Friday, April 24, 2015

The Empty Chair

Blog # 20

The Empty Chair

My blogging slowed this week because my book came back from the editor with enough critical marks that I spent a lot of time correcting my terrible English and punctuation. Want to experience humility? Write a book and get a good editor. Here's my latest post.

In 1942, John Tanaka was the Valedictorian of his class at the Juneau-Douglas High School in Alaska. He was spirited away by his own government to spend a couple of the most hopeful years of his young life in an American concentration camp. You may not like the term I just used. In polite circles they were called "relocation camps." That sounds like some real estate picnic. But when asked, my former secretary Jane Matsuoka who spent her post high school years at the camp at Tule Lake said, "It was a concentration camp."

At the age of two, the husband of one of my sisters was sent with his family to a camp in the middle of an Indian reservation in Arizona; sort of a concentration camp inside of a concentration camp.

But back to the empty chair. When the graduation ceremony took place at J.D.H.S. in 1942 John Tanaka's friends decided a statement had to be made about fairness. They placed an empty chair on the auditorium stage for their missing Valedictorian. If you visit Juneau today, you may visit a bronze replica of that chair. On the bronze boards are engraved the names of those who were "relocated" from the region. The memorial is a short walk uphill from the cruise ship landing. Don't miss it and its implied message; Don't violate the constitutional rights of your citizens because of their race.

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