RABBIT RAMBLINGS: ‘Support our democratic institutions or we might lose them’


bioline_Chizu OmoriAmerica is still an experiment. That’s the conclusion I come to after experiencing what we went through this last year. We now have a president who blithely ignores all the norms, customs, rules and traditions that have previously been associated with the institution of the presidency, and we seem to have a government run by tweets. It is all so outrageous that we have become numb to each turn of events that seem to include blatant lying, bending the rules or ignoring them, messing up relations with so many other countries, so much so that questions like “Is Democracy Dying?” have come up. (This is the headline on the cover of The Atlantic magazine in October.)

Closer to home is the resurrection of our history of incarceration, of the West Coast community of American Japanese being forcibly put into camps during World War II. When the announcement of executive orders being issued, one after the other, a chill came over some of us because of our familiarity with Executive Order 9066, the order issued by President Franklyn Roosevelt, that put us in the camps. Our experience is now being used by our president and others to justify similar attempts to demonize and harass certain ethnic and religious groups, rallying people by appealing to their fears and distrust of immigrants, especially those who are not white.

What is particularly disturbing in this situation is that about a quarter to a third of Americans really do not believe in the fundamentals of our country, the core beliefs that are embodied in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These Americans don’t believe that each person is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that each of us is born with some inalienable rights.

One would have thought that, by now, these ideas would be considered the bedrock of our society because we have given lip service to them for several hundred years. Well, it is obvious that the idea of equality for everyone is not acceptable to some people.

As a person of color, and given my history, I am very aware of the role that race has played in our country, and how the white majority has used its power to “keep us in our place.” Maybe we Asian Americans aren’t as picked on as some of the others, but I feel that something could easily happen again, for instance, if some major conflict developed between China and the U.S. Some fraction of the American public would turn on us at the blink of an eye.

So, for me, it has become important to once again remind people that some of us were put into American concentration camps, that our American citizenship was of no value at that time, and so, with the rallying cries of “Never Again Is Now” and “Stop Repeating History,” we are out there demonstrating, speaking, supporting, joining forces with many others to warn the public that we don’t want this to happen to anyone again. We want to emphatically say that we are against travel bans, detention centers, unfair immigration policies, and fascistic tendencies that seem to be present in our administration.

I’d like to ask more of our community to participate in these activities. We were able to mobilize our people to fight for redress and an apology. Now, we need to get out there and show that we want fairness and equality for everybody and that we will not let our country go down the road of greater racial and economic divides. We want our children and all children to get a fair shake in our country and we need to express these feelings. Let’s make the new year a year of commitment and activism, in honor of our fathers and mothers and our grandparents who had to pay a huge price for their ethnic background. We learned a hard lesson in that time, and it is that we have to support our democratic institutions or we might lose them.

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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