Obon time is a time to remember loved ones who have passed away. We honor the dead with tradition and ceremony. By coming together as family and community, we have the opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned from those who are no longer with us, and we remember something about the lives they lived.
Many of our loved ones may have suffered the trauma of the World War II incarceration. It is part of our legacy, not just of our family and community, but a legacy of our country, the United States of America. I bring this to mind today because I cannot ignore the trauma being inflicted on the innocent children who have been brought to the U.S. by parents escaping life-threatening danger to their lives in Central America.
Like many of us Sansei who experienced being “children of the camps,” these children are being held in prison-like environments to await an unknown future. And though seeking asylum in another country when a person has no recourse for protection is legally sanctioned by international law, these families are now being treated as criminals.
I have met with several mothers held in private prisons in South Texas who have told me that the reason they made the treacherous journey across the southern continent to the U.S. was to keep from being separated from their children by gangs and thugs who threaten to kidnap children to be used as boy soldiers or for sex trafficking. During these interviews in the prison visiting room, the children clung to their mothers, fearful and anxious, as the prison guards, guns in holsters, kept their eyes trained on us. So evident was it that their parent was the only secure source of comfort. Sadly today, with the government’s effort to stem the flow of refugee-seekers, the children are now being traumatically torn from their parents and placed in separate facilities. Ostensibly a strategy of deterrence to send a message that seeking asylum here will lead to separation of families.
I bring this disturbing story to you today as we remember our past and honor our dead. And with the understanding that remembering our collective trauma as Japanese Americans during World War II, innocent victims of a country inflamed with hysteria, racism, and failed leadership, we are being called on to speak out for the humane treatment of innocent children. As we were forced to leave our homes, schools, and jobs back in 1942, there was no outcry, no marches or demonstrations protesting the injustice. Let us remember, heal from our past victimization, by standing on our moral authority to speak out against the inhumane policy threatening our most sacred values as Americans.
Let us remember our forbearers and their sacrifices so that we may have a better life. A life that allows us to have a voice. Seven times down, eight times up!
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.