Forum offers a chance to learn from history's mistakes

Acknowledge the lessons of history

Saturday's visit by Hood River native Dr. Homer Yasui to the forum, "Civil Liberties in a Time of War," at Riverside Community Church, provides a rare chance to learn from the past and the present.

The retired surgeon's return to his home town after many years might seem to be opening an old wound. But that is not the case. He was interned, along with other Hood River Japanese-Americans, and still feels a sense of resentment toward this community. (Please turn to page B1 for the full story.)

But Yasui's visit here, though potentially painful, provides one more chance for a man of experience to contribute to the community where he was born.

"It occurred to me that maybe we (Japanese Americans) might be able to help put alleged threats to our national security into perspective, based on our experiences in World War II," he told reporter Janet Cook. "In other words, to try to make things easier for Arab and Muslim Americans."

Certainly the changes in laws enacted since Sept. 11 -- an event often compared to Pearl Harbor -- demand that we scrutinize what our leaders are doing in the name of national security, and its effect on Arabs and Muslims (and those who are perceived as Arab or Muslim.)

That scrutiny will include contemporary experience, as viewed by three other speakers at Saturday's forum, as well as historical events as experienced by Yasui.

There is no need to rehash the wrongs that were done to American citizens who happened to be of Japanese descent, during World War II. They happened throughout the western United States, including Hood River. It is a part of our history we should neither shield nor bear too heavily on our shoulders.

The rich contributions to Hood River, then and now, of Japanese-American families, is like the core to an apple. Despite the traumas of World War II, Japanese-Americans remain a vital part of the community.

Today, Hood River boasts a 20-year-old sister city program with Tsuruta, Japan, and the relationship grows stronger all the time. Dr. Yasui's brother, Chop, founded the program. Mutual exchange visits, by both adults and youths, are planned in 2002 and 2003, between Hood River and Tsuruta.

On various paths, here and abroad, greater understanding will develop.

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