I had been in a foul mood yesterday. Many things contributed to my mood. My uncle’s death and his upcoming services, issues at work and something that I am not accustomed to dealing with – perceived negativity. Communication is a funny thing as there are always three elements which comprise a conversation; the speaker, the listener and the interpretation. Once upon a time, I was the type of person who read the paper religiously from cover to cover, hoping to keep abreast of the happenings in the world and in my community. I would faithfully watch the news every night to hear and see what I had missed in the papers. I would speak with my colleagues and friends about the world’s events and how unfair, horrible and hopeless the world was becoming. And then something happened, an personal epiphany of sorts. I discovered that what is so often reported, so gleefully written, spoken and illustrated always seemed to surround the negative, the horrible way we treat one another as humans. So I made a conscious decision to ‘unplug’ from the media in order to clear my own mind and mainly my soul from the constant and utter barrage of negativity.
Many will view my decision as one man’s efforts to put his head into the sand. But I disagree. I certainly know, perhaps better than most of the horrors and injustices that occur in this country and countries and entities around the world. Human nature seems determined to suppress someone else in order to elevate their own causes. Recently I have been subjected to something that I have not had much experience with – criticism of America, specifically Americans. Since I have not traveled much abroad or had personal contact with people outside of America, this is a new phenomenon for me. And it is certainly one that I find difficult to deal with. Perhaps some of the reasons I find it disturbing is some of the comments remind me of the prejudice I experienced in the past. Some of the comments have been well researched and others are simply conversational and without merit.
As I heard the opinions of others I thought back to my own family, Japanese immigrants who came to America in search of a better life for their own families. My grandfather came here when it was illegal to have Japanese women immigrate. At the same time it was illegal for him to date women outside of his own ethnicity. So he did what any red blooded man did, he used the Match.com method of that day and found my grandmother through a catalog of women who wanted husbands. And the result were three wonderful children, Nori, Chiz and Harvey.
Then war broke out and Japanese Americans were sent to interment camps. Later those same people who were sent to camps were asked to enlist into the US Armed Forces. Many did not and I was surprised to learn from Tracy’s brother Craig that some Japanese Americans renounced their US Citizenship and returned to Japan after their interment. But both of my maternal uncles served in the 442nd, the most decorated unit in US History. Later both my father and uncle enlisted into the US Armed Forces. My Dad into the Army where he was a tank commander and my uncle Harvey into the US Navy as a naval aviator. Both were highly decorated during the Korean campaign.
As I recalled the life of both my father and uncle, I was struck that neither of them complained or criticized any land including America. As far as I am concerned they had a legitimate right to criticize the very country where they were citizens, yet interned. My father told me that a man should never be judged solely by his mistakes, but how he treats others and just as important – what he does to improve where he lives. My uncle Harvey, a very soft spoken and a quiet man once said to me, “Marky, there are troubles everywhere and to speak of trouble and do nothing to improve what you see is not honorable. Never enter someone’s home and tell them that you don’t like what you see. Find something that you admire and tell them that.” My aunt Chiz certainly saw first hand how biased and unfair life can be, yet always looked upon the positive and gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. I always wanted to be around her as her outlook gave me strength to act toward improvement.
I am proud to come from my family, a family whose roots are proudly Japanese who also acted and built a life as Americans. I am not above complaining and fretting about what goes on in this world that is horrid and unfair. But like my relatives and ancestors, I have chosen to view the positive side of life. I will focus on what is right and universal to all humanity, for what is not can only be corrected one person at a time. It is said that the only person we can truly change is ourselves. Living one’s life in an honorable way is what I have been taught not only through words, but through actionable example. I have made many mistakes in my life that I’m sure have affected others, some I know, some I may never know. I hope that as I move forward I am always able to view this life with positive hope, but more importantly positive actions. First and foremost, the need to live in such a way that inspires others to follow. Nori did, Harvey did, Chiz did, my grandparents did. And I will.