Silly Grins

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Years of Sorrow, Years of Shame

Part I of III (or more) V

You ever just happen to read one of those books that just kind of widens the scope of your mental lens? One of those very books snuck in through the side window while I wasn't looking.

Okay, I lied. Actually, I was looking. I was also bored and trying to save money. What more could a person want than to visit a used book store? 

"They smeared our windows with dog shit. They'd yell at us inside our houses at night." 

Wonder who would do something like that? So did I. It was these very sentences that had me shake my head, go back and reread. Wondering to myself, "Who did this?"

Issei...the Issei did this. According to the entry Some People Were Bitter in the chapter Some Chose Japan, a number of the older generation were not happy with the younger folks at the camp who did not want to be 'repatriated' to a country that they felt was not their home. 

Years of Sorrow, Years of Shame: The Story of the Japanese Canadians in World War II by Barry Broadfoot.

Here's a little more of that passage, on page 313:

"And those who were bitter, being locked up in those camps all those years, they called us all kinds of names. Names the Japanese call each other when they are really mad. But this wasn't mad as if I punched you and you got mad. This was real mad. You might say burning anger. They smeared our windows with dog shit. They yelled at us inside our houses at night. The Nisei weren't too bad. It was the Issei who did this, the old people. Even though they put dog shit on my windows I didn't get mad at them."

Apparently, up in Canada, there was a lot of turmoil. And people talked about it and a man wrote it down. Years later, that was one of the books I happened to pick up off the shelf. Nothing dry like something written by some academic hack who threw a book together in order to keep getting published. But it is an oral history, kind of like blogging...

What this one book did for me was set off a chain of thought that had me wanting to know more. I started to reevaluate what I'd excepted as truth in the past. And I started asking questions. 

I was surprised at how angry people could be about what they thought had happened. I was surprised at how angry people could be at the questions that were asked. And I was surprised at how the anger seems to blind people, make them deaf, and even aggressive toward people for asking honest and simple questions like "Are you sure?" or "How do you know that?" 

Glad I never stepped directly in front of those freight trains of hate.

The mental hobo in me was way too busy looking for clues, picking up those little cigarette butts of discarded thoughts. For a while, it became an addiction. You'd be surprised at the kind of stuff that is just lying around.

Years later, the questions I'd been willing to ask myself by not being intimidated into not following a certain train of thought introduced me to a power like Hurricane Betty with an attitude not entirely unlike Hiroko, only this graceful work of art was into her 90's.  Unlike Uncle Yo, her story was recorded (to be written down at a later date).

To be continued...


  1. Yup.
    Just about everyone is full of shit. They don't even believe the words they write when it gets right down to it.

    Politics is a game. You might like one player better than the other but don't ever get confused. They are playing the same game.

  2. Chris: Some fool once told me about a Buddhist stream of thought that centers on learning how to let go and how full of it we are. Seems like the more uptight I get, the more full of it I become. Gotta kind of remember to sit down, relax, and grab some good reading material.

    Games...would write more on this one, but I don't want to give myself a headache right now.

    (Starts to feel that urge that seems to go along with reading material)

  3. Um. Yes actually. I read Eating Animals last year in October and my world spun on it's head.

    When people talk about how "aware" they are and I see what they eat, I call BS.

  4. Jen: Not too sure what you are saying 'yes' to...but thank you for stopping by.

  5. "Seems like the more uptight I get, the more full of it I become."

    Same here. My extreme "I don't give a fuck" attitude is a concious attempt to not become enveloped in a haze of superficial bullshit and the people that spew it out.

  6. David Suzuki, a major environmentalist TV personality in Canada if you don't know, despised everything Japanese after his experience as a young boy in the internment camps. He was Nisei. His reason was the best reason of all: the Issei and Nisei harassed his best friend, a little girl who was interned with her Japanese mother, but whose Caucasian father begged to but was not allowed to join them. He was the only friend she had. People are bastards.

  7. Chris: Am definitely trying to break my bad habit and keep the haze to a minimum.

    Mr.S: Thank you for he comment. Hard not to know who David Suzuki is. But, gosh, I thought he was from the US (shows my ignorance). Wikipedia shows him as sansei...not that it matters. He has shared his passion for the environment with so many people, a great influence. Never heard about the harassing though...finding some interesting stuff on the Web right now.

  8. I'll admit I inadequately researched which generation Suzuki is, but I knew he was born in Canada. He's known outside my cold country? Guess 'The Nature of Things' got wide syndication. I am not an uncritical fan of the man, but you have to honour a man's integrity whose instincts as a boy were to justice.

  9. Mr.S: 'The Nature of Things' definitely played a part in Suzuki's fame. I'd thought he was from the US perhaps due to my proud ignorance; internment and relocation aren't things The Great White North is typically associated with. Although I wouldn't really claim to know enough about Suzuki to be critical of him, I do have respect for what he's done in terms of raising environmental for him being pushed around as a kid, the fact that he's even been willing to talk about it says a lot. I'll definitely be paying more attention next time his name comes up. Thanks again for the follow-up comment.