Masada reflection


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Reflection on my experience with the Masada's! Two Japanese American former Internee's---now married and on a mission to share their story, in hopes what happened to them does not happen to any one else. Japanese Americans were the first people to stand up for Muslim Americans after 9/11.

Published in: News & Politics, Spiritual
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Masada reflection

  1. 1. Erika MagnussonHonors Seminar 401W24 February 2013Masada ReflectionI could see the open wound of Marion and Saburo Masada as they bled for the crowd.Their scars were deep, and they exposed them to us. Two living survivors of the JapaneseAmerican Internment Camps were standing in front of me. Marion wore her strawberrybased lipstick that highlighted her sunken cheekbones and Saburo was handsome in hisslick black-purple accented tux. The two were married now for 57 years. At the ages of80 and 83, they shared wrinkles with one another - deep lines of joy, trauma, andforgiveness. I comprehended Marion and Saburo would distrust Caucasian Americanslike me, so I could not understand why they wanted to hug me when I met them. “I givehugs,” Marion said as she refused to shake my hand.Marion and Saburo intended to share their story for the event at Minnesota StateUniversity Mankato‟s Japanese American Internment Camp Day of Remembrance. Bothwere survivors of the Japanese American Internment Camps. Their childhood years werespent behind barbed wire in what they called „concentration camps‟ while the Americangovernment called the camps relocation centers or evacuation camps. “You relocate orevacuate because of a fire or a disaster. We were forced to go to the concentration camps,”Saburo said.I asked myself many questions before the event, who were Marion and Saburo Masadaand why did they want to share their story with me? After what our people, we were bothAmericans, and our government had done to them, why had they traveled so far fromCalifornia to Minnesota to share their story? Why were my ancestors never forced intoconcentration camps like Marion and Saburo were? Why did they choose to bevulnerable in front of us? Marion said, “We wanted to come to Minnesota and share ourstory. We were willing to pay to come here.” But why would they offer to waste theirretirement money, what was left of the little they had to begin with because their sourceof income was Saburo‟s occupation as Presbyterian Pastor, to tell their narrative ofconfinement. Marion said, “I‟m a storyteller,” but I had a feeling there was desire toshare her story for more than just her talent to tell it.I would later find out that in the government‟s past eyes (or hopefully past eyes- in thehope that there will not be another racial profiling event like the Japanese AmericanInternment Camps in America) I am different from Marion and Saburo because I amCaucasian and they are Japanese American. Marion and Saburo never thought ofthemselves as non-Americans and neither had I. It was the American government that haddecided they were not Americans because of their face. My family was spared from theshame and guilt behind barbed wire of American concentration camps because of myface. But there is nothing I can do about my face- I was born into it. …And there isnothing Marion and Saburo could do either.Marion and Saburo first talked about their family. It reminded me of how my parentswould rather talk about me than themselves. I will probably not understand why parentschoose to talk about their children over themselves until I am a parent myself; however,their story has taught me the value of protection a parent has for their child. As a child, a
  2. 2. Erika MagnussonHonors Seminar 401W24 February 2013parent‟s protection may seem a contradiction to what I want to do and when I want to doit, but the protection Marion and Saburo received from their parents and then granted totheir children has taught me otherwise.Marion heard her daughter, Alisa, sing, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible told meso,” from the backseat of the car. Alisa was mentally handicapped and the only way shecould express her true emotion, happiness, was to sing. Marion drove away with Alisaand never looked back because she had witnessed two frightened children at the grouphome. The children were silenced to speak just like her daughter. Marion decided shewould not wait another day to remove her daughter from the hostile group home. Alisawould no longer be told to shush. Marion would protect her child from the silence shewas subject to as a child.Marion and Saburo shared the burden of a handicap with their daughter Alisa. Marionand Saburo had (and hopefully still do not have) a handicap of racial profiling and hatredbecause of their Japanese ancestry. Alisa is Sansei, third generation and born in the U.S.during or after WWII, and Marion is Nisei, second generation and born in the U.S beforeWWII. Alisa‟s father Saburo was also a Nisei. In comparison with Alisa, Marion andSaburo were born into their handicap. Alisa was born with a mental disability and Marionand Saburo were born with a face. Marion and Saburo‟s handicap of a face did not applyto their daughter Alisa to the extent that it did for Marion and Saburo because they weresecond generation and she was third.Anti-Japanese factions in the 1900‟s gave Marion, Saburo and their parents (firstgeneration) the handicap of racial profiling and hatred. Marion and Saburo‟s childhoodwas subject to Lieutenant John DeWitt‟s order, Executive Order 9066, and Earl Warren‟sfollow-up of Lt. John DeWitt‟s orders, whereas Alisa‟s childhood was not.Executive Order 9066, Lieutenant John DeWitt‟s order stated that Americans only needto worry about a few German‟s and Italians some of the time, but that they need to worryabout the Japanese, „Japs‟, all the time, until they are wiped off the face of the map. EarlWarrens follow up of Lt. John DeWitt‟s order states: the very fact that no JapaneseAmerican has committed any wrong or any sabotage isn‟t proof that they will not do itwhen the time comes.The racial prejudice against Marion and Saburo began in the early 1900‟s with theirfamilies‟ success as farmers. The agricultural success of Marion‟s father and Saburo‟sfather set them up as easy targets for racism. The way their Japanese American Isseiforefathers tilled the leased land that American farmers did not want, hilly coastland ofCalifornia and barren land next to the airport, was the reason (unknown to them at thetime) that their Caucasian American friends, teachers and the rest of America called them„Japs‟. Marion and Saburo were innocent children subject to an „economic rape‟. Theywere discriminated against for fear that their father‟s greater agricultural yield on smallerplots of arable land than American farmers would give their families an economicadvantage over Americans.
