My Final Column

October 24, 2014 • Columnists, Tateishi

By John Tateishi

I’ve been writing articles for the P.C. for a lot of years. I first began with a column in 1978 after being appointed chair of the JACL’s National Redress Committee and wrote weekly to keep our members informed, especially when, within a year after my appointment as chair, I began lobbying Congress on our first piece of redress legislation.

In those early days before computers, I wrote mostly from D.C., where, on late Friday afternoons, I often found myself at phone booths in one or another of the House or Senate office buildings dictating my weekly column to Harry Honda, the then-editor, hearing Harry pounding away on his old Royal typewriter on the other end of the line.

Over a span of 35 years, I’ve written at different times wearing different hats: my seven-plus years heading up the redress campaign, seven years as the national director and this column from 2007 until now.

Through those years, I’ve written mostly about the JACL’s interests, but perhaps less so in more recent years to the point that I sometimes struggle to find appropriate topics. I have over 20 articles sitting on my computer that won’t get published here because they don’t fit what the P.C. should be about. The list is long: criticism of President Obama’s leadership style; the Tea Party; the lasting affects of the debt ceiling limit debacle and government shutdown in 2012; gun control and the despicable and cowardly response of Congress in the aftermath of Newtown; the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters in Japan and the grace and dignity with which the Japanese responded; the game of baseball; the administration’s gutless response to those on Wall Street who gamed the financial system for their own personal gain and put this country into an economic tailspin; the Christian jihad from America’s religious right; the Supreme Court; the immorality of wealth and greed in America; the play “Allegiance” and the way it mocks and criticizes the JACL like Lillian Baker used to and for many of the same reasons — such strange bedfellows they are; corporate subsidies to American companies that protect their profits in foreign banks to avoid American taxes; the shameful Republican effort to reinstate Jim Crow-type laws under the hypocritical guise of preventing voter corruption; the NSA’s shocking over-reach into our private lives; a disgraceful Congress that has created its own house of fools; the thuggery of Russia’s takeover of Crimea; and so many more.

Ultimately, I write from the perspective of a kid who grew up behind barbed-wire fences and on the streets of Los Angeles in a world too often tainted by prejudice and hatred. Mine is a Japanese American perspective of the world, shaped but not limited by those experiences. I am offended by the immorality of social injustice borne out of arrogance and self-righteousness and feel compelled to speak out against it. I am outraged at the senseless slaughter of innocents, the mutilation of humanity by dictators and raging armies, and often as outraged at myself for not doing anything about it, and by the fact that this nation, so powerful and wealthy and thinking itself so morally superior, chooses to do nothing in the face of the genocidal carnage and the inhumanity in the world.

The point for me is that what I choose to write about is not always appropriate for the P.C. I sometimes feel like the speaker in Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” where the road diverges, and I’ve chosen the road that takes me to a different place.

Off and on, I’ve occupied space in the P.C. for 35 years, and through most of that time there was so much to write about that I sometimes wished the P.C. had been a daily instead of a weekly. That’s no longer the case: The P.C. is now bimonthly, but even then, I sometimes struggle to find something relevant to write about. I always have something to say, but it’s often not the right fit for this space.

This has been a while coming, but I know the time has come for me to move on. So this, then, is my last column.

I’ve appreciated having the opportunity to share my views with P.C. readers over these many years and thank you for indulging me my opinions. It’s been a good gig writing this column, but the trick, I’m told, is to know when to leave and to do so graciously.

It’s time for a new voice to fill this space, and I hope it’s a voice that challenges this organization into a courageous future.

‘Nuff said. Be well.

John Tateishi is a former JACL National Director.

Originally published on August 8, 2014

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