There was a memorable meeting last Saturday (July 21) at the Japanese American National Museum. For detailed coverage of this well-attended DVD viewing of “A Divided Community,” I refer you to a news article I am sure someone from The Rafu will write.
After the viewing there was a panel moderated by producer/director Momo Yashima and including Yosh Kuromiya, the lone surviving draft resister featured in the DVD, Pacific Southwest District JACL Governor Ken Inouye, and Art Hansen, professor emeritus at Cal State Fullerton.
The DVD was largely narrated by Paul Tsuneishi, who served in the military intelligence branch during the war and whose Issei father was an outspoken supporter of the resisters in Heart Mountain.
What made this DVD so compelling was it allowed the late Mits Koshiyama, the late Frank Emi and Kuromiya to tell their stories. Their voices were filled with long-suppressed righteous anger — Emi and Kuromiya at one point used very heated cuss words.
How could we not feel with them the anger and the pain, not only of being imprisoned for their convictions, but for being abandoned and condemned by their own community?
This anger got carried over to a few in the audience who, while acknowledging JACL’s apology to the draft resisters in 2000, called for JACL to apologize to the entire JA community for its misdeeds during the war.
The DVD did indeed paint a damning picture of certain JACL individuals, including Mike Masaoka informing on fellow JAs to government intelligence.
In JACL’s defense, Martha Nakagawa pointed out that JACL was responsible for renaming the camp in Arizona where Gordon Hirabayashi was interned. The former internment site was named for Gordon as well as the draft resisters.
JACL’s condemnation of the resisters is well-known. Possibly not as well-known was the role of James Omura, editor of the Denver-based Rocky Shimpo, whose editorial positions supported the draft resisters. Mike Masaoka was given authority to edit all the camp newspapers to reflect JACL’s anti-resister position.
After the war, because of his role with The Rocky Shimpo, Omura’s livelihood was severely affected. Hansen declared that 50 years from now our community will view Omura as a hero.
In 1950, Harvard sociology professor David Reisman wrote a book entitled “A Lonely Crowd,” which provoked a lot of discussion at the time. (Look it up on Google.)
In the book, he spoke of three types of human motivation: Traditionally directed, inner-directed and outer-directed.
His analysis helps me to make sense of divisions in our community. Because of our Japanese heritage, most of us tend to be traditionally or outer-directed. We are programmed to seek harmonious relationships. We are ever-conscious of what others think about our behavior. We will go along with what our tradition or leadership dictates as the correct way.
Those who deviate from this accepted way are criticized or condemned. If we are told to go to camp and fight to defend the country that has put us in camp to prove our loyalty, we comply.
The inner-directed draft resisters say, “Wait a minute. What about the Constitution? If we are truly Americans, can we ignore it in time of war?”
Can we, in looking back, come to better understand and appreciate our differences in motivation?
Although Reisman wrote this book over 60 years ago, his thinking makes sense to me in looking at today’s divisions within our community.
Yes, some in JACL’s leadership did, in their patriotic zeal, go beyond the bounds of what is acceptable to their fellow JAs. But realistically, it does not seem likely to me that JACL would ever consider apologizing.
Without the impassioned advocacy of Mike Masaoka, there would have been no 100th/442nd.
Without JACL’s leadership, the detention camp provisions of the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act would not have been defeated.
Without the JACL’s leadership, there would have been no redress.
JACL continues in its advocacy for human/civil rights of Asian Americans and all experiencing discrimination.
Our government has come to honor Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu. For the sake of those who follow us, let us as Japanese Americans honor as well Yosh Kuromiya, Frank Emi, Mits Koshiyama and all the other inner-directed resisters of conscience.
As Rodney King pleaded 20 years ago, “Can we all get along?”
Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.