Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Grant Ujifusa Interview II
Narrator: Grant Ujifusa
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 2, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-ugrant-02

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today is March 2, 2002 and I'm Tom Ikeda. I'm the interviewer. We also have in the room Arlene Oki, and the videographer is Dana Hoshide, and today we have Grant Ujifusa. And Grant, why don't I start with... you live in New York and you're in Seattle this weekend.

GU: Yeah.

TI: What brings you to Seattle?

GU: I'm here to participate -- or, in fact, it's just happened yesterday -- to participate in a board meeting of the Japanese American National Memorial Foundation. About twenty people showed up. We've completed the physical construction of what I think is really a magnificent memorial. And the question before the board during this last meeting was, okay, are we gonna go on and do "education," tell our story through the memorial? And it was a go, no-go meeting. We decided to go. And the analogy that might be used is: we have built a great skating rink, okay, magnificent skating rink. Now we've got to spend some time and effort and money to get people to come and skate. We have defined education as the effort to get people to come and see our memorial, and that means Japanese Americans, it means ordinary white people, it means ordinary international visitors to Washington. We want some portion, for starters, of the twenty million people (a year) who come to visit Washington as tourists, including, we hope, lots of young people. Let's say, a percent of twenty million, one percent of twenty million, if they came to visit our memorial, then we can tell a whole lot of our story.

TI: Now why is that important? Why is it important that these people, these, a fraction of twenty million, go to the memorial to hear the story?

GU: Well, for two reasons. Number one, we want them to know our story. We think our story is a compelling human narrative. Okay? It's interesting. We want to get our story before the public. And the second reason is that we feel that if they learn our story, it contributes to their life and their understanding of (what) the fundamental propositions of what democracy (are) in this country. And you understand what those fundamental propositions are when those propositions no longer obtain for you, when they are taken away. Now you see the American Constitution at work. My grandfather is running a little store in Japantown, and the next day those fundamental propositions about American life are no longer part of his life, then his life changes. That could happen to anyone. It could happen to the tourist who wanders through.

TI: Now for you personally, what got you involved in working on this project?

GU: Well, I was asked by... who was I asked by? I was asked by some people in Chicago to join the board, perhaps ten years ago. And I didn't attend the early meetings because I was tired. I had done redress during the '80s and I wasn't gonna take this up. And maybe it's just sort of my fate, I get pulled in because I want to get into some sort of internecine battle going on, on the foundation board. And they said, "Well Grant, you're among the very few Sansei who really worked closely with Mike," Mike Masaoka. "And they" -- and I didn't know who "they" were at that point -- "want to keep his name off the memorial." And I thought to myself, well this is outrageous. Mike is the single greatest leader that this community has ever produced. He (was) a brilliant man, and not only intellectually brilliant, but imaginatively brilliant. So if you asked him, how do you do something, he knew how that was to be done in Washington. So I felt that if anyone was to be on that wall, ahead of Dan Inouye, ahead of Norm Mineta, ahead of Ronald Reagan (and) Harry Truman, it had to be Mike. And so I said, "Well, I'm comin'" --

TI: So can you --

GU: So here we go.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Can you explain a little bit about your personal sort of relationship with Mike --

GU: Uh-huh.

TI: -- and how you worked with him? Because I think you're one, at least with Sanseis, one of the few that have worked with Mike. So that would be really interesting.

GU: Yeah, I was the Legislative Strategy Chair for the JACL part of redress. And again, like a lot of life, certainly Japanese life, perhaps Japanese American life, it begins personally. So, it's an act of filial piety, actually -- Mike and Min say, "Well, we're gonna do redress" --

TI: This is Min Yasui.

GU: Min Yasui, I'm sorry. "We're doing redress, but for a separate set of reasons, the Sanseis are saying you can't do this with us because it's now our turn." And they said in so many words, "We think we should play a part." And I said, well, maybe it is their turn. So I chatted with some of the Sansei who were then running redress out of JACL. And they struck me as not very... they were not unintelligent, it's not as if they were... they had great commitment, but they had no idea how this town, Washington, worked. And Min was a great figure. No one does this to Min. I knew Min during my childhood. So I said, "They can't do this to Min, and we need Mike." 'Cause he had the great expertise in our community. So I said, okay, here I go. I'm the filial pious son, you can't do this to either of these guys. So we're gonna get you back players in redress. And so they said, "Thank you." And I continued to work with Mike, who had an extraordinarily close, and indeed almost a brother's relationship with Spark Matsunaga. As you know, Sparky was very important. He delivered almost all of the senators, seventy of them, single-handedly. Okay? If we were to develop in the first instance, trust with Sparky, Mike (already) had that trust. If I walked in, (Sparky) would say, "Well, I'm sorry. Why don't you sign the book and we'll send you some stuff." If I walked in with Mike, then, here we are. Let's go.

TI: So, do you think it was just a lack of understanding by some of the other people in redress in terms of the importance of Mike and his contacts? That they just didn't understand, and that you appreciated, and that's where it came from? Or was it just loyalty?

GU: Well, it's both. I knew how much Mike knew. Mike was as good as any hakujin lobbyist in Washington. He was good. Like there are good basketball players. There are good quarterbacks. Mike was very good. We needed him. So that's part of it. The other part of it is that I got to know him almost like a surrogate father. He was very charming. He had an extraordinarily ingratiating warmth and smile. So I got to love the guy. And whenever I was in trouble I would say, "Here's the problem." And he would almost invariably would say something very American and very Japanese. "Give me the night to think about it. We'll talk about it in the morning." And he always had some way around the problem that we had. He was a guy who could solve problems. So how do you get to person X? Well, you're gonna have to see person Y, person A, and even fifth person is gonna have to call his AA. All right.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Now for someone like you who really worked closely with congressmen and people within the White House --

GU: Uh-huh.

TI: I mean, so did he give you a different perspective, or was this all, did it all make sense? Or was this like a new understanding in terms of how things were done in the Beltway?

GU: It's a subculture. Washington is a subculture like, like software around Seattle. It's a subculture. It's like Hollywood. Hollywood is a subculture. The financial district in New York is a subculture. So you begin to learn the ways of the subculture. Kinds of things that you do and kinds of things that you don't do. And Mike was practiced in that. So, let me give you an example which I may want to edit out later. He would say look, Dan Inouye is a very smart guy. He's very shrewd. And every day people come in and ask him for something. Okay? When you go in and see Dan, you go in by yourself. Because if you go in with three others, Dan is gonna know which of the three of you want the least. So if you want six, and person B wants four, and the third person in the room wants one, Dan is gonna know which person wants one and he'll say, "I'm gonna give you one." And the person who wants one will say, "Hurray, let's get out of here." Okay? So you gotta go in by yourself. So these are in some ways tricks of the trade, and they're innumerable. And Mike was an absolute master at that. So I think -- given the revolution of the '60s, people said, "Well who is this guy who sent us to camp?" No, no, no, no. That's not the way it happened. So, Mike became my mentor and surrogate father, who had still a lot to contribute to our community. And I think without Mike saying -- when he had his early doubts about redress -- without Mike saying to Spark, "This is something we ought to go for," Spark wouldn't have done what he did in the Senate.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Let's move forward now to the National Memorial. Because you were the one who really advocated putting Mike, Mike's name and the JACL creed inscribed on the memorial. Can you talk about why that was important?

GU: Yeah, I'm afraid, as I told you on the phone, that to put it mildly, I am not an uncontroversial person. I was called by a couple of vets, one of whom lives around here, (who) said, "Look, they got Mike off the wall." And I said, "What? This whole idea of a memorial was Mike's idea." 'Cause this is the way he was. He'd think of things, like he would think of Densho. Right? So he said, "We ought to have a memorial." And people said no, no, they don't do memorials for ethnic groups because everybody, the Lithuanians would want one, and Washington would be covered (with them). But we got the authorization to do this memorial. It's Mike's idea. How can they keep him off the wall? Beyond that, Mike, as I said to you earlier, as far as I'm concerned, is the single most gifted leader that our community has yet to produce. I will say beyond anybody who now sits in Congress. Or indeed, beyond his brother-in-law who now sits in Bush's Cabinet.

