The new year began with its usual sparkle — heightened this year by a dazzling Rose Parade float celebrating the valiant men who fought for their lives and those of all Japanese Americans in a war that branded them the enemy. Something about that first day of the year — the biggest day of celebration in Japanese tradition — that promises hope on a grand scale.
According to Buddhist tradition, it’s the day after ridding oneself of all past human sins. It might be said that before loading up on kimpira gobo (my favorite) and other osechi delicacies, we get to start the new year off on a clean slate — or clean plate, as it were.
However, the promise of good fortune was short-lived in our household. The day after celebrating, we decided to take a relaxing early morning bike ride. As we rode toward the Santa Monica bike path carrying our little dog Rosie in a front basket, I suddenly saw the bike swerve as the wire basket frame she was in snapped apart. The next thing I heard was two loud yelps.
Rosie had jumped out of the broken basket from the moving bicycle and was run over by the bike not once, but twice. She ran down the street in terror with a bleeding gash on her adorable little snout. We were finally only able to catch her when she jumped into the open door of a parked car as she searched desperately for the safety of cover. Not to be superstitious or anything, but this freak accident was an omen for bad things to come.
A week later, all hell broke loose when a tragedy of gigantic proportions erupted. We awoke to the news of the killing of 12 people at the Paris newspaper offices of Charlie Hebdo. It was an incident that brought the ugliest of human sins immediately back into view on a worldwide scale. As this tragedy continued to rage, we came face to face once again with everything barbaric about mankind, including extremism, racism and hatred — whether anti-Muslim or anti-Semite — and unthinkable violence.
The repercussions of this horrible event have already been felt in attacks against Muslims. Because the terrorists claimed to be acting in the name of Islam, all Muslims are now under scrutiny. It’s strangely reminiscent of another time in history when racism scapegoated all people of Japanese ancestry.
An unrelated but completely bizarre drama was about to unfold closer to home. We were relaxing the day after the attack trying to escape CNN by watching a UCLA basketball game we were actually winning when I got a text message from a close friend. When she answered her phone, she was sobbing. Unbelievable as it sounds, the police had appeared at her doorstep and mistakenly arrested her husband, a sweet young man we knew and loved, for an outrageous crime he didn’t commit. On the contrary, it resulted from him trying to help someone.
What followed was a crash course in a criminal justice system that unfortunately has the potential to arrest, try, convict and jail the innocent. It reminded me once again that terrible things can happen to nice people, or as Clare Boothe Luce once said with cynicism, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s been affected by a bad start to 2015. I’m thinking specifically of two friends who’ve lost loved ones and several close ones suffering from grave illnesses. As dark clouds gathered in the air, I happened to notice this post on my Facebook page that said, in part, to “give a moment of support to all of those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind.” The conclusion had these wise words: “Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune.” We are all in this together.
No one is immune to bad fortune, and it could be as small as a dog falling out of a basket, your team losing a big game, or as serious as the loss of a loved one or having to face a long time in jail. I could rant and rave on, but there are so many things that are totally out of our control, it’s best to move forward with a smile. And with such an unbelievably rough start to the year, I’m convinced it can only get better. For now, I plan to sit down to a bowl of ozoni and start 2015 all over again.
Sharon Yamato writes from Playa del Rey and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.