Daily Notes on Literature, Pop Culture & Media, and Academia

The Courage of No-No Boys

Posted by litdaily on December 30, 2010

It is heartening to see The New York Times’ Editorial/Appreciation for Frank Emi, a Japanese American interned after the Pearl Harbor bombing and a no-no boy, who passed away on December 1…more>>

Frank Emi was one of the founding members of the Fair Play Committee that argued that the internment camps were betrayals of the Constitution and of American values. The Fair Play Committee’s declaration is a reminder that far from being cowards, no-no boys were courageous, patriotic Americans who fought for liberty and justice when it was the toughest to do so:

We, the members of the FPC, are not afraid to go to war. We are not afraid to risk our lives for our country. We would gladly sacrifice our lives to protect and uphold the principles and ideals of our country as set forth in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, for on its inviolability depends the freedom, liberty, justice, and protection of all people, including Japanese-Americans and all other minority groups.

But have we been given such freedom, such liberty, such justice, such protection? NO!!

This editorial, like John Okada’s novel No-No Boy, which we had recently blogged about here, suggests that the no-no boys’ response to betrayal by their nation was as American as the decision of Japanese Americans to fight in the army. In the Preface to No-No Boy, Okada demonstrates that the no-no boys’ response was similar to what any other American racial minority or the dominant whites would have done in the situation. When a Japanese American soldier tells a fellow soldier, a “blond giant from Nebraska,” about “the removal of the Japanese from the Coast, which was called the evacuation, and about the concentration camps, which were called relocation centers,” the blond soldier refuses to believe at first (Okada x-xi). When the blond soldier acknowledges the reality of Japanese American internment, he says, “Hell’s bells…if they’d done that to me, I wouldn’t be sitting in the belly of a broken-down B-24 going back to Guam from a reconnaissance mission to Japan” (Okada xi).

Both Okada’s novel and The New York Times’ editorial are hopefully a part of the long arc of history that is going to judge the no-no boys’ anger not as an aberration but as an American fight for justice.


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