So, I went down there. And the board, which consisted of about thirty people -- and we had a little conversation. The vets and I had a conversation. And I said, oh yeah, I'll carry this banner. So went to the executive board meeting (with maybe) ten members, to be followed later that afternoon by (a meeting of) the full board. And the issue was, in some sense, classically American and another sense very Japanese. There were a group of people who were well-meaning, who felt that Mike had done a great disservice to our community in 1941, '42, '43. And it's not clear how much strength they had, but they were absolutely immovable. So in the Japanese tradition, we go into the kitchen and we try to work this out. Well, if you're on the other side, and you understand how the Japanese mores work, you say well, we got this thing won. Because we're not gonna move. All right? And the Niseis, who're still kind of Meiji, even Tokugawa, say, "Oh my God, we've gotta form some sort of consensus because, it's just, can't be done any other way." So this is perhaps a little too dramatic, but, I think can be confirmed by some other people who were there.

I went before the executive board, about ten, and there were some noteworthy Nisei there, including George Oritani, Peter Okada and others. And here they were wrestling with this problem. And I said, "Well we've gotta get off the dime." The Japanese banking crisis was then about four years old. And I said, "They're never gonna get rid of (that) problem." There's too much face, there's too much -- all these classic Japanese issues. But then I leaned forward and I said, "You know, I've got a way for you to solve this problem." And they said, "You do?" And I said, "Yeah." And they said, "Well, let's hear it." And I said, "Let's take a vote." And they said, "Oh my God. Anything -- oh we can't do that. Everybody's gonna have to publicly declare, and we're gonna be criticized for not being able to work this out." And, so they said, "We'll do it." In the afternoon they took a vote. They said, "Okay, do you have a motion, Grant?" And I said yeah, I'd like to move -- at that point they had, among Japanese Americans -- they had only Danny and Norm. That's sort of odd in the first instance. So I said, "Well, I move that the following people be added: Mike Masaoka, Min Yasui, Sparky Matsunaga, and Bob Matsui." And then, then I got a little emotional, I said, well, in 1942, the Sanseis say, and some white radicals say, "You all went like sheep. What was wrong with you?" I said, "Yeah, but Min didn't." And so on and so forth. And I said, "You can't have Norm up there without Bob. And you can't have Danny up there without Sparky. You can't do that. And you've gotta have Mike. This is Mike's idea. Mike was the one who produced Issei citizenship among many other things." So they went around the room and we won, twenty-five to six. And people were still very upset. So over a course of five or six of these meetings, each time we brought this issue up in a slightly different way, and each time we won by similar margins. And so, there was still a great hue and cry of, "Mike Matsuoka betrayed us," da-da, da-da, da. But what can you do in a democratic society absent force the dually constituted body has voted, twenty-five to six, on any number of occasions to include the name. And so he was included. And I think, at any given point in history people fight for, as Marx himself said, you fight for control and interpretation of the past because that controls how one moves forward into the future. So, if you define history carved literally in stone with Mike's name, that produces a certain conception of our history.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Looking on the other side... I mean what perspective can you give us -- here you had this twenty-five to six margin consistently, and so there was a minority that continually opposed.

GU Yeah.

TI: But to the point where when I look and look at newsletters, websites, I mean, it's a very passionate minority. And to this day I still think that there, they disagree with what happened. Where does that come from? Why is it so, so deep? This feeling.

GU: Well, that's a very good question. And I think that position has some merit. (I'll) speak to it on a couple of different levels, at the most abstract level first. When you and I as nice middle-class people -- well-educated, can speak, we can speak (unaccented) English -- look back on our past, and on the lives lived by our grandparents and our parents, there is a certain kind of, we look back and there is certain kind of shame. It's not as if in 1923 Japanese Americans in Seattle were regarded with very much respect. In fact, they lived in the ghetto. They had no skills. They couldn't speak the language. They were -- "these bizarre people from somewhere, look weird." And so then we endure the -- at least in this country -- the ultimate form of what some would now would say "dissing." We got dissed so badly that we're shoved into camps. And so why couldn't -- this is in some ways, it's emotionally very compelling, but I don't think intellectually finally, finally justifiable. "But Mom, but Dad, but Grandpa, Grandma, why did you let this man do this and lead us out of our homes and into the desert because," -- sort of in quotes -- "if I were there I could have stopped it. Because you see, I have a BS in Chemical Engineering, and I have these powerful friends and I could have called someone at Channel Seven." No you couldn't have. Channel Seven, (or) the equivalence of Channel Seven, hated us. "I could have called someone at the LA Times, they are so sympathetic." The LA Times hated us. So, in some ways, it seems to me, it's a denial of what was really happening then. Everybody from Walter Lippmann at the top to Walter Winchell at the bottom hated us. And I don't care how many degrees you got from Harvard, it wouldn't have mattered. Because in fact, nobody had a degree from Harvard at that point.

So I, in my judgment, it's a way -- this is kind of an easy way to say it. It's a way of scapegoating somebody for what happened. But, that anger and that sadness, and that shame is legitimate, and in some ways it's understandable that it goes somewhere. You can't say, "Well, the bureaucrats in the U.S. Army and the Justice Department, those sons of bitches." Right? No, that doesn't work. But one of our own, "Aha, that bastard did it." But, as I say, sentiment is legitimate. But I finally have to come around and say you know, I don't think it can be justified by any close reading of the documentary material of the time. In the end, why did Mike recommend that we cooperate? Because if you didn't, you were gonna be shot. So you make the best of a very, very bad hand. And, 1923, 1930, 1935, 1940, we were "Nigger-Jew-Puerto Ricans." We had no power. You think because you're a full professor at UCLA, you have power? You don't have any power today. You wouldn't have had any power in 1941 to stop this.

I also think at the most personal level, here, here the community's traditional Issei leadership was decapitated. It was taken away early, as you know. Here's this twenty-six year old kid from Salt Lake City, who's not even a part of the West Coast experience, comes in and says, "Well, I speak (unaccented) English. I worked for two senators from Utah. I have Washington experience. I'm gonna tell you what to do." And so I think you look back at that, and you say, "This is a usurpation." And so there was, I think, some resentment of that to this day. 'Cause our community is close enough, you always know somebody who knows somebody. Right? You can't say anything bad because everybody's related some way. And so there's some personal (going on). There's some sense of, "Well, my father was taken, my grandfather was taken out. He should've been the real leader -- if the Issei leadership would've been in place we wouldn't have gone, because (there) was legitimate leadership at the time, and this usurper comes in, this little brat, f___s us." And, I think also, at the most personal level, I think, to this day, people say, "Jesus, how come people in the JACL got to bring in a trunk and two suitcases and I can only bring what I can carry in my little bag, my little nimotsu? Those sons of bitches." And, yeah, Mike was also kind of an egotist and hurt some feelings, probably did some power plays against some folks in JACL. Who knows? I have no idea. But people who feel negatively about Mike really hate him. And the full explanation of how deep that goes I can't really fathom. Although, I don't think you can finally be justified by his public acts. I think some of it is quite personal.

TI: At this point, do you think that the schism is so deep that, that it will never be repaired? Or do you see just over time that this will just, just disappear?

GU: I think over time it will disappear because my kids, who are now in their twenties, they'll look back on this at some point, maybe in their fifties or sixties and say, "What the hell was all that about?" And we've had profound national schisms, like in the South, loss of Civil War. (In the 1960s) they're still fighting that Civil War and saying, "Goddamn Martin Luther King is not gonna be able to do this to the Confederate dead. That bastard." That was a hundred years (ago in the '60s). And now you know, say, "Well, gee, you know, boy those guys play real good... those black kids, they show a lot of character playing for Bear Bryant's old team at the University of Alabama. How could we have done that to those people?" So, I think there'll be a more considered, balanced historical judgment of Mike's strengths and weaknesses. And, in 1942 after, after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, could you imagine that Japan and the United States could ever do anything together again?

TI: Right. So these things, these things do, over time, do have a way of dissipating.

