MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Saturday, January 7, 2012

January 7-8, 2012: Honoring A Great American

Earlier this week, one of the 20th Century’s (and history’s) most courageous and inspiring Americans passed away at the age of 93. Gordon Hirabayashi is likely best-known for the Supreme Court case that bore his name, and which resulted in a decision that rivals Dred Scott and Plessy as a tragically misguided application of the law to buttress un-American discrimination and bigotry. But that case, and its converse four decades later by which Hirabayashi was finally vindicated, represent only a portion of the heroism and ideals which Hirabayashi and his co-resisters embodied.

I have plenty I could say about the Japanese internment, about Hirabayashi’s stand, and about the worst and best of American identity that they collectively reflect. But for today I’ll let actor, playwright, and activist George Takei’s brief but moving words about Hirabayashi and the internment speak for themselves:

http://www.allegiancemusical.com/blog-entry/hero-our-democracy

and will supplement them with the extended biography provided in the New York Times obituary:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/04/us/gordon-hirabayashi-wwii-internment-opponent-dies-at-93.html?_r=1

The full story of the Japanese internment has yet to be included in our national narratives and conversations, although I’m heartened to see that Takei is working on a musical that will engage with this dark and divisive and yet, as Hirabayashi demonstrates, also deeply moving and inspiring part of our American history and story. As we mourn the loss of this inspiring man, we can and must also honor his courageous and vitally American actions and life.

More next week,

Ben

PS. Any thoughts on Hirabayashi, the  internment, or any related histories or issues to add?

1/7 Memory Day nominee: Zora Neale Hurston, the Harlem Renaissance novelist, anthropologist and folklorist, and essayist whose works consistently depict the complexity and richness, the pain and promise, the horrors and hopes, of African American and American communities and lives.

1/8 Memory Day nominee: Emily Green Balch, the Nobel Prize-winning anti-war activist whose near-century of inspiring American life included professing economics and sociology at Wellesley, writing pioneering books on Slavic Americans and international women’s organizing and activism (among others), and defending human rights around the globe. 

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