CCDC Rejects National JACLs Reconciliation Resolution With Resisters of Conscience
MERCED, Calif.The long-running controversy over whether national JACL should apologize to the Nikkei resisters of conscience has come to a close, at least for now.
The Central California District Council (CCDC) of JACL at their third quarterly meeting held at Merced Community College on Aug. 29, rejected the national JACL resolution which proposed to apologize to the resisters of conscience for not recognizing the "principled stand" they took during World War II.
The question over JACLs need to apologize to the resisters first came before the national JACL in 1988, the same year the redress bill passed, and the latest attempt was just one of several made by various JACL districts.
The outright rejection by CCDC kills any hope of the passage of this particular resolution, which requires a unanimous vote by all eight districts. To date, five districts have voted to support the resolution.
The vote by CCDC will also impact any impending decision by the two remaining districts the Eastern District Council (EDC) and Mountain Plains District Council (MPDC) which had earlier voted to table the resolution for further discussion.
Lillian Kimura, EDC interim governor, said their district will hold a phone conference in mid-September to conduct a second vote. She was unsure how their district will vote but noted that three of the six chapters were adamantly opposed to the resolution.
Cory-Jeanne Murakami-Houck, MPDC governor, could not be reached for comment by press time but at the Utah tri-district conference in July, she had indicated that MPDC planned to introduce a separate resolution that would address the constitutional rights issue that the resisters had taken up. If national JACL accepts MPDCs resolution, the entire voting process would begin again.
CCDCs decision on the national resolution followed a 30 minute discussion session where members and guests were allowed five minutes each to air their opinions. Other than a push by Fred Hirasuna, a Fresno chapter member, to extend each speakers time period, the discussion ran smoothly.
Within CCDC, Hirasuna, 91, has been the most outspoken critic of any attempts to apologize to the resisters. He argued that it was within the United States governments right to suspend the constitutional rights of its citizens during times of war and that it was necessary for Japanese Americans to prove their loyalty to America if they hoped to be accepted into American society after the end of World War II.
"I believe this move by the Heart Mountain resisters was entirely uncalled for," said Hirasuna. "It was not the time and not the place for that kind of move. This was wartime, and wartime ignores a lot of so called constitutional rights.
"We knew we had to get back into American society after the war, and to get back into American society meant we should cooperate with this country in the war against Japan because Japan at the time was the enemy. By cooperation, I mean we should forget, for the time being, our constitutional rights."
Shim Hiraoka, a 442nd veteran and non-JACL member who spoke as a guest of Hirasuna, felt that the efforts of the resisters were pointless, saying all legal test cases prior to the resistance movement had failed and that "there was nothing to fight about we had no constitutional rights."
Hiraoka urged JACL to remain steadfast in their original position or if compelled to pass a resolution, to cite the resisters as a "group of principled Americans who made the wrong decision at the time."
But Izumi "Izzy" Taniguchi, also a Fresno chapter member who spoke as an individual, felt JACL members should not hold it against the resisters for taking a different stand and made a call for acceptance because he felt different factors influenced each persons decision.
"While in the Gila camp, there were a lot of disturbances," recalled Taniguchi. "At that time, there were some bad things said about the JACL, that JACL sold us down the river, and people were getting beaten up. There were all kinds of pressures. My father was picked up by the FBI so there was no way he would have approved my brother or myself to volunteer for the Army. We had all kinds of other pressures as to what positions to take."
Dale Ikeda, a member of the Clovis chapter who had been a district governor back in 1989-1990 when JACL had approved Resolution 13, recommended that both sidesthe resisters and the JACL draw up a joint resolution.
"If I had my druthers, I would like to see the national president, the vice president of public affairs and a representative of JACL who can speak for the veterans meet with the Heart Mountain resisters about these issues and try to clear the air, reconcile, heal the wounds and move on," said Ikeda.
With 100 percent representation by all 10 chapters within CCDC, the final vote on the resolution was 9-3-3 to reject the resolution.
The Reedley chapter had initially abstained from voting, creating a 5-5 deadlock, and the four district board officers were asked to break the tie, which resulted in 14 votes cast. Reedley later changed their vote to oppose the resolution.
The final vote went as follows: chapters opposing the resolution included Fresno, Livingston-Merced, Parlier, Selma, Tulare and Reedley. CCDC officers opposing the resolution included Larry Ishimoto, second vice governor; Kathy Ishimoto, secretary; and Travis Nishi, treasurer.
Chapters supporting the resolution included Delano and Sanger. Ralph Kumano, from the Sanger chapter, pointed out that a survey conducted within their chapter revealed that Sanger members were four to one in favor of the resolution. First Vice Governor Bob Taniguchi also supported the measure.
Chapters abstaining from voting included Clovis and Fowler.
Andy Noguchi, a son of a MIS veteran and representative from the Florin Chapter which was one of the three co-sponsoring chapters of the resolution, said he was "disappointed" by the result but not discouraged.
"This is just a temporary setback," said Noguchi. "I think the process has to continue. I had hoped we could have moved forward but considering where this issue was a year ago, compared to where it is now, I think there were a lot of steps that were made forward. I think the support from the majority of the districts, from the majority of chapters and from the majority of the membership on an issue like this is a real step forward.
"I think a lot has happened. More and more people understand the resisters story, and I think there was a very good discussion process through the JACL. I believe a lot of people got educated."
Noguchi said it was too early to determine what their next step will be and noted he will be discussing the matter with representatives from the Golden Gate and Sequoia chapters, the other two co-sponsoring chapters.
He added that the intent of the resolution was reconciliation as a means of strengthening the Nikkei community and was not intended to disrespect any other sector of the community.
Grace Kimoto, CCDC governor, felt that her district shot down the resolution not because members were opposed to it per se but "opposed to the wording of the resolution, to the word, apology."
Speaking as an individual, Kimoto said, "I really feel that we do need to get together, especially with the resisters. Id like to see some reconciliation."
Herb Yamanishi, outgoing JACL national director, felt recognition of the resisters, rather than an apology, was more appropriate.
"I think what should happen is that they [JACL] need to recognize the resisters but they dont need to make any apologies because there is nothing to apologize for," said Yamanishi. "JACL, as an organization, did nothing intentionally wrong or tried to harm the resisters in any way."
Yamanishi said he has read through past JACL minutes and "nowhere is there evidence of wrongdoing or attempts to do harm by policy." He felt that those who criticize JACLs wartime past were misconstruing past individual opinions and actions for JACL policy.
What JACL should do, according to Yamanishi, is recognize the resisters through such vehicles as including the resisters contributions in JACL-sponsored teacher training workshops and educational lesson plans. He also added that JACLs education committee needed to consider not only the resisters but the coram nobis and the Mitsuye Endo legal cases and many other issues to give a truer picture of camp life.
© 1999 Pacific Citizen, reprinted by permission.
Updated: September 3, 1999