GU: Yeah, because people wanna live their lives. And, most people aren't like the "47 Ronin" who gallantly carry their grudges forever. Oh, come on. As we often say in my home, "All right, everybody quiet down. Let's watch the game. The Giants are on. Everybody shut up. Let's watch the Giants game. Okay? Quiet please."

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: And the reason I ask this question was, I was wondering, 'cause you've been involved in two really large initiatives. First redress, and then the National Memorial.

GU: Uh-huh.

TI: And in a lot of ways, helping to bring closure to what happened during World War II. And I was wondering, do you think we're at the point where we are coming to closure in terms of what needs to have happened to address what happened in terms of the incarceration during World War II? Or do you see on the horizon, other things happening?

GU: I think we're pretty close to closure. Redress happened and everybody contributed, left, right, middle, whatever. Vets, non-vets, resisters. I think we're gonna come together and say, okay it happened, it's terrible, but they, Jesus, they apologized and they gave us twenty thousand dollars. And if you think about it, we're certainly better off than, let's say, the Algerians in France or the Turks in Germany. In both of these things I think, both redress and the memorial are driving us towards closure.

The other thing that happens, of course, is, as one of my friends said, the divisiveness between ethnic groups -- and (removal) indeed was in a certain way as an ethnic battle. The ethnic whites of various sorts including let's say Okies in the Central Valley of California, and maybe even some Italians in San Francisco, and Armenians, and just sort of ordinary WASPs from Illinois and Iowa. Said, "Jesus, we've got these people who are a security threat and they also just beat the hell out of me in truck farming. We've got a chance to get 'em out. Let's get 'em out while we've got the chance." So here are these white people, here are hakujin people, and here are these Nihonjin people... why is there gonna be closure because, for some time now the hakujin people have been marrying Nihonjin people. And this issue is being defeated in the bedrooms of California and the world. And the kids come out hapa. Could you imagine an Issei saying, "My grandchildren, all of them married to whites? I mean, kind of disgusting to me, that we should marry out. And besides, those whites think of us as 'Nigger-Puerto Rican-Jews.' They don't want to touch us." Well, it didn't turn out that way. And hakujins and Nihonjins twenty-five years from now (when) most -- maybe not most, who knows what the numbers are -- most people of Japanese heritage are only a quarter Japanese, they're gonna look back at this and they say, "Grant was fighting for Mike on this issue on this little memorial? I mean, what was that about? And Japan and the United States actually went to war? That's crazy." And so, to some extent, (it) be mercifully forgotten. On the other hand, our memorial says, and redress says, hey, across the generations, we're all dead now. But Kilroy was here.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So, Grant, I live in Seattle.

GU: Yeah.

TI: And I have teenage children.

GU: Yeah.

TI: And we take trips every year to go to a place. And people have said that I should go to Washington, D.C. to see the National Memorial. Why would that be a good idea for me and my family?

GU: Well, in the first place, it's just aesthetically stunning. So I ask myself, or I tell myself, "You mean us Buddhaheads, were able to -- after all the squabbling and the nonsense -- able to put together this world class monument?" I say, "Hey, that's pretty good." So, it's aesthetically stunning, it doesn't matter what race or gender or ethnic group you are. It's aesthetically stunning. And, hey, we did that. And it's a memorial, really, to the travails of the Issei and Nisei generation. And specifically honors those guys who were eighteen to twenty-five, eighteen to thirty, who -- this sounds almost religious -- who died for us. And so there's a kind of a feeling of the Vietnam Memorial Wall. You see these 800 guys and say, Jesus, they were eighteen years old and dead in Italy. Come on. What happened? And you say, I get it. I get what happened. And it allows you to experience that. And I think it'll allow your children to experience it.

TI: Well, from that perspective, if you're, if you're a high school student as my daughter is right now, what do you think she would come away from? You know, here she, she knows what happened during World War II. And by going to the memorial, what do you think she'll take away from it?

GU: Well, I think she might take this away: "My grandfather and my grandmother tested the fundamental propositions of American democracy," which is to say, democracy as it's understood all over the world now. "They tested the fundamental propositions of American democracy. American democracy failed. It failed them. And, but Grandpa and Grandma prevailed. And in the end, so did our system of government. So to the extent that our lives depend on roads and bridges and airplanes, it also depends on our fundamental propositions about life, and about what rights we have. They were taken away from Grandma and Grandpa, but they came back. Hell, I come from a pretty good bunch of people. I'll take a lot of pride away from that. It's particular to me. It's particular to my family. It's particular to Japanese Americans but it has universal applications. Hey, I'm in the middle of this. That's pretty good. Thank you."

TI: Now, if you were not a Japanese American teenager, but if you were a Irish American, or a African American, what would you take away by going to the memorial? Or is it just for Japanese Americans?

GU: Well, this is a hard question. (Let's say) you're an Irish -- you're a tenth generation Irish American from Boston. Let me tell you what happened to us. Well, you see, they bombed us, and we were (sent to) camp -- and they say no, no, no, I don't want to hear that. I want you to listen to my story. We showed up and the Yankees hung out these signs "No Irish Need Apply." So, there is a little bit of a problem. (We say), hey, listen to our story. And they say, no, no, no, you listen to our story. Who's "us" anyway? So that's gonna take a little doing. But, I think as I said before, if, with little bit of guidance the same proposition applies, namely, this is what happens to anybody, black, Irish, Italian, Jordanian, when the fundamental props of our democracy are kicked out from under you. So, it could happen to you. And we put this thing up to inoculate the society against it happening to you, the Jordanian American. So, think about it. I think it'll work. So anybody of any gender or race whatever who goes there and wants to think about the fundamentals and the basics can come away with some greater appreciation of how important those basics are.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Let's talk about this more. Because you had to actually frame this issue so that, so that during redress, liberals, conservatives, middle of the road politicians had to understand this issue and vote for this. So how did you frame -- when you talk about the fundamental issues, what were those? I mean, how did you do this?

GU: Well, this is something other than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness or the second amendment or the first amendment -- not the second amendment, the second amendment is the controversial right to bear arms amendment. But, what you do -- let's use an analogy. Okay? This is something that I did at a conference at UCLA. But, I'll crib (from) myself. Let's say redress is a blue standard issue Taurus. That's what it is. And you gotta sell this to Congress and you gotta sell this to Ronald Reagan. And so, let's say the division -- and it was quite severe then as it is today -- between liberals and conservatives can be represented by Barney Frank, who is an old friend of mine, a Harvard friend of mine, and Ronald Reagan. The liberal and the conservative. And you gotta sell the same blue Taurus to both these guys. So you're in the showroom and here's this blue Taurus in front of you and you got one just like it in the back. And you're waitin' around at ten thirty and no customers come in. And (then) in walk Barney and Ronald Reagan. You're gonna pitch them at the same time. You say, well -- actually you don't want to pitch them at the same time. You say, "Hey, Barney, why don't you go over here and sit down and I want to sell Reagan first." So you say, "Here's this blue Taurus. And I'm gonna tell you the features, the features about this blue Taurus that might really appeal to you. This blue Taurus represents government staying out of your life. It means as you conservatives understand it -- one definition of freedom is getting the government out of your life. And you know what happens when too, there's too much government." Right? "Oh yeah, I hate that." "Well, you see, in this blue Taurus we have the desire for government to stay out of your life. In other words, we don't want the government to send a group of people classified by race into concentration camps. 'Cause that is the ultimate in too much government. Don't you think?" "Yeah, we don't want that." "Well, this represents minimal government." "Oh, I like that. I think, yeah, you sold me. I'm gonna buy this car." You say, "Okay, you can have this one here. And you go in the back and you make out the papers and you can drive it away." So off Ronnie goes in this minimal government Taurus.

