I think I mentioned the website Face to Face in a previous post. It gives a thumbnail view of the real life experiences of both Muslims in America post 9-11 and Japanese Americans post Pearl Harbor. There are striking similarities.
One of several stories that captured my attention…and where I got the idea for the title of this post….was about Tora Saito. His family was shipped off to a detention camp called Topaz when he was about six years old. He talks about a visit he made many years later:
Well, I went back to Topaz. It’s been a lifelong desire of mine to go back to see where I spent my childhood. And I found our block. I found building 10. We were in block 4, building 10, apartments C and D. I was standing in front of where our building used to be and the only remains of our building was the framework of our front porch. And I stood in front of the front porch and something told me to dig at the lower right hand corner of our front porch. So I took a stick and I dug down, and about six or eight inches down below the surface, I found about 26 marbles that I had left behind as a kid under the porch. I would hide them there for safe keeping, but in the rush of leaving, we left at 3 o’clock in the morning, so we left, we only brought what we could carry, and we left a lot of things behind and that was one of the things I left behind.
He talks about feeling like a foreigner in the country where he was born….here…in the United States.
For the first time I was called a Jap. I was playing outside on the street with my brother and somebody called me a Jap and I didn’t know what a Jap was, I didn’t know what it meant. I asked my mother and my mother was ashamed and reluctant to tell me what it meant. She just kind of ignored it, but I knew it wasn’t a complimentary term because it was said with anger and hostility. At first I couldn’t understand what we had done wrong. But we just knew that people were angry at us. We didn’t know why and so we had to protect ourselves from that. So we didn’t feel safe in public anymore.
And Jihad Turk….after 9-11…was angry.
Not only was I angry at the people for what they did, but I was also angry because they did it in the name of Islam which to me was such a warped understanding of what I knew to be Islam and what I had studied for so many years. I felt very angry at them for having usurped such a moral religion for such an immoral purpose.
And he talks about jihad
Well, growing up my dad always told me the meaning of it, which is very different than what you hear in the news today. And it was actually something that I felt quite proud of because it gave me something to aspire towards. Jihad means to struggle, it’s the struggle within yourself to do what is right, so whenever you are tempted to do something wrong, it’s that inner struggle to do what is right. So I’ve always felt proud that I was engaged in this, or tried to engage in this inner struggle to do what’s right and to overcome any inclinations I would have to do anything wrong.
And Muhammed El Nasla joined the army to prove everyone wrong.
The way I’m proving my loyalty is by joining the Army. A lot of people are proving their loyalty by giving up their civil rights. There may be people that still believe that I’m a terrorist. That I’m a camel-jockey. And I’m just here to prove them wrong.
Kiyo Sato-Viacrucis couldn’t believe something like this could happen in the United States…
You know until the very last minute I said this can’t happen, this is unconstitutional and something will happen, that’s the thought. Somebody will come running down the railroad tracks, like the movies, and say this is unconstitutional, you can all go home. When that train started to move I just collapsed. I just cried and cried and cried.
Ruth Okimoto believes it could happen again….
Under certain circumstances I think what happened to the Japanese Americans can happen to any group. We see part of that jingoism and patriotism today. And it could happen again. It’s true that if you don’t remember the past, that things will happen again and you’ll repeat the mistakes of the past. And I think the Japanese Americans almost have a duty to step forward and make sure that it doesn’t happen to another ethnic group.