Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Editor’s note: We continue Michael G. Malaghan’s serialized historical novel, “Picture Bride — A Family Saga,” based on the Japanese immigrant experience. Malaghan’s trilogy takes readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond.
The novel, which is now available as a printed softcover book, opens with 12-year-old Haru-chan, fleeing her home in Amakusa, Kyüshü, for Hiroshima, where she becomes the picture bride of a Buddhist priest in Hawai‘i.
Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Georgia and Japan.
A full moon was rising into the embers of the sunset when Taka returned to the Hochi. He walked to his desk, rolled a sheet of paper into the typewriter and began striking the keys.
The Governor Had No Choice
By Takeshi Takayama
Four murderers walked free today. Governor Judd did not pardon them. In fact, he validated their guilt. And yet, he commuted their sentences. It does not seem just: one hour for a killing that has torn apart the fabric of our island.
However, if I were the governor, I would have made the same decision in an effort to stop the escalating trauma that is tearing apart our society and might have led, if riots ensued, to military rule of our Islands. No one — haole, Hawaiian or Oriental — wants that.
Taka continued to make his case of the likely consequences of “attempting,” as he phrased it, to take the convicted killers from Navy custody and place them in Hawai‘i’s prison.
* * *
“This is your best yet, Taka,” beamed Makino. “You are going out like a champ.”
Taka raised his eyebrows.
“Get back to your lessons. When you graduate, you have a job here.”
Makino paused. “Have you given any thought to what I said about the law?”
“Yes, sir. Watching Kelley and Darrow convinced me your advice was good. But I’ll need a year or so of work after graduation before I can think of law school.”
“Don’t be too sure about that. You know Hung Wai Ching?”
“Sure, the popular director at the YMCA. I’ve played ping-pong with him. Never beat him,” smiled Taka. “I hear he’s in Boston getting a divinity degree.”
“He and I have a group of businessmen who look for young men with promise, young men like yourself. We help them get advanced degrees if they are willing to give back to the community.”
Taka was dumbstruck, unsure of what to say.
“Keep your grades up. Wai Ching will be back in a month. This Massie thing will be behind us. Let’s have a chat then.” All Taka could do was nod his head.
“Off with you now,” said Makino. “Study hard and make your mother proud.”
Taka left the Hochi press room with a heavy heart, but not because it was his last time there. A powerful realization struck him as he biked into the night. He had made the case for the haoles, the ruling class.
At some level, he had accepted their designation of him, a nonwhite Buddhist, as someone of a lesser class. He had agreed without thinking too much about it. It was just the way of life in Hawai‘i. And such a life was not all that bad. After all, he lived in a nice home, went to the university and now, maybe, was on his way to law school.
Yet, no matter how hard he worked, neither he nor any Japanese American would ever be appointed governor or elected mayor. He had always accepted a certain fairness of such an arrangement without examining it. The haoles had developed Hawai‘i into an Island paradise and an agricultural powerhouse. Our parents never wanted to replace the whites; they came to Hawai‘i just hoping to better their economic lives or, like my father, to serve the people who came here for that purpose. We accepted these conditions.
What the trial had done, he figured, was expose the fear of the white community. We have not asked for equality, never really thought about it all that much. We were not revolutionary Bolsheviks. But there are so many of us and so few of them. He thought of the stories of how slaveholders slept with guns in their bedroom, fearing an uprising. So many slaves — so few whites. We are not slaves, but the numbers are the same. There will be no uprising. No burning of homes. But some day, we will be the voting majority. The underclass will choose.
That is what this trial was all about — the right to rule. This Massie woman had turned a subterranean fear into racial animosity. This woman turned what might have been a gradual change, like the frog in a pan of water set to boil, into a jarring awareness that their “God-given” right to rule might be challenged.
A good subject for a column, he thought as he parked his bike by his dorm. But no, his writing days were over. There would be plenty of others giving their own broader meaning to these trials. He would stick to spirited dorm debates and great breakfast discussions with his family.
Back to those poli-sci notes . . .
“Weeds are sneaking into the roses, Okäsan . . .” said Kenji gently as he entered “her” tatami room and sat down on his haunches across from Haru. A cool breeze fluttered through the open louvers.
School finals were in full swing, so the house had been empty and quiet the past few mornings. But the noisy mornings would be back in a few days.
“I just don’t have that morning energy,” Haru said slowly.
It had been three weeks since the four murderers had been set free. She recalled telling Taka that the governor did what he had to do. Her son agreed and made a good case for the commuted sentence. She was proud of him. But, coming from a Japanese, the column had set off a firestorm of debate. Letters to the editors of all the local newspapers, not just the Hochi, either attacked or supported him. At Sunday service, congregants approached Haru: “How could he side with the haoles?” or “He did a brave thing. We need to put this behind us.”
And so the Islands’ wounds began to heal.
But not Haru. While she agreed with Judd’s decision, knowing it would quell further conflict, she knew in her heart that it did not live up to America’s high ideals of justice and equality for all. In the end, the four murderers went free. Forever. Sentence served. The minority ruling class had won. There is no real justice for Hawaiians and Orientals, she thought. And the Immigration Act of 1924 was put in place to keep it that way, at least for now, at least for her generation.
Haru knew she needed to weed the failing roses, wash the clothes in her overflowing laundry basket and scrub away the grime building up on the kitchen floor. But she couldn’t. Not today. She just did not have the energy.
“Maybe later, Otösan. I’m tired. After a nap, I might feel better.”
“Wakarimashita,” said Kenji, although not at all sure he understood. “I have to go to the Fort Street
Hongwanji this afternoon.”
To be continued . . .