It Takes Fear

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I just finished a phone interview for the local paper near the retirement community in Florida where I will be visiting next weekend to speak with their book club. The club is reading my novel Go Forward with Courage, and the reporter asked me about my motivation for writing the novel. This is a question not easily answered, but here is my response in a nutshell.

The seeds for Go Forward with Courage were planted by my grandfather years ago when he made a simple comment that has stayed with me. He said, “If my parents had been from Japan instead of Germany, I would have been in a camp during the war rather than fighting for my country.” The second seed was planted by my high school history teacher when he told us what had happened to the Japanese Americans during the war, and how much grace the families showed throughout their hardships. Then as a college student, I viewed some propaganda films made by our government to justify the internment of citizens who hadn’t been charged with any sort of crime. They were shown side by side to Nazi propaganda films and were so similar in nature that I felt sick.

There is another, more pressing reason that I wanted to write my book when I did. I honestly believe that this could happen again. All it takes is enough fear. We Americans value civil liberties and freedoms to be sure. But we also value our safety, and especially the security of our children’s futures. For the Americans of the 1940’s, the catalyst to provide the necessary level of fear was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. What would it be for modern day Americans? The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 was a start. Recently the uptick in violence from Islamic extremist groups has added more fuel to the fire.

In my novel, Jackson has to come to a point where he can separate his hatred for the Japanese who caused the death of his father from the innocent civilians locked behind bars near his grandparent’s farm. The challenge for us today is to separate the actions of extremists from those who are simply wanting to live a peaceful existence in a country which was founded on religious freedoms. This is one aspect of history that I certainly don’t want to see repeated.

Photo credit: Densho.org

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