The ability to remember is something we may take for granted on a daily basis. We rely on our ability to remember in order to learn new things, avoid repeating mistakes, and to re-live experiences from our past. When it comes to painful memories of difficult times, particularly traumatic experiences that overwhelmed us, we may find ourselves having difficulty remembering, and prone to forgetting. Forgetting, like remembering, is also a basic human process. It serves to keep our brains efficient and avoid overload, relieving us from too much information.
When a crime or injustice has been perpetrated against a person, the victim is often caught in the struggle between remembering and forgetting. Too painful to re-live, there is both a conscious preference and an unconscious mechanism that demands forgetting. Daruma Psychology, teaches that, when a person has been victimized, forgetting can keep us down and stuck in anger and depression while remembering, painful as it might be, can pull us up from victimization and lift us to be more empowered. Remembering the truth about terrible events can work to restore a traumatized community and bring healing to individual victims.
This month, as we commemorate that dark moment in history when our president, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the executive order that would eventually send many of us to concentration camps for an indefinite period of time, we join together as a community, reaching out to others … to remember.
This year, more than any other time since our incarceration, we are being called on to share our memories, to speak our truths about what happened to us during an era of hate and hysteria. Our legacy as victims of racism, forced loyalty registrations and unwarranted deportations, is a call to remember — a call to remember the inhumane devastation that was fed by fear. It is also important to remember that our legacy is not limited to having been victims; we also have a legacy of dissidence and protest.
We have the voices of those who challenged the supreme court, voices of community activists who organized our communities to demand redress. We have voices of those who demanded, “fair play” and said “no-no.” It is their time to be remembered.
And in remembering these voices we must find our own strength and resolve, to speak out and stand up for others who are at risk of being forgotten today.
Satsuki Ina, Ph.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in intergenerational trauma. She can be reached at email@example.com. She is also a filmmaker (“Children of the Camps” — www.children-of-the-camps.org and “From a Silk Cocoon: A Japanese American Renunciation Story” — www.fromasilkcocoon.com). Views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.