and succeeding ones, will never know what it was like to be Japanese in those panic-stricken days of martial law blackouts and curfews and anti-Japanese hysteria when virtually all Japanese were eyed with suspicion; when men working at Pearl Harbor were forced to wear black badges that identified them as Japanese; and when Japanese American ROTC cadets at the University of Hawai‘i, who had protected Hawai‘i’s shores and key installations on that day of infamy, were suddenly expelled from the Hawai‘i Territorial Guard.
But recent acts of terrorism involving Muslin extremists — and the backlash from them — are giving today’s Japanese Americans a glimpse into what happened almost 75 years ago, when our Issei grandparents and Nisei parents feared for their lives and for the safety of their families.
We know from history that within hours of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack, among the hundreds of people arrested by the FBI and held without charges were leaders in the Japanese religious community, mainly Buddhist and Shintö priests, along with Japanese business and community leaders, Japanese language school teachers and principals and martial arts instructors. And, we know from history that many Japanese families in Hawai‘i and on the Mainland destroyed precious family photos and cultural treasures that had been passed down from generation to generation, fearing that having them in their possession would make them suspect as being loyal to Japan. And we know all too well about the injustice that was perpetrated against over 110,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast and some 4,000 here in Hawai‘i, who were imprisoned behind barbed wire fences for no reason other than their ethnicity.
Today, amidst the fear and outrage of the recent terror attacks by Muslim extremists in Paris, San Bernardino (California) and elsewhere in the world, I worry that we could be on the verge of repeating the injustices of the early 1940s. Hate crimes are already being perpetrated against innocent individuals and institutions because of their Muslim faith.
I understand the fear and apprehension we are feeling, because we don’t know if and/or where terror cells are lurking in our communities, as evidenced by the mass killings in San Bernardino. A few days ago, I wished my only niece happy holidays as she and her friend boarded a flight to New York City. She was excited — it was her first trip to the Big Apple. I told her to keep warm and take care of herself, but, above all, I begged her to keep safe. I know my family would have preferred that she spend Christmas at home instead of in a city that many view as a prime target for terrorists.
But we also know that nothing in life is guaranteed. We face risks every day of our lives. We try to minimize them with government rules and regulations and reasonable caution on our parts. But life is about living.
What we must not do, however, is repeat the injustices of the past. Progress means we have learned from the past so that we resist the temptation to repeat the mistakes by denying others of their civil and human rights.
In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, then-U.S. Secretary of Transportation and former Congressman Norman Mineta ordered the first-ever grounding of all civilian aircraft in the U.S. He also banned any heightened pre-flight scrutiny of Arab Americans and Muslims.
Recalling the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, including his own family at Heart Mountain, Wyo., when he was 10 years old, Secretary Mineta vowed to do all he could to keep Americans — and the country’s transportation system — safe, without repeating the mistakes of 1941 and 1942.
So, today, as all Muslims come under attack because of the acts of a minority of extremists, we need to reflect on our own history as people of Japanese ancestry in America and resist efforts to strip them of their constitutional rights as American citizens and legal residents of this country. If we fail to do that, we have learned nothing from our past and are endorsing the profiling of Muslims, just as Buddhist and Shintö ministers were profiled and targeted for incarceration in the hours and days after Pearl Harbor.
For years, “Never Again” has been the rallying cry at “Day of Remembrance” observances commemorating the anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066 — the internment order — on Feb. 19, 1942. Yes, never again . . . not to Japanese Americans, and not to Arab Americans or Muslims in America.
As we wrap up 2015, managing editor Gwen
Battad Ishikawa, advertising and promotions manager Grant “Sandaa” Murata, and Hawaii Hochi president and publisher Taro Yoshida join me in wishing you and your family a joyous and safe holiday season filled with love and special memories. We also thank you sincerely for your support of the Herald this past year. Okagesama de . . . we succeed because of your support.
And, now, onward to the Herald’s New Year’s