Opinion

There's always hope that fear shall be overcome | Our Opinion | Feb. 17

Until she moved here some 10 years ago, Erin Jennings, author of the featured story in today’s Kitsap Week, was unaware of Bainbridge Island’s connection with Executive Order 9066 and the subsequent removal of 276 island residents to internment camps. Why should she, having spent most of her life in the Midwest and East Coast?

Symbolically, the narrative of her story, which appears two days before President Roosevelt’s seminal order was made 70 years ago, focuses on the Japanese word “gaman,” which means patience and tolerance. It also explains why islanders and others who suffered through internment often chose not to share their pain and shame with others, including future children.

Very slowly, the island’s Japanese American residents began emerging from the ignominy they felt in being labeled an enemy  in their own country. Kay Nakao, 22 at the time, remembers being told that “a Jap is a Jap,” which meant that a such a person living on the West Coast at a time of war was a perceived threat and was incarcerated in an inland camp controlled by soldiers.

On Bainbridge Island, its Japanese American residents were the first to be evacuated from their community. Upon their return home after the war, they stoically rebuilt their lives and for decades kept their sorrow to themselves. Eventually they decided to offer an emblematic message of hope for future generations of Americans.

It’s not by accident that the energy behind the Memorial Exclusion Wall at Eagledale, where 276 islanders were evacuated on March 30, 1942, didn’t gain momentum until after Sept. 11, 2001. The fear that Muslim Americans felt on that tragic day must have been similar to what Japanese Americans experienced after Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.

Now, islanders who experienced the outcome of Order 9066 are often call upon to relate it to school children and others who are in the need to know about an authentic tale of caution, one that urges: “Let it not happen again.”

 

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