Kristen Nemoto Jay
It’s quite unbelievable how the effects of war can have on everyone. Whether you’re a descendent of a soldier, a veteran yourself, or lived during the conflict, the tentacles of a war’s wrath is tight and affects us all.
In one of our feature stories, about Honolulu youth theater company and non-profit organization Ohana Arts, Laurie Rubin, the co-artistic director and lyricist of Ohana Arts’ “Peace On Your Wings” musical, said it best when discussing how war doesn’t just happen during the time frame that it’s occurring. That it has (when she spoke about nuclear warfare specifically) “… far-reaching effects and long-lasting suffering that spans several generations.” That no surrender or white flag puts a complete end to the suffering that war can cause. Today, nearly 78 years later since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki devastated hundreds of thousands of lives, Laurie, and co-founders Cari Taira and Jennifer Taira, hope to bring healing for this generation and the next; sharing love in the face of hate and despair, which will hopefully create peace among us all.
Our other feature piece, about Hawai‘i Uchinänanchu David Kaneshiro who met his Okinawan relatives for the first time, shares how connecting to our past can help us further understand who we are and how it may help lead us in the future. That despite the passing of the years, and the hardships that many families endured in Okinawa after World War II, there is still tradition and relationships to hold on to. Without both, David wouldn’t have a place in Okinawa to call home and memories and stories from his past would be long forgotten.
And finally our cover story about two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner, as told by her agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas, is a reminder to us all that behind the “truths” and assumptions from various media outlets are real people with real lives, real tragedies, real families with hopes and dreams; and in this case, real and direct results from political warfare. As Lindsay describes in detail that gender inequity for professional women athletes is one of the main catalysts that thrust Brittney to be playing overseas in the first place, she stated “we owe it to Brittney to ensure this history does not repeat, so that no other player, family or community will have to experience this again.” Lindsay’s grandparents, Nisei Americans who lived in Lodi, California, were forced to uproot their lives and move to the dusty desert of Rohwer War Relocation Camp in Arkansas after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Lindsay’s family’s history has shaped who she is today. While negotiating for women athletes to be paid and treated equally as men, she continues her fight for civil rights, especially those who are marginalized, and hopes to shed light on the industry’s perception of privilege and how we can all use that to better serve our community.
As I continue to watch and read about the war in Ukraine, I can’t help but feel the pain that comes with so many facets that war can cause. I’m reminded of my late grandfather who suffered from PTSD after his service with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II. I won’t speak for his children, my mom and her siblings, on how they think the war changed my grandfather and possibly them, but what I do know and what I have learned is that the repercussions don’t just stop with one person. In a way, I think I have the opposite effect of what war has done to myself and my family. Like many descendants of Nisei soldiers and veterans, I was barely told what my grandfather’s experience was like in the war. According to my mother and her siblings, Grandpa rarely talked about it. Like many, the pain was forced to remain internal so as to help shield loved ones from enduring the aftermath. It wasn’t until I was 28 years old, high up in the Vosges mountains of France when I finally got to know my grandfather. I was there for the 69th anniversary of the Bruyères town liberation and it was everything yet nothing like I thought it would be. I learned so much about my grandfather, the courage that he had to help liberate the town from Nazi persecution. I saw my grandfather’s compassion in the eyes of former Bruyères children, who were in their late 60s, as they described what it was like to hide in their basement while the “Hawaiian men” battled Nazi’s outside their homes. I cried day and night, everywhere we went throughout the beautiful town, learning more and more of what my grandfather and so many other men went through.
Like my grandfather’s, Ohana Arts,’ David’s and Brittney’s story, it’s important to share and rediscover what we learned from our past to understand how we can be better tomorrow. How we can set examples right now in the work that we put in to our lives so that our children and children’s children will be proud of us. Whether it’s connecting with our family’s history, creating a musical production or choosing hope in the face of despair, we each have the power to choose. Like many have done before us, let’s choose love over war; every time, in their honor.