So now you're dealing with Barney. So the one from the back is brought in. You say, "Barney, let me tell you about this car. This car has two features. First feature is about keeping the government out of your life. Not letting the government into your bedroom, and not letting the government do all this shit, censor the press. You know, you know what I mean. (You are) a card-carrying member of the ACLU. You know what I'm talking about. Don't let the government do this stuff. Get it? It's about minimal government. It's about keeping government at bay. And it's also a whole lot about great things that the government can do. I mean, you support Social Security, you want to advance affirmative action, you want all these things, you want prescription drugs for the elderly. These are all things that government can do. That's part of the car, too. But I didn't tell Ronnie that. Now what can you and Ronnie agree on? You know -- features of this car? Well, I know you a little bit better, Barney, than I know Ronnie. I'll tell you, we're gonna need his help down the road. You know that. So, we're gonna sell this thing as minimal government. That's where the liberals and conservatives can agree. They can agree on this. We have to have minimal government of a certain sort. Otherwise the government will move people into concentration camps. So Barney, can you and Ronnie agree on a minimal government Taurus?" "Yeah. I'll buy into that if Ronald Reagan and the conservatives want to buy into that, fine." So I said, "Well, go in the back, sign the papers, the car is yours. Drive it out." So the next day you look out the big plate glass in the window in the Ford dealership and ol' Ronnie drives by in his blue Taurus and Barney drives by in his. They're both happy as hell. So you sell them both on a minimal government Taurus, because anything other than that could produce a concentration camp.

So you frame the issue so you got this bell shaped curve and where's the overlap? Well the overlap is here, this little gray area. You as a chemical engineer (can) understand. So, let's see if we can get our message into that gray area so both Ronnie and Barney will buy in. They did. They'll both buy that gray area. Anything outside the gray area, one or the other is gonna say, uh-uh.

TI: But the other part wasn't considered was -- so the conservatives bought into that minimum government intervention. And so this shouldn't have happened. But then the other part was the reparations. I mean, to actually address this with, with, more than just an apology.

GU: Right.

TI: But reparations of twenty thousand dollars per person.

GU: Yeah.

TI: So how did that play? How did you play that?

GU: Well, that was a little bit harder. But, if you talk to Barney, Barney will say -- I mean this is the liberal -- you say, hey, this is like trial lawyers. This is like tort law. If you confiscate my strawberry crop, you better pay up. If you confiscate my First through Fifteenth Amendment rights -- you know, these kids who protested the Vietnam War, they spent one night in jail, each got ten thousand dollars. Come on. So, this is like the plaintiff's bar which would sell to a Democrat. You say, you know, you make a mistake of this sort. You run over -- you bash in the side of my car, you ran the red light, pay up. Yeah, a little bit harder on the conservative side. The conservative argument, you can make this argument separately -- you said, "You know, you conservatives believe in results, not process. You also believe that talk is cheap, right? Well, it is cheap. Money talks. The kind of talk that money talks ain't cheap. So, if you really mean this on behalf of the American people, make it real. You know, the liberals were always bullshitting. This is a no bullshit bill. Pay up. Otherwise it doesn't count." They said, "Okay. I get it."

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: But still, it must have been a hard sell. This was -- I can recall the era. I mean, large deficits, the country and Congress in particular was not in a mood to, to pay out billions of dollars for this.

GU: Not billions. About, all together maybe a billion six. Yes, it was tough. But you -- I'll tell you what happened, and then, some nice things that my, one of my classmates, Dick Darman did. Much hated among Republicans now. Dick Darman was the OMB, Chief under Bush 1. So, you say, this is just a -- this is just an authorization bill. You can authorize anything. You can write in the budget a hundred million dollars. And (then) the appropriations process comes in and says, oh, we've got a good number on this hundred million dollar authorization. We'll give them ten dollars and thirty cents this year. So if you're an ordinary congressman you say, "Wow, there's all this pressure coming in. And Washington Post, oh Jesus, and all these people are coming in from New Jersey. Jews like this issue. Well, let's just do the authorization bill." And...

TI: Because essentially they were thinking, "We'll authorize it, but they'll never be paid"?

GU: Yeah, it could be. "It's not my problem. The appropriations process on both sides, they're responsible for that." And most people don't understand the appropriations process. "Look, I'm sorry. We did the authorization. And these sons of bitches who do the actual appropriating, they won't free up the money because we have this deficit and our veterans want it. And the veterans should have it before you. So, you know, let's just authorize it." Done on both sides. I think some people self-consciously thought that. You can authorize anything. Although it's hard to get an authorization bill through. Believe me. I mean, maybe one in ten makes it. And then Danny, towards the end said -- he was not a great supporter of redress. Sort of a kotonk issue. And philosophically he had some right to say, as he said to me, "How much money are the guys who are pushing up daisies in Italy getting?"

TI: Referring to the 442 vets?

GU: Yeah, they're dead. They're not -- and I said, they're not getting nothin'. But maybe their sister's gettin' something. Maybe their niece is getting something. But for him, I think, and I can still feel this as part of me. Look, don't cheapen the experience of the guys whose brains were in my hand by putting a figure of twenty thousand dollars on it. That is outrageous. But in the end he came around and he said -- I think a lot of vets felt this way, especially initially. In the end he came around and he said, "Okay, I'm a big time guy here on the appropriations committee on the Senate side. We're gonna have to wait a couple years but I'll turn this into an entitlement so we don't have to go through this shit every year."

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Before we get to the entitlement -- just getting the Reagan administration, or Ronald Reagan to sign this --

GU: Yeah.

TI: -- was a role that you played to help make this happen. Can you talk a little bit about that?

GU: Yeah. I can, but you have to be careful here because (though) it's truly the Japanese thing to say, anything in American politics is a group effort. As an Irish Catholic politician John Kennedy (said), "Success has a thousand fathers, failure is an orphan." And, so, well, who got Reagan to sign the bill? Some of my left-wing friends said, The third world peoples rose up and forced Reagan to sign the bill." Reagan doesn't give a f___ about any third world person. Believe me. So how did it happen? Well, the way it happened was -- I was a book editor in New York, and one of my writers was the Governor of New Jersey, a liberal Republican named Tom Kean. Two of his ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence. He is a Brahmin. But, he's a lovely man. He's kinda like Spark Matsunaga. People like him because he genuinely likes people. When you say, "Oh, that son of a bitch is an asshole," whatever the opposite of that it, that's what Spark and Tom are. All right? So, I said geez, we haven't got any access (to Reagan). I'm gonna have to ask Tom even though it might violate my professional responsibility as his editor. And I called his aide (Steve Provost) and I (asked), "Do you think (he) can help?" And the next (day) Steve said he'd be happy to help. And Ronald Reagan was coming up from New Jersey to campaign --

TI: Just going back to that, is that pretty extraordinary that he would be willing to essentially stick his neck out --

GU: I don't think so.

TI: -- for you?

GU: I don't think so. It may have been for some people. But Tom is kind of an old Brahmin (like) an Eleanor Roosevelt Brahmin. But he loves (to go) the Lithuanian VFW (and eat) whatever they served at the Lithuanian VFW in New Jersey. He loved to be there. And so he said, "Yeah, well, Reagan is coming up to campaign for some State Assembly candidates, Republicans. And he's coming up" -- when did this happen? This was 1987, the fall. The election would have been in November. They have off year (elections in New Jersey). So, it's probably early October of '87. So he came up with Ken Duberstein, who was then his Chief of Staff, and they went around New Jersey and they campaigned for these guys. And in between one of these stops, or while they were riding around in (the) limousine, Tom said, hey, you know, I think you ought to look into this Japanese American redress thing, and maybe you ought to sign that bill. And (Reagan) says, "Well, Justice Department says no, and then they tell me that this is was a kind of a protective custody thing." And Tom says, "Oh, no, no, no. It (wasn't) that." (I later learned that S.I. Hayakawa was close to Ed Meese, who was Reagan's closest and oldest advisor. Hayakawa's influence was there, and so we had to beat Meese inside the Reagan White House.)

TI: When you say "protective custody," that the government was, was protecting Japanese Americans during --

GU: By moving them into these camps, they did it "for their own good." And that was Ronald Reagan's understanding. Okay? So, Tom gets back to me and he said, "Well, you gotta speak to that point. It was not." So I said, "Okay. Let me write some letters to you and if you can get 'em in to Reagan." We all knew in the Japanese American community that in 1946, when (Reagan) was a kind of anti-communist, left-winger, he was kind of a, kind of an ADA liberal in 1946, an anti-communist liberal, in Hollywood.

TI: This was Ronald Reagan?

