July 30, 2014

VID: George Takei TED Talks Internment

Why I love a country that once betrayed me
via: TED
Haiku: Internment by Yellowmenace
Melt in & forget
Nails sticking up get hammered
I dare 2 stand proud
   When he was a child, George Takei and his family were forced into an internment camp for Japanese-Americans, as a "security" measure during World War II. 70 years later, Takei looks back at how the camp shaped his surprising, personal definition of patriotism and democracy.

   I found this talk very moving bc I am a 4th generation Japanese-Canadian. At the same time, I think George Takei is also pitching the idea of a film about the 442nd reg. A film I'd be interested in seeing & supporting if it became a kickstarter project.

   On February 24, 1942, an order-in-council passed under the War Measures Act gave the federal government the power to intern all "persons of Japanese racial origin".

   At that time, my father was 2 years old. His Father & Mother had their home, fishing boat & bank account confiscated. Then they gathered up my father & his 7 siblings & were relocated from their home in Nanaimo, BC to a POW camp in the interior of BC, Tashme. His father, my Gichan was born in Canada. It was his father that immigrated here before the turn of the century.
"In April 1945, Japanese Canadians were given the choice to move east of the Rockies or be repatriated to Japan."
   When war ended they had no money, 8 children to feed & nothing to go back to, the choice was simple, return to Japan or work on agricultural projects on the Prairies. For generations fishermen living near the sea, they were now picking sugar beets on a farm in Taber, Alberta. Their homes & possessions which they were told would be held in trust were auctioned off to help support the cost of the war.

   This was a crime, a crime I had no knowledge of until 11th grade social studies. Talk about a spoiler, there I was sitting in class dumbfounded as my teacher explained to us about the Japanese internment. "Not my family. It must have just been Japanese from Japan, here on visas." Then my teacher asked me to share some of my families personal experiences. I was too embarrassed & angry to say, "actually this the 1st I've ever heard of this shit."
What I said was "my family didn't talk about it much."

   Understatement of the year - shortly after that I was at my Bachan's house & asked about it. All I got was, "Oh, that was a long time ago." I was angry, this was the beginning of my transformation into the Yellowmenace.

   I think my family's story illustrates a general attitude among the North American Asian community; 'the past is passed & can't be changed, so why talk about'. How many stories have you heard about the hardships endured by the Chinese building the railroads, the Vietnam war (from the locals perspective) or the Cambodian killing fields?  The other telling sign is that my father & youngest aunt barely speak Japanese. I was never taught Japanese nor were any of my many (20+) cousins. I am the only one in my generation who married an Asian (Thai) everyone else married white. I couldn't blend, I didn't love my country, so I left & I've been living happily in Asia for the past 15 years.

   The lesson from WWII was clear to my family, blend in because the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.

period.dot.                  Yellowmenace