Friday, November 18, 2005

I'm the Daughter of a Traitor

Most of my family were thrown in internment camps during WWII by FDR for the "crime" of being Japanese-American. Of course, none of those internees ever committed even a slightly treasonous act but suffered the consequences of the loss of their civil rights. On the other hand, my (now deceased) father's story is a great deal more complicated. My great-grandfather was forced to leave Japan because he was a supporter of the old order. When the Meiji restoration occurred (the emperor seized control), he was on the losing side of the power struggle and emigrated to the U.S. where he was a successful farmer. He went back to Japan and bought real estate and lived quite comfortably. His daughter and her husband stayed in the U.S. and that was where my father was born. He was sent to Japan at the age of seven to be educated. His parents stayed behind, so he was raised by his grandfather, a very strict but fair man. When the shit hit the fan in 1941, my great-grandfather publically stated that the Japanese government had their heads up their asses and would lose the war. The police questioned him but let him go. Actually, the Japanese government and military knew that it was a bad idea but, for extraordinarily stupid reasons, they went ahead and attacked Pearl Harbor anyway. Why would a government knowingly commit an idiotic and catastrophic mistake? (Sound familiar?) In any case, my father, then 14, suffered beatings and abuse because he wasn't a "patriotic Japanese citizen." Determined to prove his loyalty, he ran away from home at 16 and found work making bombs in a Tokyo factory. I suppose he may have committed high treason for this activity. His bombmaking job didn't last, however. The U.S. firebombed residential sections of Toyko, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians who were NOT engaged in the war effort. People ran for the rivers but the heat was so intense, the water boiled and they were literally cooked to death. My father saw bloated bodies floating in the water with their skin peeling off their flesh. He escaped the same fate through sheer luck. After Japan's defeat and the subsequent economic dislocations perpetrated by Douglas MacArthur, my great-grandfather lost most of his money and had to sell his real estate holdings. My father eventually decided to go to the U.S. He was still a U.S. citizen. When the Korean War broke out, my father was drafted by the U.S. Army. He served two years and was a model soldier. For the next 50 years, he worked hard, raised a family, and was a law-abiding, contributing member to society. I believe that a rational person would forgive my father's "treason." He was young, his allegiance was to the country where he was raised, he was pressured as disloyal by his peer group, and he later served in the U.S. military (a rather ironic twist, imho). This is my father's odd history with bizarre twists and shifting patriotism (or lack thereof). FDR and the U.S. government are hardly the heroes in this story, but neither are the Japanese; atrocities abound for all. So what country deserves the patriotism of its citizens? George Bush's America? HAH! Not a goddamn one deserves my loyalty, but that's a consequence of my family history and post Vietnam/Watergate cynicism.