GU: This is Ronald Reagan. He was a PR captain in the U.S. Army. They had this kid, probably twenty, named Kaz Matsuda, who's from Fountain Valley, California, (in) Orange County. Sort of agricultural land at that point. And his family was moved into Poston. And he came back in a box with a silver star on it. And before he died he told his family, "You know, if I don't come back alive I want to be buried in Fountain Valley." He's coming back in '46. His remains are coming back. And his sister had been back in Fountain Valley saying, "We'd like, my brother (said he wanted) to be buried in the Fountain Valley Cemetery." And the town fathers said, "I'm sorry, but we don't bury Japs here." So, Vinegar Joe Stilwell heard about this, and he says, "What the hell is goin' on out there?" So he got in an airplane and flew out there. And (he) said, "You sons of bitches, this guy's a hero. You're gonna have to let this kid be buried here and we're gonna make a big example of you sons of bitches." And they said, "Oh, we're sorry." And so Stillwell and the army PR people said, "We're gonna have Louise Albrighton" -- (a) movie star I'd never heard of -- "we're gonna have Ronald Reagan, we're gonna make, we're gonna make a whole big deal of it." So Ronald Reagan came to speak for Kaz's (interment), burial. His mother said, "I don't want the Silver Star. I don't want this Silver Star from Stilwell. You take away my farm, you put me in a camp in Arizona, you bring my son back in a box and you want to give me a Silver Star? You know you can do with that Silver Star." That's what she said. But she wouldn't use that kind of language. I use that kind of language. So they said, okay, well, maybe Mary, sister will accept it. So (she) did. And there was a photo of them accepting it in this little, extremely modest farm house. Ronald Reagan spoke at that. You know what he said: "The blood that has flowed into the sands," and so on.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

GU: So we got that message into Ronnie through Tom Kean and I wrote a letter and -- for (June, another sister. Mary had died). And she signed it. And Tom signed another letter that I wrote, and I wrote a letter to Tom saying it wasn't protective custody, please tell the president -- and these three letters went in to Ronald Reagan in a pouch. So he read these three letters. And he said, "Well, I think this is something I wanna do." And he called Tom back and said, "Well, you know, I want to think about this."

So, the way you want to do things sometimes in life, but very often in politics, is set up what you as a quantitative guy would understand well, and that is a binary mode. You say, all right, you wanna do it or not? So the issue for Ronald Reagan is -- this is not about left-wing campus radicals. Okay? They're for it, yes. But the 442 vets are for it. So, it's not just about people who would never vote for you. There are these 442 guys who (probably did) vote for you, and you know what heroes they are. So the question then became binary. Do you want to veto Kaz Matsuda and the 442 or not? He said, "Well shit, I don't wanna veto Kaz. I'll sign this thing." So I think he made that decision sometime in late December of '87, (or the) early part of the year in '88. And then I went in to see Ken Duberstein under some pretense. I said well, these bureaucrats, the career people inside the OMB are still fighting us. So I went in and I saw Duberstein and his aide, a guy named Will Ball, who then became for a while Secretary of the Navy. Nice guys. And I said, well, I'm worried about the OMB people. And Ken Duberstein, brilliant, brilliant guy, one of these guys who can keep thirty balls in the air and understand the relationship among all thirty of them. Jewish guy. Jewish kid from Brooklyn. Used to work for Jake Javits. And he says, "No, Grant. It's been talked about at a much higher level than that," which is to say in the limousine in New Jersey. And I wasn't gonna say, "I know Tom. I put him up to that." And he says -- this is Valentine's Day, February 14, 1988 -- he says, "The President's signing." So I floated back up Connecticut Ave. towards the JACL Office.

TI: It's just amazing for someone like me who's so removed from how things get done to realize that so much was just done on these sort of personal relationships. And how some of these decisions are made, the binary decision you made, or that Reagan had to have made was based on, in some ways, just a gut feeling that he had.

GU: Yeah. That's why we elected him. We elected this guy so that he could use his gut. I mean, they don't let me use my gut 'cause I never got elected to nothin'. But, anybody who works in a corporation or maybe inside Densho says geez, I have a really good relations with Dana, and she's, she's a power. She's got yes or no on this issue, and Dana and I go bowling every Thursday night. That's probably gonna get it for me. But that son of a bitch Tom, stay away from him. That's personal. So you multiply that by a factor of a thousand inside Microsoft, and then this, really this kind of Japanese world which is Washington. It's indirection... you hit the eight ball and it bounces off the pad and hits the six ball and then, that's kind of a Japanese world. And they're not all a bunch of lying bastards. A whole lot of it is like Wall Street. You call your broker and you say, "I want to buy three hundred shares of X." That's done on the telephone and you say here goes. And it's trust. And so someone says, "Yeah, I'm with you on that. It's gonna be hard for me back in Anniston, Alabama, but I'm with you on it." And you believe him. And if he reneges and you say hey, I don't take that guy's checks (anymore). So it is personal. And a lot of it is on the up and up.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So Grant, the issue I wanted to go in terms of following up on the redress and reparations --

GU: Yeah.

TI: -- was, Japanese Americans who were interned each got twenty thousand dollars. And an issue that has come up often, or is starting to come up now, is the issue about other ethnic groups, and they, looking back, historically at the wrongs that, that were committed against, essentially their ancestors, and feeling that they also deserve reparations. What's your view on this?

GU: Well, I have a couple thoughts on it. Number one, American slavery was pretty bad. I think it, if you compare American slavery, let's say in Alabama, with British slavery in Jamaica or the Greek enslavements of "the barbarians" to the north of Athens, or even the Roman slaves, American slavery was a particularly brutal form of slavery in which American agricultural capitalism was unleashed and the black slave of the American South was really a piece of property. Was, was livestock. There was no -- as there was in Brazil -- slavery being mitigated by the Catholic church saying no, no, you can't to that because this slave, the Brazilian slave, like all other human beings, says the Pope, has an immortal soul. So it was very bad stuff, comparatively bad.

But I -- for practical reasons, I very, very carefully made the argument to people inside the Reagan administration, (that) Japanese American redress was not, as they feared and stated publicly many times, a "Pandora's box." So there was a fellow named John Bolton in the Justice Department, I think he's now the number three person in the Bush 2 State Department, and some others whose names I now forget. I'm getting so old. And they say, "Well, you know, it was awful, but what about 'Pandora's box'? And next year we're gonna have the Hispanics, and the year after that we're gonna have the American Indians and then of course we've got the blacks. We can't do this for you because we're gonna have to do it for them." So as a practical matter, I said, "No, no, it sets no precedent." And they said, "What do you mean it sets no precedent?" And I said, "Because if you read the bill, the bill says the direct victims of U.S. federal government discrimination, specifically 9066." This is not some white country club in Anniston, Alabama keeping blacks out, nor is it the fifth generation descendant of a slave, or even the first generation descendent of a slave, because you had to be directly touched. In other words, to put it another way, if you were a Japanese American and unfortunately died on August 9, 1988, you were out of luck. So by our definition, that poor person who died on August 9, 1988 can be compared to all the slaves now dead. Not a single slave alive. No direct victim of the -- no, I guess it was federal law that under (Dred Scott v. Sandford) said the black is a piece of property, (1857). So, the answer is, there is no precedent. "Okay," they said, "We'll buy that. We'll buy that." Well, as a practical matter, doesn't matter what John Bolton, Assistant Attorney General in the first Reagan administration says, we'll buy that, because if you're a black and you see this then you say, "What about us?" And that began quite soon.

As a personal matter I have considerable sympathy to this because I view the American form of slavery as especially destructive and pernicious, and indeed responsible for many of the "social problems" that we see today. You don't see so much of (this) in Jamaica or in Brazil. They have some, but not as (much as we do). So, I'll leave it at that.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Well, it sounds like you're leaving it... I mean, so, to essentially get the reparations you framed it in a way that was practical for them to be able to give reparations to Japanese Americans who actually lived through this experience. But the moral considerations, I mean, it sounds like, I guess, that, I guess what I'm trying to get from you is on a moral, sort of moral considerations do you believe that African Americans have a case for reparations?

