RABBIT RAMBLINGS: Painful reminders of the past and present

bioline_Chizu OmoriAh, the good news. The Warriors are on a winning streak, and they are so much fun to watch. We can watch some incredible athletes perform on the court and cheer them on a couple of times a week — what a respite from the news. We can forget about COVID, the threats to our democratic way of life, the shortages of cream cheese and rising gasoline prices. Just enjoy these guys battling it out, passing, stealing, blocking, dunking, shooting, rebounding, etc. See, even an old lady can get in the spirit of competing at that level. Go, Warriors, and give us something to look forward to.

Now, back to welcoming in the New Year. It looks like COVID will be with us for a long time, if not forever. But the cold and flu have been with us forever, too, so let’s hope that its lethal qualities will wane so that it isn’t so life threatening. These are uncertain times, so it wouldn’t be honest to wish everyone a happy New Year knowing that we’ll still be dealing with a virus that has killed so many people and affected our lives so profoundly. Still, with the vaccine and the boosters, things are better than they have been, so we can be thankful for that.

Another issue that concerns me is that we seem to have politics to deal with constantly, and we get no respite from it. The congressional commission studying the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol will keep those matters in front of us for the foreseeable future, and the 2022 congressional elections will occupy our attention for the whole of the coming year. I hope that people will not feel overwhelmed by the constant drumbeat over the election and not participate. We will need everybody to understand the seriousness of these elections and come out to vote. Every election, on the local and national levels, will have consequences, so we need everyone to participate.

In the meantime, I have been preoccupied with the Wakasa Memorial situation. I know that it is a complex subject and many are probably wondering why it is so contentious. In the Dec. 9, 2021 issue of the Nichi Bei Weekly, Jonathan Hirabayashi describes the Topaz Museum as world class. It is a pretty good museum, but to call it world class would not be accurate. A genuinely great museum would not have done what the Topaz Board has done in the way it handled the Wakasa Monument. What it did goes back to the way that old museums used to do, the picking up and carting away of priceless historical objects to be displayed as trophies and stuff to look at.

The Wakasa Monument is something that is a piece of Japanese American history, a somber artifact that symbolizes a history that many of us lived, and there are people alive who were living in Topaz at the time of Wakasa’s murder. They have vivid memories, and it had great impact on Topaz inhabitants. Wakasa’s death made everyone feel vulnerable and at the mercy of an unfeeling government that could do anything to us. You could be shot taking a walk. So honoring Wakasa was the right thing to do under the circumstances. The fact that the government wouldn’t allow the monument to exist added more pain to the situation.

The museum has informed us that the removal was done with care, and “to record the process, we hired two videographers.” So, we know they made videotapes and sound recordings of the procedure. But interestingly, the museum will not allow anyone to see these tapes. They say that they are afraid the tapes will be manipulated to put the museum in a bad light. This lack of transparency is disturbing.

I went to Delta to see the monument and to observe the ceremonies and site on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The desert landscape and the striking mountain scenery was breathtaking, and to be on the very land where so many of us were forced to live during World War II was very emotional. The stone monument itself seemed to radiate an aura, one of quiet power and undeniable significance. Once again, I had to think about what our government did to us, and it was painful. Wakasa will live on in our memories and in that monument.

Chizu Omori, of Oakland, Calif. 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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