Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Other

Comments on my last post, from Tammy at Casa Mariposa and Laura from I'm So Vintage have been on my mind this week.

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

8 comments:

  1. As much as things change, they remain the same. People want peace and to care for their children, unfortunately, governments want power. History has shown that power always wins.

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    1. "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". Baron Acton

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  2. I have always been drawn to the stories of the internment camps. I've never really understood the reasoning, but I've always thought these things happen out of fear of things not understood. I enjoyed reading this post.

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    1. Thanks Bonnie. Taking my children to the interment camp was a valuable teaching opportunity.

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  3. I did a big research project on the Japanese American internment when I was in high school. I lived next to a formerly thriving hub of Japanese farming culture and was able to interview a survivor. I still find it painful that this is part of our history. How shameful. I love that you were a hippie. :o)

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    1. Now I'm an old hippie, way more fun.

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  4. I've never visited there -- thanks for that great photo ... I remember how much impact it had on my when I read Joy Kogowa's book Obasan. One day I hope to visit there.

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  5. I knew about the interment camps, but I did not know that we made those poor innocent families spent a winter in tents. I am embarrassed that this is part of our Canadian heritage. I feel just as sad for the young soldiers that you nursed. War is hard on everyone.

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