GU: Well, as I say, I'm sympathetic. On the other hand if you're six generations removed from slavery, I don't think the case is as good as, by direct analogy; as good as let's say your father and mother who went to camp as teenagers. See you're six generations removed, and then there are questions of... a little bit like affirmative action, about which I have conflicting views, this is a form of reparation isn't it? Let's say, well, you're a very light-skinned black, and you're a very light-skinned Japanese. You're one-eighth Japanese, and what are you? Are you one thirty-second black? Does that mean if there's a twenty thousand dollar reparation, does that mean we give you twenty thousand dollars times one over (thirty-two)? You're a Jamaican black. You shouldn't get anything because your ancestors didn't suffer from American slavery. They were the slaves of these British sugar plantation owners. So how one sorts all of that out, I don't know. I also feel that as a practical matter, it won't happen.

TI: Why is that?

GU: Because it'll not get through Congress. The average congressperson will say, I think, let's see, how many people... what's the size of the class here? Well, we're talking, let's say for round numbers, one-tenth of the American population. We're talking twenty-seven, let's say for the sake of discussion, twenty-eight million people, times twenty thousand dollars. Do the math. You can't do that. (Also), the Republicans still control the House, and George Bush would never sign anything like this. So if you had a very substantial majority, at sort of a veto-proof majority in the Senate, and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and you had a very substantial number of Democrats over Republicans in the House, and you had a very liberal guy, let's say a Tom Daschle as opposed to, who knows, a John Edwards as President, you might get a shot, there might be an outside shot at it. I think it might be very successful as a public relations media thing. But to turn this into concrete legislation and get it passed, I say what are we talking about? Well, we're talking over a period of ten years. We're talking, pick a number, three hundred billion dollars, and you say, well no, we can't do that. And then the other side of the argument is, you know, we did affirmative action. Some of the meaner people will say a lot of the social welfare programs are really targeted towards blacks. And the fact of the matter is, over these many, many years, if you look at all the social welfare programs beginning with the Great Society and even before, these are for all poor people. Well, a disproportionate number of poor people are black and this is a way of, this is guilt money. So, the mean people will say, "We already did that. We feel really shitty about slavery." I don't know, Newt Gingrich, just feel like, that's terrible. I can't believe that we did that. But Japanese Americans are sort of a special case. If there were for example, for the sake of discussion, a hundred thousand in the Japanese American class at twenty thousand dollars apiece. We probably wouldn't have gotten it, too much. So, like Little Red, not Little Red Riding Hood, Little, like the story of The Three Bears: "Not too hot, not too cold, just right."

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: But early on in redress, I think Mike was... I read someplace where Mike Masaoka was actually opposed to the individual reparations.

GU: Yeah.

TI: Was that for practical reasons? Or was it more... what was his stance? And what changed his mind?

GU: Well, I think Mike, like a lot of Nisei, older Nisei, who, you know, couldn't, if you graduated number one in chemical engineering from Berkeley, you couldn't get a job. It was bad. And Mike remembered that. This is why these, this is why these kids fought in Italy. 'Cause they knew that they couldn't get a job. Maybe if they came back -- a lot of them didn't come back -- and they'd get a job, or their kids could get a job, or their younger brothers could get a job. So that's Mike's experience. So I think I didn't talk to him about this. But, I think he felt maybe that, I also think he felt the Nisei, the older Nisei could serve as -- or like Hosokawa, he said, "Don't rake these coals. The hakujins could get back at us. And we've been trying to forget all these years. Don't make us remember." And you know, if you want to be honest, I think (Mike) may have been thinking, "Jesus, you know, just got our first continental Japanese American into Congress. This is Norm. He's my brother-in-law. He comes from a very substantial white majority district. I don't want to put Norm on the spot. I gotta, I have to protect him. 'Cause Norm can't protect himself on this." And I think that may have been part of it, too. So, he says, for personal family reasons, "Well, I wanna protect Norm." On the other hand, if you think generally, you say, I have to protect our Japanese American Congressman. We can't throw him to the wolves on this issue and serve him up to the campus radicals. We can't do that. So this was before everything -- this was before Angus, who married my best friend's sister, a great man. Angus Macbeth, I think, graduated second in his class at Yale Law School. He's a brilliant guy, and we got him.

So, you know, after the commission hearings -- by the way, Angus Macbeth was the commission. Angus Macbeth wrote every single syllable of Personal Justice Denied, we should honor Angus. But after the commission hearings the whole mood in the community changed. And (Mike) said, well, the politics, the climate has changed. So I think Mike came around. I told Min, when he first talked to me, I think '79 or so he came to New York (to) my office at Random House. I said, "You're an old man. Don't do this." And he said, "No, I have to do it." And I said, "You know, you're always looking for some goddamn project or another. Don't do this." And he said, "I'm sorry, I'm gonna do it." And I said, Jesus, why would anybody want to do this? So I felt like Mike. It's just hopeless.

TI: So initially you felt that that --

GU: Yeah, I thought I --

TI: It was going to be a hard sell --

GU: I didn't really think about it very much but I thought this was the craziest goddamn thing I'd ever heard in my life. I don't want any part of this. But then I went to the commission hearings. And I heard these old, I guess old Issei women, they're up there crying. I said, aw, shit. I better get involved in this. I mean, I can't stand it. So I think that may have helped Mike change his mind, too. Neither side of my family went to camp 'cause we were way in the inaka, Colorado and Wyoming. They brought the camps to us. So, I think that's a bad, again a bad rap on Mike. There were a lotta elements within JACL who wanted to do Japan trade. Some of these people were sort of Washington bureaucrats of one sort or another, Japanese Americans. And they said, "Hey, these stupid farmers, they think they can get a bill through Congress. Jesus Christ, don't do this. At least let's do Japan trade. They're ridin' high. Maybe (we) can make a few bucks." And so they thought these farmers, they'll never... these idealists, like Cherry Kinoshita, what are they doing? So I think the commission hearings just galvanized the community and changed the climate. It certainly changed my attitude. I also think, maybe I wanna edit this out. When ol' Dan said, well, have a commission do a study. That's usually the way of burying it. So they do a commission study. It's put on the shelf. And no one looks at it. It's dead forever. But in this case what happened is that they did these hearings and the whole thing exploded. So that's a very long answer to a very short question.

TI: No, that's good.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: You mentioned earlier about Min Yasui.

GU: Yeah.

TI: And how Min and Mike really got you involved in redress. And I just, it's just curious to me because in my research, Min Yasui defied the curfew order and wanted to test the constitutionality of that, And back during those war years, this was 1942, Mike Masaoka essentially opposed the concept of, of having these test cases. And so here, in essence, during the war, these two were on opposite sides on this issue and yet they worked closely together with you. Did you ever talk to them about that?

GU: I didn't talk to them directly about that. But when they tried to recruit -- I did The Almanac of American Politics. This is a kind of a Washington specialist book. But I'm famous in Washington. I mean I'm not famous in Seattle, but there's one place -- and I'm not famous in New York or even in Cheyenne, Wyoming. But I'm famous in Washington because of this book. That gives me access. It gives me access to Ken Duberstein and Tom Kean and Newt Gingrich. I got Newt and Dick Cheney, who were both in Congress at the time, to vote for redress. I wanted the firewall on the right. And how would I do it? I said well, here I am with the Almanac and be nice to me because I can say something bad about you and... that's sort of illegitimate use of the press, but that's okay. Mike knew that I had access. Mike knew that Norm was a Democrat, liberal Democrat, so was Bob, so was Sparky, so was Danny, and they didn't have any access on the Republican side. Campus radicals are not gonna have access on the Republican side, and we had a Republican president who was very popular. So Mike said, "You ought to do it." And Min said, "You ought to do it." And one time when I was in Washington we all went out, the three of us went out to a Japanese restaurant. And they said, (you) ought to do it. And this is sort of like, I don't know, seventeenth century Europe or, I don't know, nineteenth century Japan, where community elders say, "Well, you better do it, because we don't have access to the White House or to Newt or anybody else unless you say..." and so I said, "Well, I'll do it." Now, Mike and Min got along very well. They got along very well really beginning, I think, in '44. Because as you recall, Min went out to Heart Mountain and said, "Hey, don't do 'no-no' stuff."

