RABBIT RAMBLINGS: Do something: A call to action from an 87-year-old activist 


bioline_Chizu OmoriWhat a tumultuous year we have had. First of all, Feb. 19 was the 75th anniversary of the passage of Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942, which set into motion the program of incarcerating close to 120,000 American Japanese in concentration camps. So this anniversary was observed in many ways.

My sister Emiko, a filmmaker, was honored with a retrospective of her documentaries at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in February, including the film I helped produce, “Rabbit In the Moon,” which was about that period in American history. We were able to discuss it with a New York audience. We also went to visit the Isamu Noguchi Museum, which was featuring an exhibit about that illustrious artist’s time in Poston, Ariz., one of the concentration camps that imprisoned Japanese Americans. Noguchi voluntarily entered the concentration camp to show solidarity with fellow American Japanese.

Then, we went to Occidental College in Los Angeles, where we were a part of a program that kicked off a year-long series of events on camp history. The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco was the venue for a panel discussion that featured Emiko’s 14-minute version of “Rabbit” called “When Rabbit Left the Moon,” and we participated in other programs commemorating this anniversary.

I had a bang up 87th birthday party, which I had resisted celebrating because I want to ignore my birthdays, but it turned out to be great fun, and I realized that being a little old lady wasn’t so bad after all.

I acquired a shelter kitty, named Stephi, in honor of our great hero, Stephen Curry. And what about those Warriors? The victory parade was close enough to my place that we could walk over to Grand Street and see and holler over Draymond, KD, Klay and the whole gang who put Oakland on the map and gave us so much to feel good about. How sweet it was! So, all in all, for me it was a pretty good year.

But the backdrop to all of this, of course, was national politics. The Trump presidency has dominated our lives, and I confess to having reached a point of numbness because of the daily onslaughts on so many of our institutions and even on what used to be thought of as “norms” of behavior in our country. If you care at all about the state of democracy you have to be alarmed at how quickly things can change. Worst, of course, is the threat of a nuclear showdown in Asia.

So, what can we expect in the new year? More instability, for sure, and more craziness from our president. The United States is rapidly losing its role as leader of the world and role model for the concepts of justice and equality. We can no longer think of ourselves as special and exceptional. We can be dumb and stupid, pretty much like most other countries in the world.

But I am heartened by signs that there is growing resistance and maybe more honesty in our discourse. Finally, there are signs that we’re beginning to talk more clearly about race and racial history, and we are acknowledging our country’s brutal and blood-drenched past. (Thank you, Ta-Nehisi Coates, for his great, important book, “We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy.”) Issues like sexual harassment and assault are now out there on TV and in the public discourse. Are we going to have a pedophile as a senator? By the time this is published, we will know.

And within our community, I see signs of greater activism, of more awareness of our role on the political stage. There’s a group calling ourselves Nikkei Resisters who want to show support and solidarity with other minorities who are vulnerable in this climate of fear and hate. Stop Repeating History is another movement that calls on our moral authority to speak out against scapegoating and the singling out of other peoples of color and ethnicity, like the travel ban, which affects citizens from predominantly Muslim countries.

So, if you don’t like the way things are going, if you are alarmed by the actions of an undemocratic president, if you’re worried about nuclear war and the destruction of the environment and the climate change deniers, get out there and do something. There is much each person can do, and so, let’s get going.

Chizu Omori, of Oakland, is co-producer of the award-winning film “Rabbit in the Moon.” She can be reached at chizuomori@gmail.com. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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