Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Diana Morita Cole Interview
Narrator: Diana Morita Cole
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 30, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-483-20

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VY: Yeah, so I was wondering what it was like on September 11th for you? I assume you were living in Canada?

DC: Yeah, and ironically, by that time, my husband had been, he didn't come under the pardon that was offered by Gerald Ford or was it... anyway, he was, they dropped the case against my husband because the Selective Service never gave a reason for denying his conscientious objector status, which was different from those who had been pardoned, maybe it was under Jimmy Carter. So my husband was working in the London Public Library and they pushed him out, basically. They were pushing out all the senior administrators, and so he saw the handwriting on the wall and was looking around frantically for a place to land. And being the adventurous sort that he is, he said, "Hey, do you want to go live in Lake Tahoe?" So, ironically, we were in Lake Tahoe, and my husband was working at Sierra Nevada College, and I was going to school there and also working at the library on September 11th. And this knock comes on our door at seven o'clock in the morning from the lady who lived upstairs from us. She was Jewish and she was from New York, and her son was living in Manhattan. And Wayne answered the door and she said, "Wayne, Wayne, you have to come upstairs." So Wayne observed this as it was happening, because I think she saw the first tower being hit, but the second tower he was watching. And I was, I think, getting ready to go to work or go to take a class or something, and I did not see it, but he saw it. And he was saying, "Is this a movie? What is this?" And, yeah, we were, of course, very much affected. And everyone around us, people started putting up the flags on their SUVs, because there were mostly SUVs in Lake Tahoe.

Of course, it dominated the media for a very, very long time, but I really felt that -- and we both felt -- that this was sort of like Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor wasn't, Hawaii wasn't a state at the time of the attack, in 1941, but this was right on American soil and it was horrifying. And I'm having a hard time thinking about this time. I think that we never accepted the official party line. And we knew, I had done a great deal of research into this, that all those people who had hijacked the planes were not from Iraq as the Bush government wanted everyone to believe. They were from Saudi Arabia and had been influenced by Osama bin Laden who was a Wahhabi, he was fundamentalist Muslim. And so I don't think we ever bought the party line on it, and I don't know that you want me to get into that, but...

VY: Well, I was just wondering what went through your mind. Like you said, it was kind of similar to Pearl Harbor, and I was just wondering what kinds of things maybe went through your mind about being Japanese American at this time and seeing how other people maybe were responding to other Muslims and that sort of thing?

DC: Well, of course, there were very few Muslims in Incline Village where we lived, this is where the billionaires are pushing out the millionaires, right? So talk about white privilege, we were in the middle of it. So I'm trying to think. Of course, we saw this as an opportunity for the American government to start, and for the local population to discriminate against the other, which were the Muslims, right? And I think William Hohri was right on it, I think he was right there saying... and I think there were threats also to put them in camps, in the camps that were still in existence at the time. So, of course, now, these camps are being used to house refugees, and many of them children. And so that deeply resonates with me.

VY: Yes, perhaps that's a little more close to home, isn't it? Do you want to talk about that a little bit? Like the similarities you see now and the kind of psychological effects that sort of incarceration has on children?

DC: Yes, and of course, Satsuki Ina, who was born one day before me in Tule Lake, speaks about it very poignantly because she's a child psychologist and has actually gone into those ice boxes where those poor children are kept. And she speaks about it very poignantly at the Minidoka pilgrimage where we were. And I had no idea, of course, being in Canada, that children were put in ice boxes and separated from their mothers, or with their mothers were in these situations, and the devastating psychological effect that has. But I think, more broadly, I think that homo sapiens are a traveling species. We came out of Africa and we kept migrating. So we are a migrating species, and the idea of home and nationhood seem almost like transitory concepts that are foisted upon us, right? And that whole sense of belonging, what does it mean to belong, and what do you have to sacrifice to belong? And most times, it's your insights. And the thing is, I don't think we really have a home. I think the concept of a home is a dream. I think homelessness is an existential state that we all have and we can all relate to. And certainly because we have been a dispossessed, displaced people, and in my lifetime I've experienced it and seen it, examples of it in my life, it's very easy for me to identify with those people that are running. The children running down the road in Vietnam, the people coming up from Honduras and fleeing climate catastrophe or fleeing revolutions that America often was on the wrong side of. And so my heart is obviously with those people who want in and I have always wanted in. I wanted to be in with my family, I wanted to be in with everyone, or almost every group that I belonged to, and yet I always knew that my identity remained marginalized, that I was a citizen of the marginalized people.

And it was brought home very poignantly to me by a Métis spokesperson. To me, the Métis story is uniquely Canadian because the Métis group is defined by the French and the native people who came together when the hunters and trappers first explored Canada and brought the bounty back to the Hudson Bay Company. And so there was a unique... I hesitate to use the word "race" because I really don't know what that means, but a unique people. And they were often called the, I think it's the "Highway People." And the reason they're called the Highway People is because they were pushed out of Manitoba and they would walk along the highway. And when the RCMP would come to arrest them, they would stand and live on the side of the highway, and that small margin of land was where the RCMP had no jurisdiction. And so they were the roadside people. And I thought that was just a perfect metaphor for my state of mind.

And I think I take a certain amount of solace in it now, having become this old lady and seeing that it, having been marginalized has given me a unique perspective from which I can appreciate stories of other people and collect stories of other people, and see what is valuable about those who have been considered unvaluable. Because each of us are of value; each one of us are important. And whether we have a home or not is irrelevant, it's how we receive the other into our lives. And America always stood for that with the Statue of Liberty. Canada and the United States are immigrant countries, and to deny others who want to come in, seventy-six percent of the Canadian population do not want refugees coming in. So America's not alone, Trump is not alone. And until we understand the impermanence of things, the impermanence of our lives, we will not develop the wisdom to incorporate what is truly of value, rather than receiving indoctrination from the government and from people in authority who tell us who is of value and who isn't. It's up to us to make those choices as citizens of a democracy to say, "If you're hungry, I will feed you, if you need a friend, I will be your friend. I will not throw you in an ice box." Our humanity depends on it. So I truly value the contributions of people like Satsuki Ina and Hiroshi Shimizu and Bif Brigman and all these people who are activists and trying to speak up on behalf of those who are really friendless, and who have been deemed unwanted.

VY: Diana, thank you so much. This seems like a good place to end. I really appreciate you coming here today, it's been a pleasure.

DC: The pleasure is all mine.

VY: Thank you so much.

DC: Well, thank you for this opportunity, and thank Densho.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.