TI: Let's, let me --

GU: "Sign up."

TI: Let me give some background on this, because I want to ask you a question. So, this whole issue in terms of one of the things that we want to talk about, oftentimes with students, are the individual sort of rights and responsibilities as a citizen of the United States and as part of that there's a, sort of American tradition of civil disobedience. And here we had Min Yasui who defied the curfew orders, an act civil disobedience. You had Gordon Hirabayashi who did a similar thing in Seattle, and you also have the Heart Mountain resisters who you just mentioned in terms of Min trying to, at this point, convince them to, to not resist the draft.

GU: Yeah.

TI: What I'm trying to, what would be good would be for you to sort of again, frame the issue in terms of talking about the role of dissent and civil disobedience in this case, because this is a controversial issue within the community.

GU: Okay, origins matter. Where you come from, matters. So if you're a seventeenth century immigrant to the United States it mattered whether you came from East Anglia where there are a lot of Puritans, whether you're Scots-Irish up of York, whether you came from Wales like Thomas Jefferson. It matters. It matters. Well, that's kind of an obscure reference. It matters where you come from if you're Japanese American. You came from, largely from the west, which is to say the inaka prefectures of Hiroshima and Okayama, (Wakayama), these places. They're probably fifty years behind Tokyo. Now one of the things that happened in the Tokugawa era, which is the era that fell when Perry came with the black ships. The Tokugawas imposed in some ways the most psychologically totalitarian state that the world has ever seen. I mean, they sort of controlled everything. They had little neighborhoods of five households and they all watched each other because before the Tokugawas took power all these Japanese people did was fight and kill each other. And they could not consolidate power (and create civil order). See, you have this, you come from this society in which there are no f___in' rights, there are only obligations. And you're asking the Nisei to say, hey, let's fast forward to (Gandhi) in the late 1940s and do passive civil disobedience. "Are you kidding? We don't even know what that is." They say, and for me too, say, "We have the First Amendment. We can say anything we want. But even to this day in our community, do we, like the Jews, say any goddamn thing we want? No. We don't because of where we come from in our historical origins." All right, how could Mike and Gordon in particular say, "Hell no, I ain't goin'"?

TI: You mean Min and Gordon.

GU: Min and Gordon

TI: Right

GU: Okay? So Min graduates number one in the law school from Oregon. He's number one. He's a genius. I mean, his father knew that he was a prodigy at age five. He didn't have to pick so many apples. He could study. He was a genius. He's a prodigy. So he goes to law school and says, "I get it. This is not the Meiji Constitution of 1889. This is America." Do you think my old man understood that? No, my old man kept his mouth shut. And he did what his father told him to do. So, to expect... and Gordon was a Quaker. Gordon's Quakerism said, "I have a conscience. I cannot defy my conscience. This is sacrilege." You think the Tokugawas instilled in the average Japanese in 1850 -- which is about where our ancestors came from, 1860 -- an ocean of individual conscience -- that is crazy. That leads to insurrection. That leads to heads being chopped off. That leads to what used to happen before Tokugawa.

TI: So it seems, let me see if I can frame this. It almost sounds like, in some ways what I'm hearing. So it was extraordinary what Min and Gordon did.

GU: Extraordinary, given our culture.

TI: Given your culture.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: And in some ways when you think about the stance of the JACL during the war, you could probably trace their stance back to Japan. That in some ways --

GU: Yes, I think so. And when the authorities said something, when the daimyo, the local shogun (of the prefecture) -- it's a military government. Bakufu means "tent." So it was a military government. The shogun, (the big guy in Edo) was a generalissimo and he said, "We have in this country perpetual marital law. No one can leave Japan." And they didn't for two centuries. And they controlled it from the top to the very bottom. You know where we came from? We came from the bottom of that feudal order. So to this day if you go back to Japan they say, "Oh, iminoko," the child of an immigrant. That means, hey, welcome to Japan but we know you didn't graduate from the University of Tokyo. So here we are. And so all this shit happens. And you say, oh my God it's Pearl Harbor, all my worst fears are confirmed. Please God, Buddha, make it not so. It is so. So you say, well, why couldn't we have Stokely Carmichael and these other guys just say, "F___ you, we're not goin'." Why? Because Mike as a twenty-six year old kid thought about it and said, "You know, if we say 'no' when they've declared essentially martial law and (in) exclusion area. You're gonna get shot." Now one reason Min could say, "Do this," he thought this whole thing through. Unlike my father he understood the Constitution and what flows from it. Okay?

TI: Yet he --

GU: He was, he was a bachelor.

TI: But then he switched, though. I mean you're right, by '44 he was taking the stance of JACL trying to convince the Heart Mountain resisters --

GU: Yes, and so what he did was -- this was an odd thing that he did. He said, "Okay, the thing that really ticked me off was that these sons of bitches called me 4-C, ineligible alien. Now that they reversed that and there's a 442, well, that's all right." Go fight. Mike earlier had said, "No, no, Min don't do this. You and Gordon, you'd make very bad cases. We have a better case. Our case is Mitsuye Endo." And then Min would I think probably say, "Yeah, but that's gonna take years." Now, I'll say something controversial. When did the loyalty questionnaire come in? Probably early '44 sometime. So the "no-no" boys say "no-no" in '44. The war is over in '45. How come they didn't, like Min, say "no-no" and walk the streets of Portland or Yakima or Los Angeles in 1942? Tell you one of the reasons they didn't, I think, and I would've probably been among them. By the time 1944 comes along the course of the war in the Pacific has been settled -- you (knew), in June of '42, that Japan is going to lose. And the casualty reports come back from Italy, these suckers who are over there. And I say -- this is probably very unfair. It's now 1944. They want me in the army. I'm not goin'. And I say, as some of my 442 buddies who volunteered very early on, yeah, I'd say that in '44. This is why I really admire Min and Gordon and feel less respect for Korematsu. Because Korematsu's initial impetus was, "I'm gonna get my eyes changed and stay with my hakujin girlfriend." Now, that's probably what I would've done, too.

So, then, one of the dark sides we don't talk about, didn't talk about it in Washington. And this is understandable. We had a lot of Kibei and we had Tule Lake. Right here, I think probably Bob Sato, he volunteered and that wasn't very popular in camp. And they got, you (know) they just got the shit beat out of 'em, some of 'em. So I don't -- I think it's in some ways... because I'm -- this is like money, like twenty thousand dollars. What is twenty thousand dollars? Twenty thousand dollars is no bullshit. I go over to Italy as an eighteen year old kid and here I'm fighting alongside my eighteen year old buddy, and the next second his brains are (oozing out of) my hands, and this kid's got a bullet in his head, my best buddy. You know what that is? That's no bullshit. And so, had these guys not gone, it would have been hell. Let's say that everybody including Bob Sato and the Masaoka brothers and everybody... these two (local) guys who won Congressional Medals of Honor. Let's say they all said, "We're not goin'." Where would that have left us? So, I grew up in a farm. I went to Harvard. Hell, I had the whole world opened up to me. In part, why? Because these eighteen year old kids went over to Italy and got their brains blown out. Now, I owe those guys. Okay, so the 442 -- so the resisters say in 1944, not 1942, "I ain't goin'," well all right. That's pretty good. But not better than getting your f___in' brains blown out.

So, civil disobedience. How could Min do it? Because he (fully) understood how (the American system was supposed to work). Most people who came from peasant Japan, from the lower ends of the feudal order which still existed, and to this day exists in Japan, had no idea of what their "rights" were. In Japan, there's no sense at that point and even probably to this day of what a (Western) individual is. It's a group. So, in America we say with some bullshit, in part, "This is the important thing, the individual and his rights. The individual and his rights are accompanied by some obligations." In Japan they don't understand this -- (one finger). They understand this, the hand. And they understand obligations which, even to this day, you must feel toward your parents, that the average white person has no conception of. And so, it's the group, and it's obligations and not rights, and you look back into 1942 and you say well, how come we didn't have more Gandhis and Martin Luther Kings and Muhammad Alis? That's just the most vulgar reading of history you could possibly imagine. You're the descendants of Japanese peasants of the nineteenth century whose lives were filled full of drudgery and obligation. And to look back on that period with the sense of white upper middle class entitlement, dishonors my grandma.

