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Friday, December 20, 2013

War On Racism and Racism During The War

I'm writing this paragraph AFTER having written the stuff below... and I want to apologize for being so off topic... but what the hell... let's talk about racism.

I was watching an episode of the new Hawaii Five-O television program a few days ago... it's a splendid mix of action, adventure, mystery - and with a superb cast of actors - most of whom could probably be full-time male models if they wanted.

I watch it because... well... originally it was because I used to watch the original series back in the 1970s... and because I really dig the opening music. In fact... aside from the power of the Perry Mason opening credits, nothing else comes close to grabbing the viewers attention... okay... Doctor Who, as well... though I could never get beyond the cheesy sets and lame sci-fi of the show until it's revamp from 2005 on up... it's still cheesy, but it's often brilliant and cheesy.

Anyhow... Hawaii Five-O... the episode was done as a tip of the hat and a deep bow to the memory of December 7, 1941 - the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese on the US territory of Hawaii.

But it wasn't the usual rah-rah, America kicks Jap butt type of patriotic pap TV and Hollywood loves to serve up to the hungry masses eager to recall that the US is a-ok... no... this episode went a different way.

As you may know, Hawaii has long been a home for many Japanese, Chinese, American and native Hawaiian people since before the 20th century.

The pearl industry was one way I was introduced to the concept of Japanese having an industry in Hawaii... something I learned long after I first studied World War 2 as an eight-year-old. Yes... I was a curious child. A Mad Hatter, if you will.

Later, I learned that the Yakuza also exerted some control there...

But... what I didn't really know anything about was the fact that on Hawaii... for a generation or two prior to Pearl Harbor's infamous date, that there were many, many, Americans of Japanese descent living there... what you might call Japanese-Americans... but me... I'd just call them Americans.

Anyhow... after the attack on Pearl Harbor, this Hawaii Five-O episode touched upon one of those USA dirty secrets that was never so secret... relocation camps for anyone of Japanese ancestry...

Now... I don't wish to point fingers at just the USA... my own Canadian government participated in this filthy treatment of its own citizens... also removing Canadian citizens of Japanese descent... and relocating them to prison camp(s).

The television show told a wonderful tale that brought a tear to my eyes... because it showed how even though you might have been BORN in America (or Canada), as long as your skin was of a different color and your name was foreign, it didn't matter how American you were... you were still considered a threat in the eyes of the American government.

Look... I understand that you were at war with the Japanese... Canada , too, because we were Allies... but holy crap... Canada and the USA treated its citizens like total crap during WW2. Not all of them... just the ones who were Japanese.

Did they do the same to the Germans? No.

Germany didn't physically attack the USA, and thus it didn't attack Canada.

About 40 minutes west of my house is the city of Kitchener... during World War 1 (The Great War), in 1916, the city had its name changed... no longer New Berlin - which probably angered the populace - a mostly German-based city... and it still is home to many German immigrants to this day... but no one was sent to an internment camp during WW1 - and the same held true for WW2... no matter how many Jews or Gypsies were killed in Europe.

I know no one liked the Germans after WW1 or after WW2 for decades... but Canadian or American citizens of German descent did not have to go to prison during the war because they were a threat to the safety of their respective countries.

The Hawaii Five-O episode also mentioned that the Americans of Japanese descent (I hate the 'hyphen-American and hyphen-Canadian term with an effing passion - I'm Canadian and proud to be just a Canadian)... anyhow... the Americans of Japanese descent - they lost their homes, possessions, jobs... just because they were at one time Japanese. It's like their rights as citizens didn't count or matter.

I know I could have simply just talked about the plight of these people without mentioning the television show... but honestly... while I knew about the Canadian relocation of Canadians of Japanese descent... I did not know about the Americans of Japanese descent being treated the same way.

I know it was a war... but you don't treat your own citizens that way.

Imagine if Great Britain went to war with China... and said it was going to relocate all Chinese people in GB to a camp... now imagine the same with the US and Canada doing the same to people from India... or Jamaica... if they were to go to war...

They did it once... they could do it to me... I'm a Canadian citizen... and have been sine I was 12... when my folks felt I was old enough to make up my own mind regarding citizenship. I renounced my British passport and citizenry... but I'm still apparently full of Indian genetics even though I feel and act Canadian... would I be forced into a war prison... would my son? If that was a scenario from the 1940s... probably. And it sucks.

The paranoia exists today, of course... the existence of so-called sleeper cells... we have people in Canada and the US who have been living here for decades (!), but still hold onto the old beliefs of their former country.

My folks... much like those Canadians and Americans of Japanese descent... when they came over... they became Canadian... became Americans... and truthfully... I don't see a lot of that now. I know of people who have been here for decades and either know nothing about Canada or haven't learned a single word of English. I mean that because I know it to be true. I think it's wrong.

These people hide within blocks of culture that is just like the one they left... with no effort made to integrate themselves into western culture... unlike others who truly see Canada and America et al as lands of opportunity.


Yeah - hold onto your religions - that's your right... but why not try and embrace the full culture and society and language of your adopted country?

