September 29, 2010: “Kiri’s Piano”

September 29, 2010


James Keelaghan-Kiri's Piano


I met with Yoshio, yesterday to start to organize photos for his book. As always, we had wonderful conversations about photography, food, and various topics. Yoshio showed me his Powerpoint lecture on his mother’s history in Denver at the beginning of her life. In his presentation was a short history of Governor Ralph Carr of Colorado who during his term, advocated for the basic human rights of Japanese-American interned by the US government during WWII.

For those Americans who are unaware of this blemish of our nation’s history: on February 19, 1942, President Franklin Deleno Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 ordering all people of Japanese ancestory on the west coast of the US to be relocated to internment camps to the interior of the US. From 1,200-1,800 Japanese were forced to give up their homes and most of their possessions in this move. About 62% of these people were American citizens. Even though were we simultaneously at war with Japan, Germany, and Italy, German-Americans and Italian-Americans (strong voting-blocs) were not subject to a similar internment. American citizens with as little as 1/16th Japanese heritage were interned as well as Korean-Americans, as Japanese occupied Korea at this time.

Governor Carr was a strong advocate for these Japanese-Americans interned in camps in his state. He urged tolerance from his fellow Coloradians and urged them to welcome the interns. In a speach at the time he said:

If you harm them, you must harm me. I was brought up in a small town where I knew the shame and dishonor of race hatred. I grew to despise it because it threatened the happiness of you and you and you.”

Because of his strong stance of racial tolerance at a time of war, Governor Carr suffered and his political carreer ended soon after. Gov. Carr’s efforts were immortalized by a statue in Denver’s Sakura Sq. by those Japanese-Americans he tried to protect.

Above is a link to my introduction to this dark spot on our nation’s history. It a song by Canadian singer/songwriter James Keelaghan titled “Kiri’s Piano” and does a good job of putting this part of our history on a personal level. For years I found the ending to be hopeful that even a person motivated by greed, feelings of racial ambiguity, and lack of empathy, could change. Now, I feel different. A later examination of conscience does nothing for the individual harmed at the time by a crime of indifference or intolerance. We must remember that as a society, nation, and as individuals, that we are often given only one chance to do the right thing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: