Rabbit Ramblings: Renewing the call to action in 2020


bioline_Chizu Omori

The year 2020 promises to be very eventful. Our community will be extra busy with many pilgrimages and activities planned, including a gathering in Washington, D.C. in June organized by Tsuru For Solidarity. Our goal is to get as many of us — American Japanese, camp survivors and descendants of camp inmates, plus anyone else who is concerned about the targeted populations being held in detention centers all over the country — to the Capitol as we march together.

We hope to take 125,000 folded tsuru, paper cranes — to represent the 125,000 of us who were incarcerated by the U.S. government during World War II — to this demonstration. Our mission is to impress upon the world that we see an ominous turn in our government in its treatment of asylum seekers and other targeted groups. Since almost no one stood up and protested for us when we were being rounded up, we want to show our solidarity and support for these beleaguered persons.

“Stop Repeating History” and “Never Again Is Now” are our slogans.
Of course, the backdrop to all of this is that there will be a presidential election going on and we’ll be inundated with political campaigning. And this is not going to be like other campaigns in the past. Our president is facing impeachment proceedings, so it is going to be more shrill, more ugly, and just plain tougher all around. There are some aspects of our democracy that will be severely tested in the immediate future and all of us should be concerned. We have never had a president who lies so frequently, who breaks and bends all the rules, and seems to think that he is above the law. Worse yet, a large part of our country seems to cheer him on and accepts his language and behavior as OK.

Now, immigration is a complicated issue and we have a long way to go to solving the problems, but current policies like family separation and questioning the right of people to seek asylum are possibly illegal, and they certainly go against our general sense of fair treatment and respect. We need to demand change in these policies.

I will be going into my 90th year and I’m beginning to feel that contemporary American life is something which is getting to be so complicated, particularly all the technology that fills our lives, that I am sliding into obsolescence. I am amazed and dazzled by what young people can do with all the tools that are available these days for contacting, for organizing, for getting messages out, and for all out creativity in addressing issues. And so I am extremely happy to see the youth who are taking up so many of the causes that I have felt to be so important. Our story will not die when the Nisei generation fades out of the picture. It will continue to be recognized as a fundamental violation of the laws of the land and as a blatant act of racism.

I think that it is very healthy for us to get out there and tell our stories and for other people of color to know them. We have been stuck for so long in the model minority myth that our dark history has largely been hidden. That we were once herded into concentration camps is a reality we must never forget and we should never allow others to ignore it or pass it off as something minor.

As a community, we have an opportunity in this coming year to bring our experiences to public attention and challenge the government’s mistreatment of targeted groups. There is much that we can do, so I go into 2020 with a renewed feeling of dedication toward working for a more just society. It’s a great way to spend my old age.

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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The 2024 Films of Remembrance sheds light on the forced removal and incarceration of the Japanese American community into American concentration camps during World War II.