“Not flag or fail”
No time to lose hope
July 4th 2022
Bryan Zepp Jamieson
I wasn’t going to fly the US flag today. Even said so several times in posts around the web. But George Takei changed my mind. He wrote on Twitter,
·If you have trouble celebrating July 4th, I can sympathize. For years, we did so within internment camp barbed wire fencing, guns pointed in at us. We honored the promise of America even as it was broken to us every day. But still, we kept faith. And a brighter day finally came.
I wrote in response, “I wasn’t going to fly the flag today. But you just changed my mind. Don’t lose hope. Never lose hope.”
Takei, of course, is the author of the autobiographical graphic novel, ‘They Called Us Enemy’ (They Called Us Enemy by George Takei Co-written with Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott and illustrated by Harmony Becker. Top Shelf Productions 2019, 204 pages) which recounts the arrest and internment of his family in 1942 for the crime of looking Japanese in public. They spent the better part of four years in American internment camps including the most desolate and remote corner of California, perhaps two hours drive from where I live.
Takei’s father had left Japan decades before at the age of 12. Nobody else in his family had so much as set foot in Japan, and none felt any loyalty to Emperor Hirohito. But westerners were fearful, cowardly and paranoid, driven by transitory panic. Governor Earl Warren summed up social attitudes when he said, “We have no reports of spying, or sabotage, or fifth column activities by Japanese Americans, and that is ominous, because the Japanese are inscrutable.”
It’s the sort of thinking you associate with zealots and extremists, and Warren normally was neither—quite the opposite, in fact. But the moral and social panics that afflict societies on a regular basis cause reasonable people to utter madness.
As I read Takei’s story, I was struck by the dignity and patriotism of the internees. They only resisted against one demand by the government, that they sign a loyalty oath and a pledge to serve if called upon. The reason for the resistance was NOT that they were unwilling to serve their country (and the vast majority of internees were native-born Americans or naturalized citizens) but the insulting demand that they renounce Emperor Hirohito.
Takei explained it in this passage: “Takei, then adolescent and judgmental, responded to a remark the elder Takei made that ‘…of all the forms of government that we have, American democracy is still the best.’ with ‘Daddy, how can you say that? After all you went through, losing everything you and mama worked for?’ His father replied, ‘Roosevelt pulled us out of the Depression and he did great things. But he was also a fallible human being, and he made a disastrous mistake that affected us calamitously. But despite all that, our democracy is still the best in the world because it is a people’s democracy.’”
Every December, I write a piece dealing in some way with the winter solstice. The theme, always, is that of hope. My tag line on those essays is “Don’t lose hope. Never lose hope.” If I am to be true to that promise, then I have to have hope myself, now more than ever. I owe it to George Takei. I owe it to my readers. I owe it to myself. And I owe it to what America stands for.
Yes, there are bigots and fools and religious zealots in positions of power, and they are demonstrating the deep and abiding threat to freedom and sanity that they always have. The GOP, fascist billionaires and corrupt churches egg on a moral and social panic to their own selfish and vicious ends. Many are the same sort of people who build internment camps and worse. Many are good people made temporarily insane by the transitory gusts of rage and fear, like Earl Warren was during the war. (Warren went on to codify many of the same rights the zealots of the Supreme Court are trying to take away now).
So the flag is out front this morning. It’s not a typical Fourth of July morning: it’s cool, and raining, and probably won’t get very warm today. Usually it’s hot and sunny. But then, it wasn’t going to be a typical Independence Day anyway. Storm clouds aren’t always meteorological.
We will defeat the zealots and the fascists and the haters, and drive them back under their rocks. Our own panic and fear will evolve into resolve, and we will fight the monsters of the right and take back what is ours by Constitutional right. They will not prevail. They have Trump; we have Takei. We will win.
Don’t lose hope. Never lose hope.