Thursday, February 21, 2008

War! What Is It Good For? Absolutely, Uh, Something!

Earlier, I wrote about the tensions between Japanese in Nippon v. the J/A's (Japanese Americans) in the U.S. Even though I slammed Mr. Sulu for his snide remarks about how I pronounced my name, I didn't mean to make light of the issue of Nipponese v. J/A's. Certainly, there is much to be said about the suffering on both sides.

J/A's languished behind the barbed wire of interment camps and were separated from family and friends, lost careers, property, and--most important of all in Asian culture--face. The Japanese in Nippon, also lost face along with millions of innocent lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki which were destroyed by American atomic bombs. My own mother, living in Tokyo at the time, often found herself racing towards a bomb shelter to avoid the constant rain of B52 bombs dropped by Americans. One day, she arrived at work only to find her office in shambles; completely demolished by bombing.

No one ever really wins a war. The devastation comes not only in the loss of lives, but also in the deeply psychological pain that often lingers following the trauma of war.

But if there's any kind of light at the end of the tunnel to be celebrated, it's the births of thousands of mixed-race babies who would've never been born had it not been for a war somewhere. So, war can be a kind of cultural bridge, too.

Who would've ever thought that an African American man from the South, whose ancestors were brought in chains from a place he has no recollection of, would end up marrying a Japanese woman whose own sad personal history made her eligible to move to America? And, who would've ever thought that a spirited and artistic Japanese woman would marry a man who should've been considered a representative of the enemy of her people?

But it happened. And, it happened to many others like my parents. It happened to Germans and Italians, too. One of my best friends in high school had a French mother and Swedish American soldier father who had met his bride while he was stationed in Europe. Another had an Austrian mother and Caucasian American father. War brides are what they called these women, but they were so much more. They were brave souls who struggled to recover from the devastation of war and, if that meant marrying a stranger from a strange land, whether or not love fit into the equation, so be it. I'm sure most of those women loved the men they ended up with, but who among us can say how we would behave romantically after losing our families, friends, countries, and even our hope.

About 3/4's of the kids I knew while our family lived at Ft. Lewis were either Japanese and black or Japanese and Caucasian, and German and black or German and Caucasian. Quite frankly, if it hadn't been for a war, I wouldn't be me.

Still, it's too bad that it takes a war to bring some folks together. Perhaps in the future, people will make an effort to not segregate into tribes and, in the words of Bob Marley, "Spread out! Spread out!"

Cool runnin's, ya'll.

Your Hip Hapa,

P.S. That's me and Moms, above, with her bike in Tokyo many moons ago.

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