At this juncture, now that I am in my 80’s and can look back on almost a century of living in this most beautiful country, what I have come to is that it is all about forgiveness. The story that matters to me these days is the one that takes us out of one state of mind and into another more freeing one.
As a Japanese Canadian, I was part of a group story of being victimized for being identified with an enemy. In my childhood Japan was at war with Canada and Japanese Canadians were demonized, rounded up, sent to internment centres and our homes were sold from under us.
On September 22, 1944, my family’s home in Vancouver was sold and Canada's promise to keep it safe for us was broken. Exactly FORTY-FOUR years later, on September 22, 1988, the government of Canada declared that it had been wrong in its actions against Japanese Canadians. On that momentous day, WE reached a cross-over point. The GOVERNMENT'S acknowledgement of wrong doing took us out of the role of victim.
September 22, 1988 was a cross-over day. The long cold spell was broken. The door was officially opened and we were offered the chance to enter, to take off the victim cloaks and hear and accept the warm and healing words.
In situations of injustice, whatever side we are on, we experience ourselves as right. We are the ones who have been wronged or not heard. The identity of the side that has suffered wrong is morally comfortable. And both THOSE WHO HAVE suffered wrong, and THOSE WHO HAVE perpetrated wrong, focus on their own pain or justification.
What I have come to understand is that if we miss the cross-over point, if we continue to cling to the identity of victim first, victim last and victim forever, if we continue to wear the heavy coat of suffering though winter has passed, we are in danger of harming others, of becoming victimizers unawares. By being focused on our own pain no matter what, we inure ourselves to the pain of others. Individuals and even nations do this. We exaggerate our own stories of suffering. We minimize and even deny the other’s.
I’m grateful that the country of my birth was strong enough and courageous enough to admit past wrongs. I dream that the country of my ancestry will someday go through its catharsis of grieving for actions of incalculable harm to other nations in its history. When that day arrives, THOUGH THE WORLD WILL NOT FORGET perhaps WE MAY GLIMPSE THE POSSIBILITY OF FORGIVENESS.