So, it's a revisionist understanding of history and we can't today say on the basis of what happened to us in 1942, all Americans should, you know, resist, and they should resist in the same -- if this happened to them they should resist in the same way that Martin Luther King did resist and wrote his letter from the Birmingham Jail. But you can't expect that to have happened, mostly, in the camps of 1942. It did happen in the camps of 1944, (but) a little bit different from what Gordon and Min did in 1942. So, yeah, I admire 'em, I admire the resisters, but I don't admire 'em as much as the poor kid who got his brains blown out so that Grant could go to Harvard.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So you're a student of American history and our government and our society.

GU: Yeah.

TI: And when you think of the students today, and what they have to grapple with, and when they look at, essentially the group versus the individual mentality and what happened, what do you tell them? I mean, how should they look at these things? I mean, what is more important in terms of our society going forward, the importance of the group versus the individual rights and responsibilities?

GU: That's a very good question. I think -- see one of the things that we don't have very much sense of in this country, even the most well-educated, is what history is. I have a friend who is an accountant, a very good accountant in Los Angeles. And he said, "Well, what did you study in college that you come to this?" And I said, "Well, I majored in History." He says, "What do you study in History? And I said, "Well, it was kind of an undergraduate concentration in the period of Andrew Jackson's presidency." Let's see, when was that? 1828 to 1836. And he looks at me and he says, "Grant, how can you study that? You weren't even alive then." And so I can't explain to him like people (can't explain) particle physics to me, I don't get it. Say no, no, no, there're documents you can (use even while) the mental, even the physical world of 1836 is always subject to revision. In the same way you can legitimately reconstruct the world of the Japanese sixty-year-old Issei in 1942. Now, my grandpa was probably, how old was Grandpa in 1940? He was almost sixty. My father was probably twenty-five. They were still part of Japan. (There were) no such things as individual rights (in Meiji) Hiroshima.

But forty years after Min figures (things) out, I say, I get it. The first ten Amendments to the Constitution actually have the force of law. They can't violate those. And so I say to my kids, "Don't get pushed around. Don't let these bastards push you around because you have rights." But you think my grandfather could have told my father that? Are you kidding? Not only did he have no real conception of this, he never heard of John Locke and the idea of natural rights, (which) emerges out of Christianity, and Judaism where you have an individual conscience. That's no part of (grandpa's) world. But, given what happened to these people who were largely in some important sense alien to the tradition of American rights. (We must) look forward (and) say, "Never again." Now we know what the story is. What we say to our children, (to the) children of blacks, Hispanics, Arabs, whatever, we say, "Grandpa went through it. But for you, never again." "Hell no, I ain't goin'. I'm not doin' any of this shit." But to expect your father and mine as Niseis and your grandfather and mine as Isseis to have understood this, even given the enormity of (the) outrageousness, (is not realistic). Franklin D. Roosevelt (and) Henry Stimson, these guys knew what they were doing. All right? They just (ran) a huge number on us. By the way, Franklin D. Roosevelt was a Democrat and probably the most liberal Democrat of this century. They should've known better, but Grandpa didn't know better. He just got screwed. But his great-grandchildren, never.

So, that's the lesson. And it's not especially profound but it does seem to me that to understand it fully you have to understand what the mental world, what the values (that) made sense of life -- (the world together) -- for Grandpa and his twenty-five-year-old son were. And what they did understand, however, as Mike understood, and it's a sad thing. (You ask), why should we have to prove our loyalty when nobody else had to? I'm sorry. That's the way it (was). It (was) raining today. (But) what does everybody understand across cultures, where some people understand natural rights as derived from Aristotle and who knows what else, and the Confucian tradition (in) which there is none of this. What does everybody understand? They understand that when you fight for your country and you spill blood and you die, no one can say, "Well, I don't know whether you're a real American or not." I asked Mike, "You got McCloy to say we're gonna have this segregated unit, 442. Did you ever spend any nights lying awake (asking), 'Goddamn, I sent these kids to die in Italy'?" He said, "Never lost a minute of sleep." And I (asked), "Why?" And he said, "Some things you gotta do."

So, again, it was binary. You do it or you don't. And if you do it, you say, well, Jesus, they died heroes. Their names are on a wall. I'd rather be alive. Wouldn't you? The answer is, then, we can understand why it happened, to the extent that we can understand the historical circumstances of that time. Give them credit. And for the future we say, no, we don't do that. We're gonna do what Muhammad Ali said later. "What did them Viet Cong ever done to me? Nothin'." But (it's) easy for an educated Japanese American (Sansei) to say, "Jesus Christ, what a guy, why couldn't we have done that?" What a bunch of chickenshit people lead by chickenshit leaders. No, no, no. We have one of the great ethnic histories of this country. And as far as I'm concerned it rivals the Pilgrims'. They come across the North Atlantic stupidly towards the late part of September, they land in Cape Cod in November, no food, they half of them die. They're all heroes. I feel the same way about the Isseis who came over here.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: At this point, I am going to sort of do a segue.

GU: Sure.

TI: And you have sort of this interesting perspective. You grew up in Wyoming, you're, you live on the East Coast. And oftentimes you can look at the West Coast and the cities, and give us a perspective. And because you're in Seattle, and because Arlene Oki from the JACL Seattle Chapter is here, I want to ask you, when you think of Seattle and the JACL chapter, what comes to mind for you?

GU: I think this is a great, I think this is maybe the best Japanese American community. I say that with all this -- I like some others, too. I mean, Nakaso, I like Spokane, I like Salinas, Watsonville, I like Fresno, you know... I'm, I can't quite relate to San Francisco and Los Angeles. A little too tough for me. I'm also a nineteenth-century peasant. You know what they are? They were nice. And that's one of the things that I think is preserved in the Seattle Japanese American community. They're nice. And as I said to you, "Gee, you know, Tom, you're really, you're really nice. I spent a whole lot of my life in New York. What's wrong with you?" They're also very -- what's the right word? -- progressive. JACL was founded in this town. Okay? It was founded on, sort of, "super-Americanism." But that's, that's the option that they took. Well before Mike Masaoka was assimilationist. They also were the pioneers in thinking about redress. You know, I said in 1982, 1981, "Min, don't do this." Well, Henry Miyatake and these other people were saying -- who knows when it was -- I don't even know. 1971? They were saying, "Hey, this, we ought to do something about this." So they were sort of on the cutting edge. They were sort of the visionaries. You have to have vision before anything happens. And so the vision was in some ways provided by Japanese Americans in the Seattle area, and probably Edison Uno, too, who used to follow -- somebody told me, I think it's probably right -- Edison Uno used to follow Earl Warren around. They'd get off the airplanes, and he would taunt him about redress. Or about -- I'm sorry -- about, about what he said. So Edison Uno is now dead for years. He's well, his politics well to the left of mine. Anyway, leadership.

And then, you say, well, it's nice to say we ought to have redress, but then you've got to have, you got to do the footwork and the legwork, and the work in the kitchen to make it happen. And then you had people in Seattle like Cherry Kinoshita and others, who got -- how many congresspeople were here? I think, at that time I think there were eight, seven or eight. They got a hundred percent. California got, you know, something like sixty-five percent. Not even that. New Jersey, where we had some great Japanese Americans, also from the Seattle area, Janet and Tom Komitane, they got thirteen out of fourteen out of New Jersey. So when it came down to actually making this a reality, making the calls and being rejected by these congressmen who'd say, "I don't understand it. A Jap is a Jap. Get out." A lot of that early vision and early leadership on the ground was provided by Seattle. Seattle Japanese Americans. Who, in addition to providing leadership, were also nice. So I say, "What is wrong with you?"

So I have, I love being here. I love being here, and if I were to choose a Japanese American community, I would choose Seattle because it's big, you got a lot of things to do. I'm kind of not so nice, you know, and over time I could become nicer. [Laughs]

TI: Great. Thank you, Grant.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.