  3. 3. Erika MagnussonHonors Seminar 401W24 February 2013Marion and Saburo were sent to Japanese „internment camps‟, a euphemism used by theAmerican government to conceal „concentration camps‟, as children only because of theirfaces - their Japanese ancestry. It was assumed that all Japanese Americans were disloyalto America after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Although racial prejudice against JapaneseAmericans began in the early 1900‟s, the American government could use the bombingof Pearl Harbor to incarcerate Marion, Saburo, each of their families, and 120,000 otherJapanese Americans. In contrast to Marion and Saburo, Alisa‟s handicap as a thirdgeneration Japanese American, Sansei, is her mental disability. Her heritage has nothingto do with her handicap.Marion wanted her daughter to thrive and not just survive because Marion‟s childhoodwas a matter of survival. Marion‟s face was her worse enemy and her handicap wasshunned. She lost her childhood to care for her family‟s laundry. She had one friend thatwas Italian. Her only other friend was the scrub board she spent hours with washing herfamily of ten‟s clothes. Marion had to work while other kids played in the concentrationcamp. She was silenced to tears, smiles and laughter. Her hands were wrinkled fromscrubbing with water.“To this day I consider myself half Italian,” Marion said. After the camp, she spent moretime with her only friend‟s Italian family than with her immediate family. Marion crieswhen she talks about her Italian family‟s kindness. She was like a daughter to them andshe will be forever grateful for their love. She cried when she talked about her long lostItalian girlfriend. Marion had lost her real family in the camps; or rather they lost eachother. Marion washed laundry, her sister cared for their newborn sibling, her mother wasa dietician for the whole camp and her father was a cook. Marion never saw much of herparents or siblings in the camp.Marion never has forgotten nor will she ever forget one thing her Mother told her in thecamps: “Do not forget your number. Know your number. You will only be known byyour number, not by your name anymore.” Marion could hear her Mother telling her thistoday as if it was yesterday. Marion still remembers her number: prisoner 13141.Marion‟s husband Saburo wanted his daughter Alisa to never stop singing. Saburostopped singing a while ago. His siblings and his parents loved America. Saburo said,“We were 200% American. My parents were living in American for 50 years, but theywere not allowed to be citizens. They taught me to love my country, America, becausethey loved their adopted country.” Before the camps, Saburo used to work in the fieldswith his father. When they left for the camps they left all of their strawberries behind.Saburo‟s family was transferred to the local grandstands before they reached theirdestined concentration camp in Arkansas. Saburo can still hear the sound of the buglesignaling a searchlight from the grandstands that went off at 10:00 p.m. every night. Thepoliceman would knock on their barrack and search with a flashlight. Three weeks afterSaburo‟s family was placed in the Arkansas camp his father died of pneumonia.Saburo loved the camps because he could play with his friends all day. He never had towork like he used to. Saburo would not realize till years later that he would trade the days
  4. 4. Erika MagnussonHonors Seminar 401W24 February 2013of „fun‟ in the camp for another day with his father in the fields. He just wanted to bewith his father again and not necessarily in the fields. Although Saburo‟s family wasfortunate to have a neighbor look after their farms while they were in the camps (mostpeople lost everything), things were different after the camps. Saburo did not wish toharvest the leased land his father used to farm. Saburo was not a child anymore. Thecamps had taken his childhood away from him. After the camps, he would never reclaimthe land his father left to harvest as his own because that was past time to him or maybeno time at all because of the loss of his childhood.Marion and her husband each share a vivid memory of their childhood in the camps.Marion never forgot her number, 13141, and Saburo can still hear the sound of the bugle.Marion and Saburo both left and lost their childhood in the camps.An audience member at the event asked, “Why did you not rebel in the camps?” Marionand Saburo replied, “Because our Issei parents protected us, and we thank our parents forprotecting us.” It was the Japanese culture that had saved them from rebelling. Marionand Saburo were taught as children to survive by accommodating the majority. Theywere taught to not stand up. Although this may have been demeaning to their dignity,their parents‟ submission to superiority protected them in the camps and they are alivetoday because of it. Japanese Americans were said to be the „model minority‟ becausethey did what the majority wanted them to do. Marion and Saburo‟s mindset of „don‟toffend anybody- please everybody‟ may have saved both of them in the camps, but theyhave the choice to stand up now and they choose to not bow down to anyone.Marion and Saburo are neither ashamed nor proud of their parents‟ teaching of authority.The submission to authority as taught by their parents gave them a vocation for theirparental life: to teach the Sansei generation that being labeled a „model minority‟ is not acomplement. They want to teach their children, the remaining Sansei generation, and therest of the world how to combat injustice of racial profiling and hatred by exposing theshame and guilt it causes. Marion and Saburo have dedicated their lives to counteractwhat Japanese culture has taught them: to hide and bury their shame and guilt.There is no hiding anymore for Marion and Saburo. They have taken on the responsibilityto end the cycle of Japanese Americans taking on the role of a „model minority‟. Theirparents Issei ignorance of injustice motivates them to become informed advocates for allminority groups. It is their parent‟s ignorance that has allowed them to work towardsfreeing Japanese Americans from remaining a „model minority‟.The day Marion took Alisa out of the hostile group home she took a stand againstinjustice. She would not allow her daughter to be silenced another day. “Go wait in thecar,” Marion said to her daughter Alisa. Marion went up to the group home caretaker andtold her she was removing Alisa from the group home today. Marion gave no explanationto why and the caretaker did not question her. Marion left with her daughter and a peaceof mind. “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so… little to ones to Himbelong, they are weak, but He is strong,” Alisa sang. Marion heard her daughters voiceand smiled while she drove off.