That's what I did when I lived in Japan. That's not how you survive... it's how you adapt and become part of a community.

I was 25 years old when I first visited Japan... and while my language skills sucked - I could communicate well enough - I made sure I became well-versed in Japanese culture and society... with more Japanese friends than the comfort of only English-speakers.

While I already knew judo and baseball and soccer - things the Japanese love, I also learned kyudo (Japanese archery), kendo (Japanese fencing), watched sumo (Japanese wrestling), learned ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), origami (Japanese paper folding), I learned to eat with chopsticks... and consider it an insult when I am not offered any at a Japanese or Chinese restaurant here in Canada or the US... I did my best to fit in by learning Japan's history... visiting its lands and historical landmarks... talking to people to get their personal histories.

I don't think people do enough of that today in their adopted countries. Why do we have a Chinatown? Little Italy? Little India? A Rainbow Village?

People need to congregate where they feel comfortable? Screw that... feel uncomfortable until you become comfortable!

Here in Toronto... I used to take a train home from work... a single train platform shared with two lines... one that went to Georgetown, and one to Markham.... each arrived in 15 minute intervals... I knew that if there was a majority of Chinese on one, it was the Markham one... I never had to look at the timetable... if there were Brown folk... they were all getting off at Bramalea... what is nicknamed Bramladesh... Me... I lived in downtown Brampton... and I was the only Brown guy in the neighborhood... which was full of Scottish and Newfoundland folks...

Ahh... it pisses me off... people nowadays aren't Canadian... they are Italian-Canadian... French-Canadian... you ask them what nationality they are and they say: Greek, German, Hungarian, Russian... so few of us seem proud enough to be Canadian, Americam or whatever we have become since landing on the adopted shores. It beats me why. Why can't you simply have respect for your country and just be Canadian... of Italian descent... or whatever.

Hell... I even hate the fact that there's an African-American term. Why? Can't you just be American?

It reminds me of my first day of university... there was the Indian Federation... the Italian Federation... clubs for freshmen to join... to feel part of a community... and it went on and on... people looking to fit in with others of their ilk... why? I thought university was supposed to be a melting pot of cultures and ideas... but it was just another segregationist waste of space. Couldn't we just be university students?

Each of those clubs was racist, when you think about it... would the India-based club let in a Black dude? No.

Ahhhhh... It's like we haven't learned a god-damned thing.

I'm pretty sure the US wouldn't start lining up people of Japanese ancestry again in 2013 should Japan declare war on the US.

I'm pretty sure... I mean... being a Brown guy... I always get hassled whenever I try and cross from Canada into the US... especially if I am by myself. I understand the paranoia... even 12 years later after 9-11... and if it helps keep out the real bad guys, then I don't mind the hassle at the border. I have nothing to hide.

Ha... you should have seen the looks I got back in the early 1990s at the borders... There I am... a Brown Guy... with a Canadian passport... issued in Tokyo, Japan... born in London, England... and it says my name is John Andrew Stephen Joseph. I sure don't seem like the type of person who would have those names... but I do. Hell... I'd double check me, too. Especially when I had such long hair half-way down my back. Yes... I am bringing drugs from Japan INTO the United States. Riiiiight.

Anyhow... I was originally going to write about some Americans of Japanese descent and their role in the war... as inspired by the Hawaii Five-O television show... but maybe later.

I just got off topic by talking about American (and Canadian) racism towards their own citizens of Japanese descent... and how sometimes the immigrants don't help their cause because they choose not to become more Canadian or American...

Fug... look at me... I have only a neutral Canadian/American accent... I don't say oot and aboot... those are the Newfoundlanders and those north of the cosmopolitan cities... and even then, not all of them do that! Because I was very aware the I was a visible minority in Canada... even as a three-year-old (some people are always keen to remind you of that)... I made sure I became more Canadian than them - not only did I shun everyone who was Indian, I learned every damn thing I could about hockey... nothing shuts up some dumbasses when you know more about a sport than they do.

I recall one guy telling me to go back to where I came from. England? I asked. And then I lit in on him about his poor syntax and lousy diction... and then asked if he considered himself such a great Canadian... if he was a hockey fan... he said yes... a Leafs fan, I asked... affirmative... so I asked him who the first Leafs captain was... he didn't know... (Hap Day)... asked him what Hamilton's hockey was once called... he didn't know (Tigers)... and I asked him... who is our Prime Minister... and he guessed incorrectly... and he would call himself a Canadian? Your ignorance is an insult to Canadians, I told him. And then I shot him and left the bar. Sorry.. I meant shot him a look and left the bar.

I know next to zero of my so-called heritage of India... I know a single hindi word... and until I went to Japan, I never ate Indian cuisine... I've never been there... I never wanted to... because that's what all the immigrants did... they came here and then went 'home' every year for a vacation... but... because of that... I know nothing of my heritage... and I sure would like to go and see the sites... but I would always want to go home to Canada.... or to England... or to Japan... all three countries that I can honestly say were/are home...

Anyhow... I am so off-topic... and on-topic... that it's not funny.

Let's see what the next column will bring... I know... something with a military angle...

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

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