Mahalo to my friend, Jack Custer, for his letter in response to my letter to the editor (Aug. 26), which expressed gratitude to Clinton Shiraishi and World War II veterans like him. While disturbing to many, Jack’s letter (Sept. 3) gave me the chance to reflect on the nature of the misunderstanding. Hopefully I can bring some clarity in my response here. I think we are closer than appears.
Jack: I have not forgotten, nor will I ever forget, who bombed Pearl Harbor. It was the nation of Japan as represented by its leaders and the Japanese military. It was a dastardly act which caused death and suffering for many Americans. Nothing can ever justify or excuse such an evil act.
It was against the Axis powers, including Japan, that Japanese-American (emphasis on “American”) soldiers like Clinton Shiraishi and my father fought. Mr. Shiraishi was injured and many Japanese-American soldiers died as part of the effort that ultimately saved the world from Nazi domination and the ideas of racial supremacy.
I wrote that Japanese-American soldiers fought on two fronts — against the enemies of America and against the prejudice of their own countrymen. This is best illustrated by the true story of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who lost his right arm as a Japanese-American soldier fighting with the famed 442nd Infantry Regiment against the Axis powers in Europe. After the war, dressed in full U.S. Army uniform, without his right arm, he was refused a haircut in California because he looked like the “enemy.”
That’s all I was trying to say, Jack. I was not trying to excuse the Japanese government — only trying to hold up the dream of my dad, Mr. Shiraishi, Martin Luther King Jr. (whom I paraphrase here) and all of us who believe in aloha, which I’m sure includes you. It’s the dream that one day we will live in a world where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It’s a dream World War II veterans died for. Now it’s our turn to make that dream reality, starting with ourselves.
JoAnn Yukimura is a resident of Lihue and a member of the Kauai County Council.