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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

George Takei: Gaman

Loz takei 2015 side

Famed Japanese-American actor and activist George Takei in the Daily Beast:
Permit me to share some personal experience. When Japanese Americans were sent away to internment camps during World War II, simply because we looked like the enemy, we had legitimate fear of angry mobs, as well as a deep and utter despair over a country that had turned its back, not only upon a whole group of its own people, but upon its very values. But amidst all the unfounded hate and suspicion of us, there were also many good Americans who came to our aid: neighbors who offered to look after farms, homes and pets; Quakers who visited us in camp to bring vital services and monitor our treatment; lawyers who filed suits on our behalf and saved tens of thousands of us, including my own mother, from being deported. Even in the darkest of times, there were so many ordinary heroes who gave us hope and succor. It is they whom I remember most today. It was they who helped change things for the better.

There are many who rightly feel afraid for what will happen next. But hard as it is to face, we must remind ourselves that fear is the favored weapon of bullies and thugs. Fear can make us turn away from our hopes and give in to mistrust and cynicism. Let us instead take each moment of fear as a challenge to stand up ever taller. When my community was faced with some of the harshest of treatment during the internment, there was a word we often repeated: gaman. It means to endure, with dignity and fortitude. We did not permit them to strip away our basic humanity. We rallied, gave comfort to each other, and got through it. Gaman has been a steadying and comforting bedrock principle for me through these many decades. . . .

Some sixty million Americans voted for Donald Trump, and I refuse to accept that most did so because of what he stands for, but rather despite it. And while some argue that enabling or ignoring his rhetoric when casting a vote makes his supporters complicit, I choose to find hope in the despite—in the fact that most Americans still agree that racism, sexism, and discrimination of any kind is wrong. For these voters in this election, these things sadly did not outweigh their bitterness and mistrust of the political establishment. Our answer must not be to shut them out as uncaring or bigoted, but to address their concerns, to win back their trust by restoring their hopes, to not turn our backs but to open our hearts. And to do so when all of our instincts cry out simply to cut them out—that is the measure of true commitment. . . .

With the bulk of Trump’s supporters, we must find common ground, as tough as that presently sounds. But let me be clear on this other point: It is one thing to reach out, as we must and should, to white working-class voters who rejected our message in this election. But it is another thing entirely to oppose, as we must, the real threat to our values, progress, and rights presented by the incoming administration. While we recommit ourselves to being the champions to all middle class and working Americans, we can and will do so by holding Trump and his cohorts accountable at each step for their regressive economic agenda, by safeguarding our cherished liberties of a free press and the right to worship and assemble, and by opposing any policies or actions that might do damage to our communities, our economy, and our environment. . . .

No one is under any illusions that the next four years will be easy. But the Japanese have a saying: “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” It is time for us to stand up again, and to press on with renewed determination. So hold your heads up high and carry on, turning your fear and anger into clearest resolve. As my mother would say to me in the camps, “Gaman, Georgie. Gaman.”

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