Nichi Bei Times, April 12, 2002
The JACL Image and
the Resisters of Conscience Ceremony
In this day and age, just what kind of an
image does the Japanese American Citizens League portray to the Nikkei
Better known as just JACL to the man on the street, the venerable league is back in the limelight again. Year in and year out, since their inception in 1929, theyve been the most visible and widely held, if not the most respected JA organization in the country.
Originally established as a civil and
human rights entity during the trying depression year to look after the
secular interest for their Nihonmachi, JACL is still best remembered for
their post-war string of historic, landmark legislative triumphs in
Washington for the Japanese Americans.
By their spirited make-up, they still
continue to command heightened attention and are always on the brink of
something grand or controversial. And at this point, much is happening.
Today JACL is led by a new wave -- a young breed of ultra-liberal
activists with strong divisive opinions, that makes for penetrating
publishing and to the fourth estate vernaculars -- they always make for
interesting reading materials -- providing crisp journalism copies for the
readers. Grist for the mill, so to speak, and its sells newspaper.
This time, JACLs headline features the
highly contentious WWII draft resisters issue. The center of this boiling
explosive question deals with JACLs ill-advised proclamation to
officially sponsor a public ceremony to recognize and honor and get
this, to formally apologize to the resisters of conscience
for their personal stand in the wartime internment centers. This
incredible event is scheduled for May 11 at the Japanese Cultural and
Community Center of Northern California in San Franciscos Japantown.
Actually this proverbial, bloated can of
unagi (eels) exploded during the last 2000 National JACL Biennial
Convention in Monterey -- when the shocking resolution was boldly
introduced by the left-wing element of the organization. They managed to
cleverly maneuver and swiftly railroad the bill through the stunned
council session -- catching the opposition off-guard and triggering an
instant emotional repercussion with rippling anger in the convention hotel
Its nothing more than a classic case
of Monday Morning Quarterback rhetoric by the young experts -- born
after the evacuation -- just second guessing JACLs illustrious record
and history. Like why didnt JACL challenge -- protest, march and
fight Lt. Gen. John L. Jap-is-a-Jap DeWitts Western Defense
Command -- instead of meekly acquiescing and parading into the camp?
Yet ironically, this Monterey meeting --
held in this famed picture postcard Blue Pacific resort city -- is hailed
as one of the artistically best gatherings ever, if not the best. But now
it will be notoriously remembered as the incendiary planted confab that
split the delegates gut wide-open -- right down the middle and into the
tank. Hara-kiri! An unfortunate, inexcusable movement -- tarnishing this
reputable conservative oriented group,
thats facing a moment-of-truth -- perhaps never to fully recover. A
kiss of death!
For the record, we have no problems with
the dissatisfied dissenters. As a citizen, thats their constitutional
given rights to pick and choose in what they personally believe in. But
for them to be agreeable, by accepting to be placed on a holy pedestal and
accept an apology -- well thats something of a stretch. How
inappropriate, disrespectful and insulting can it get. The Nisei veterans
have a right to be upset and madder than hell with the JACLs so-called
politically correct leadership!
And how soon we forget! If the Japanese Americans -- admiringly labeled as the Model Minority and The Quiet Americans -- enjoy a very unique and unprecedented amount of admiration and esteem from their fellow Americans today -- its really for one single reason. The extraordinary, brilliant battlefield accomplishments garnered by the Nisei soldiers.
This did not happen by accident -- but by
some shrewd design and careful calculated planning. To counter and offset
the evacuees darkest hours after December 7 visionaries Mike Masaoka
and JACL came up with a daring, effective public relations gimmick --
selling the Pentagon brass on the idea of forming an all-Nisei Army
fighting unit, that eventually became the highly decorated 442nd
Regimental Combat Team. In this goodwill venture, they were joined by the
Hawaiis Go For Broke 100th Infantry Battalion and by the
unheralded Military Intelligence Service (MIS) the invaluable
linguistic Secret Weapon of the South Pacific jungle warfare.
This PR program was for the express
purpose to showcase and prove the loyalty of this much-maligned,
suspicions ethnic group. It was to dramatically demonstrate at that time
to a paranoid, war-struck nation and in this instance to a confused and
perplexed people who couldnt quite figure out these inscrutable
enemy looking inmates, fresh out of the Made in America
barbed-wire concentration camps.
The rest of course is academic. Their
magnificent record-setting wartime performance that tragically includes
some 830 JA heroes, who gave their lives -- the supreme sacrifice is
gloriously etched in marble form the Pacific to the Atlantic. And need we
be reminded that the eminently successful JACL spearheaded the $20,000
legislative redress campaign with a presidential regret, which was only
made possible by these brave warriors and nobody else! The
resisters, we assume, were recipient of this twenty grand reparation
It certainly wont hurt them and some
of the defiant ungrateful JACLers, who naively complain and whine about
being on the short end of the stick, to seriously think again -- show some
sense of appreciation, with realistic conventional wisdom.
Leave well enough alone. You have nothing to gain with this ill-defined issue creating irresponsible friction -- driving a damaging wedge with the irritated veteran organization in particular and justifiably so. The reputation and JACLs future is on the line and price of consequence can be costly!
As for the JACL image today?
If nothing else, the thorny public
apology ceremony to embarrass the old JACL regime and salute the resisters
wont help at all. And their stagnant, declining membership program is
down to 20,000 and guess what? In spite of the recession, like a bunch of
drunken bureaucrats, they raised their dues substantially to keep up with
their reckless fiscal spending spree -- rather than tightening their belt
an extra notch -- prudently cutting back and putting a temporary hold on
some of their programs, until the soft economy turns around.
Its interesting to note, that the
majority of their members is still made-up with aging second generations
who still acts as financial angel to the equally strapped financial
league. JACL has also deviated from their basic mission of taking care of
their own people. Instead theyre trying to be everything to everybody
in the broad Asian community spreading themselves thinner than a crepe
So with that kind of a questionable image
today -- why should a Sansei, Yonsei, and Gosei join JACL?
President Floyd Mori and his urbane
sidekick John Tateishi, national executive director, needless to say, have
some daunting cultivation and challenging sales job ahead. More than just
a routine backyard fence-mending chore!
Fred Oshima writes from Salinas,
Calif. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily
those of the Nichi Bei Times.
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Updated: May 7, 2002