Friday, April 10, 2009

George Takei and the Japanese American Relocation Camps

Few actor's voices have as great affect on me than George Takei. Like Morgan Freeman's, his voice is calming and soothing. I could listen to this man read the dictionary. I wish I had a voice like this. It didn't surprise me to learn that he got his start in acting doing voice over. He is fluent in Japanese, English and Spanish so would do the dubbed voice over for many famous Hollywood actor's foreign releases. Like many Japanese actors of his era, he got his start in front of the camera in war films playing the enemy. You could imagine how excited he was when he landed his role as Mr. Sulu on the original Star Trek TV series. Gene Rodenberry understood that a crew that represented the planet Earth should have more than just a Caucasian crew. He is more recently known as Kaito Nakamura on the NBC show Heroes.

When he was the age of five, Takei's family was notified that they (an American family) were to be escorted out of their homes to an interment camp for Japanese Americans. A few days later some uniformed men appeared at their door with guns and brought them to a truck that brought them from their Los Angeles home to the Rohwer War Relocation Center in south eastern Arkansas. Over a period of two years, close to 8,500 Americans of Japanese descent were kept in this camp. The Takei's were eventually moved to the Tule Lake Relocation Camp in Newell, CA. He lived in an interment camp until he was eight. Takei says of the experience that they were treated reasonably well but the fact that they were surround by guards with machine guns gave them all a sense of fear. They didn't know what was going to happen to them. When they were eventually released after the war, some had difficult recovering their valuables and property.

There are not many situations in American history that make me frustrated than stories of our fellow citizens were treated this way purely because of their ethnicity. Some of these families were here for a century, yet that didn't stop the government treating them all like traitors. German Americans were not treated this way. Some German Americans were thrown in jail, but only if they were confessed German nationals. In recent years, after seeing how some Middle Eastern Americans are treated, I can't say we have changed that much. FDR may be one of my favorite US Presidents, but this does seem like one of his gravest errors.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Baseball in Korea

When we invited a Korean foreign exchange student into our home, I was expecting to learn and grow some appreciation for Korean culture. This has happened. It was been an enlightening experience, but I didn't expect to grow more appreciative about my own culture here in America. This has been an added bonus to this experience. I hear not only appreciation from him in regards to how America how helped South Korea throughout history but admiration. He is now a daily reminder for me to be a bit more patriotic and appreciative for what I have been born into.

While driving him into school this morning we were not talking about history but baseball. I asked him if he had ever played for a team because he is a fan of the sport. He explained to me in Korea that the college bound kids don't play sports. At an early age you are put on a track from which you don't deviate. After lunch, the high school athletes leave school and go to practice for the rest of the day while the college bound kids stay in class until 9pm. I explained to him that some of our athletes are also scholars (but I emphasized some). He told he thought that the reason why the Korean team lost to the Japanese team at the WBC was because the Japanese team played smarter and were smarter. I don't know if this is true, but it is certainly his perception.

Here in the states every town (or close to it) has at least one baseball diamond. Little league is a right of passage with our youth. If you want to participate, it is there. He told me that Korea probably has a total of 50 baseball diamonds in the whole country. Of course, this is not an official number. I have no idea how many they actually have, but he said that when he visited Japan that he couldn't believe the number of baseball diamonds he saw. Korea has Little League but it appears to be a small organization, only in the big cities and not for everyone. If you know more about this, please let me know. I am very interested. I couldn't find much about it on the net.