  5. 5. Erika MagnussonHonors Seminar 401W24 February 2013Alisa is safe now. She lives with a Pilipino family and is very happy. Marion and Saburothank God everyday that war hysteria, Lt. General John DeWitt‟s orders, Earl Warrensfollow-up of DeWitt‟s orders, and the prejudicial views of Anti-Japanese factions inCalifornia were stopped. Marion and Saburo would never be able to protect their childrenin this Sansei generation without the end to the Japanese American Internment camps(concentration camps) in their Nisei generation. Now that Alisa is safe and doing well,Marion and Saburo have dedicated their life to share the story of their people - Americansincarcerated by their own country‟s economic greed, discrimination and militarydictatorship on the West Coast.I found out on the day that Minnesota State University Mankato hosted the JapaneseAmerican Internment Camps Day of Remembrance, that Marion and Saburo were notopen about their experiences for my sake, for their people, or even for their own sake(although that was a direct affect of healing), but instead they were bleeding for the sakeof other minority groups. I asked myself, how much can Marion and Saburo continue toshare each time they tell their story? Were there times they could not share certain partsand other times where they were completely exposed and left open? Marion wastraumatized in the camps when her neighbor girl‟s father molested her. She could noteven scream when it happened and she could not speak about it for a long time afterwards.Marion could not even tell her mother that she was a victim of rape, and her motherpassed away before she could tell her. Marion did not cry, shudder or question sharingher past violation with the attendees. What had changed? Why was she, so willing now?How did she not cry when she talked about it? Marion answered my question when shesaid, “Thank you for letting us share our story. It helps us heal too.” Out of shame andguilt there was forgiveness, consolation and peace.I struggle to understand Marion and Saburo‟s patriotism to America after theconcentration camps. They have done what I perceived was impossible after theirincarceration- they have worked to restore their feelings of patriotism to the country thatincarcerated them, their own country. Marion said she has resentment for CaucasianAmericans. I would never her blame her for this. Marion could have chosen to be angryand hide from the world, but instead she humbles herself to speak to America every day.America is her country too. How beautiful it is that she can bear her cross with humilityand that she is willing to share in suffering with those who made her suffer. Saburo said,“There are always evil people that hold racist views in every country, but they are theminority. The majority of the people in America can live in equality with me - a JapaneseAmerican.” He admits that his country made a mistake, but he, unlike many JapaneseAmericans refuses to hide the mistake‟s injustice for generations to come.Marion and Saburo have found their vocation for their years of retirement: to travel thecountry and share their wounds with Americans. Unlike Marion and Saburo, mostJapanese American survivors of the Japanese American Internment Camps buried theirstory with shame and guilt saying it cannot touch them. Marion and Saburo have bled outtheir story countless times. They do not hide. They want to share their story because noteveryone knows about what happened in America to the Japanese Americans. They have
  6. 6. Erika MagnussonHonors Seminar 401W24 February 2013a right to protect their Japanese ancestry under the American constitution, and they wanteveryone else to know they can protect their ancestry too. Marion and Saburo share in aunited front to teach every person that their ancestry deserves protection under theAmerican constitution.After Alisa was taken away from the group home that silenced her or told her “to shush,”she began to sing. Alisa did not have to bury shame and guilt in a concentration campbecause her parents had already taken on this injustice and suffering. Although Marionand Saburo were victims of the American Japanese Internment Camps and were forcedinto suffering injustice, their suffering is not the same as their daughters. Marion andSaburo‟s suffering have given Alisa life without injustice. Alisa does not have to sufferfrom discrimination for her ancestry. Alisa is an American. She can sing with herAmerican freedom till the day she dies.