Let’s Talk … About standing up

I’m here in Honolulu to assist in interviewing my friend and inspiration, Mr. Hitoshi “Hank” Naito, a 93-year-young Nisei man whom I met several years ago while working on a documentary film about my family’s experience at Tule Lake, Calif. during World War II.

Confronted with the so-called “loyalty questionnaire,” Hank’s Issei father had worked for decades as a fisherman on Terminal Island in Los Angeles County. In the process of his forced removal following FDR’s executive order, he had not only been deprived of his material possessions, but his livelihood and most painfully, his American dream.

Anticipating deportation to Japan, the elder Naito-san realized that the only thing that he could truly still claim as his own, was his family. In honoring his father, young Hank, 17 years old at the time, courageously opted to renounce his citizenship having answered “no” to the two questions that would ultimately label him and thousands of others, as an “enemy alien.”

Shortly thereafter, he was incarcerated indefinitely at Fort Lincoln in Bismarck, N.D., and eventually deported to Japan.

Hank, like many others who renounced their citizenship for so many different reasons and circumstances, spent a lifetime never speaking about his life as a “renunciant.” Sadly, draft resisters, no-nos and renunciants would be denounced not only by our government, but by people in our own Japanese American community as “disloyal.” Their stories were silenced and those who protested their unconstitutional incarceration in American concentration camps were charged by Japanese American Citizens League leaders at the time, as troublemakers, draft dodgers and cowards.

At the conclusion of our day-long interview, Hank was asked what message he might want to convey to young people today in this resonant era where once again an entire group of people for reasons of religion, race or sexual orientation are being targeted by government executive order to be removed and incarcerated and deprived of their human rights. Hank spoke, with simple, yet heartfelt words, “Stand up, speak out against injustice.”

During this month when our Japanese American community is commemorating the injustice of our World War II incarceration, let us make sure we, former prisoners, and descendants of prisoners, are talking today about what it is that I can do today to take a stand, to speak out, to take action, understanding that protest is our constitutional right, that dissidence is not disloyalty.

Satsuki Ina, Ph.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in intergenerational trauma. She can be reached at satsukina44@gmail.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.

Comments

  1. I had to renounce US citizenship in response to FATCA discrimination and have, as a result, been denounced by the US government, the American community and even an American residing in Japan. I’m not a troublemaker, draft dodger or coward, but rather simply a typical worker who needs to bank locally to pay local bills. It would be good for the Japanese American community to become aware of the plight of unrepresented Americans living abroad and to take a stand, speak out, and take action against the injustice which is harming them today.

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