In the '70s I was a nursing student by day and a peace, love and freedom hippie by night. A generation removed from the horrors of world war two and eons beyond that in attitude and experience. When it came time for my psychiatric rotation I was sent to a beautiful Victorian hospital in the countryside. I was shocked to discover a portion of the patients were men broken by war. Only eighteen or nineteen when hell descended upon them they crawled through life unable to escape the horror. Some of them had been tortured. They still screamed.
Move forward a couple of decades. I am in the pretty little town of New Denver in British Columbia. It was the site of a Japanese , or more correctly, Nikkei, internment camp. In Canada, all families of Japanese descent living on the Pacific coast were forcibly relocated to camps in the interior. Women, separated from their husbands, with small children, some pregnant others ill. The first winter they were in tents under several feet of snow. Eventually tiny two bedroom tar paper shacks were built. Two families to a shack.
Knowing what I knew could I feel sympathy for these families? The answer is yes. They were the "Other". Stereotyped because of their heritage, culture and ethnicity. Ironically, later in the war, some of the men served in the Canadian army.
It is impossible to eradicate the pain of the past. We can, however, in a small way, choose a different path. We can listen to and share stories with the "Other".
|Nikkei Internment Memorial Museum, New Denver|