By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent
Setsuko Winchester describes herself as a a Japanese American, a ceramicist, and former journalist at NPR.
In November, she embarked on a personal journey.
She took 120 hand made clay bowls she had crafted and set out to take them to each of the ten incarceration camps that imprisoned Japanese Americans during World War II.
Winchester wanted to photograph the bowls at each of the locations and recently visited the last of the four locations. What does any of this have to do with Donald Trump? Please read to the end.
During her visit to Tule Lake, she heard high school students from Klamath Falls, Oregon openly using the slur “jap.” The boys seemed to be trying to impress the girls and the girls seemed to enjoy it, laughing about it as if it was all one big joke.
Winchester went about her visit, trying to ignore the distraction from the students.
Later, as she described in her blog, Freedom from Fear Project, four or five of the boys approached her with their teacher. This is how Winchester described her encounter.
“These boys would like to say something to you.” One White boy stepped forward and said, “We are very sorry. We didn’t mean to be hurtful or disrespectful. We will not do it again.” Of the group, there were two who appeared non-white, one ethnically Mexican, the other perhaps South Indian. One of them stepped forward and said, “I, of all people, should not be saying things like that and I am deeply sorry.” I said I really appreciated it and gave the two a hug and went on to do my project.
Later, I talked more to the teacher. She said her students were not bad boys. She said she thought what they said was wrong and hurtful but that bringing them here was part of trying to teach them something different. “I really don’t think they meant any harm,” she said. I said I agreed.”
In an interview with people from the Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York, Winchester talked about why she called her art project Freedom from Fear.
“It’s in reference to FDR’s Four Freedoms Speech in which he said that Americans had the right to Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Want and the Freedom from Fear,”she said. “My ceramic essay is an attempt to use something beautiful to examine an ugly part of our history thus turning its memory inside out. Rather than expose the ugliness of those who perpetuated and confirmed the Fear (FDR included), I wanted to show the humanity of those who were incarcerated. They were not soulless, faceless, monsters but individuals with hopes and dreams of making a new life, like all immigrants who found their way to America. Freedom from Fear implies an “other.” I hope I was able to make the other side visible.”
Now lets come full circle back to Donald Trump.
While at Tule Lake, a park ranger told Winchester that the site has been getting more visitors interested in the incarceration because the presumptive presidential nominee Trump had said it might be a good idea to bring back incarceration camps for Muslim Americans. These visitors weren’t interested in learning from mistakes in our history, but wanted to find out how internment “worked.”
While some may laugh at some of what Trump says as absurd, others are taking his ideas to heart. That’s something to keep in mind this November when you go to the polls. If you’re not registered, reclaim your voice and take the time to register to vote. Then go one step further and use that power for good.
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