Wednesday, February 8, 2017
My 92 year old father passed away a few weeks ago. I share this with you on this a celebratory day not because my dad was a well-known or great man. No, he'd likely would have admitted he was in many ways, quite ordinary. He would have readily told you his proudest achievement was raising our family. Yet the life he lived was extraordinary.
Eleven days from today will mark the 75th anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt signing an executive order ordering the incarceration of Japanese Americans living on the west coast after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. My dad, his sister and brother, all American citizens, and my grandparents were among over 100,000 Japanese Americans who lost their property, homes and freedom pretty much overnight. Years later the United States Congress and President Ronald Reagan issued an historic, formal apology and monetary reparation acknowledging this wrongful government action, one of the darkest in our country’s history.
I'm not sure I would have been as humble and strong enough to accept any or all of this fate like my dad and so many in our Japanese American community did without rage or a loss of faith. But instead of giving up on their country, my great community doubled down on the belief that the American dream was the one that would ultimately make their life and more importantly, the lives of their children, better.
A few weeks before dad died I had a dream. It was the type of dream that when I awoke, I couldn’t get back to sleep as I tried to figure out its meaning. In my dream one of my sisters told me I had to go back and get something from our childhood house, the house dad moved out when we moved him into a senior living facility four years ago. In my dream I didn’t want to argue with my sister yet I was uncomfortable walking into a house that a stranger now owned. When I entered the house it was empty. I walked upstairs to my childhood bedroom and the lime green shag carpeting and orange walls were still there. The only thing in the room was a video tape machine, my Betamax, along with a Minnesota Twins video tape up on top.
That's when I woke up.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about that dream. Ultimately what I think it meant was trying to come to terms with the achingly sad feeling of losing the last bridge to my childhood and beyond that, losing my real home. I can no longer go back into the house I grew up in and have so many fond family memories of. My sanctuary and security blanket. That was a very difficult realization to come to grips with.
I almost feel sheepish telling this story after, as a CAPM board member, hearing the personal hardships and difficulties many in our refugee communities had in coming to America. Many lost their homes in a much more real, difficult, often times violent and life shattering way. Many can never ever return to their home country without risking their lives. Even the way my dad lost his home in Seattle all those years ago is much more heartbreaking than my metaphorical middle class loss of home.
But what I've come to understand as I mourn and try to figure out what the loss of my dad means to me, is that home isn't merely a place, it's a tangible feeling with a lot of associated memories that make up who we now are. No matter where we are in our lives,what we’ve encountered, our ups, our downs, our triumphs and losses, what we really are always longing for or clinging to is something as basic as a place to call home, a place of our own, where we feel secure, safe, and sound. It’s really a basic human need right up there with air, water, and food.
Today we are standing in a glorious and historic building that is often referred to as the “people’s home.” The people who come into this building work so hard in trying to make this state feel like home for those they represent. Understanding what goes on in this building and how you can play a critical role in the process can be so important as you find the tools to achieve your own American Dream.
It’s been my great privilege during my time as a board member of CAPM, to hear from and learn from so many life stories told from different members that make up our great Minnesota Asian Pacific Islander community... as we gather in this awesome place of power, the beautifully restored Capitol...I'm humbled and inspired to play any role I can in helping improve our communities. And I thank you all for sharing in this journey.