RABBIT RAMBLINGS: The fight continues

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bioline_Chizu OmoriI guess we can say “Happy New Year” without feeling totally hypocritical at this time. The year that we just lived through has been so different from any that most of us have experienced that one can hardly find words to describe it.

As of this writing, there are record breaking numbers of people catching the coronavirus, hospitals are dangerously full and the death toll is reaching unprecedented heights. Right now, we in California are under lockdown again, with those of us who are able to, being asked to stay in our homes for at least three weeks.

So, I don’t think it is out of line to say that life has changed. We will not be going back to the “normal” existence that we had in 2019. We now know that pandemics are going to be a fact of life, and they will come along from time to time. So, a major lesson for all of us is that we will have to be prepared for them.

Another major lesson we have received during this period is that ELECTIONS MATTER. Who we place in leadership positions, like the presidency and Congress may have life or death consequences. Why am I talking about such a boring truism? Because the last four years have been disastrous for us. The numbers reveal that many people don’t bother to vote, and we now know that voter suppression is a major problem in our country. So between the indifference and the machinations to keep people from voting, we do not have true democracy and representation.

Another painful conclusion I have had to come to is the fact that many Americans don’t believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and that all people are created equal. They do not think that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are for everyone. Even though these sentiments are always dragged out on the Fourth of July and recited at every opportunity to proclaim how great America is, we know that there are large groups who have never in their hearts believed in these slogans.

Some students interviewed me earlier this year for a documentary they were making. During the course of the interview, they asked me, “Do you love your country?” I gasped and went silent for a few moments. I had never been asked this before. Do I love my country, the very country that imprisoned me, my family and community for more than three long years and then pretended that it was no big deal, just a mistake? The country that stole the land from Native Americans and tried to kill them off? The country that brought millions of Africans across the Atlantic Ocean as slaves to build the economy and create the wealth that propelled it to power and prosperity? The list goes on.

So, this was no simple question for me. I have now seen how fragile a democracy is and how one person can almost wreck our country. I’ve seen homeless encampments spring up all over my town, Oakland, and have felt helpless to do anything to change the situation. It is very hard to love a country that is as wealthy as it is and that does so little to help its poor.

My answer to that question is: I don’t know. In fact, what does it mean to love one’s country? It is my home, I have a pretty good life, and I will never leave, but I can see that it could be a much better country for many who live here. And so, I feel an obligation to work and to continue to fight for the ideals of equality and justice. We are an imperfect species, and if we are to survive, we’d better try harder to get along and work together.

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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