In 2010, I was in Bonn, Germany teaching a study abroad semester for American university students. The coordinator and administrator of this program was a German national with a Ph.d in Medieval European history. While sharing a meal, I told him the fact that my older sister and I had both been born in Manzanar Concentration Camp in the remote desert east of Mt. Whitney during WWII. He simply refused to believe me until I repeated the fact several times and that in addition to Manzanar being our birthplace, that both my parents, many of my aunts and uncles, all of whom were native -born American citizens, were imprisoned there for three years and more.
I will not and cannot equate the Japanese American Concentration Camps with the Death camps of the Holocaust in Europe. Over six million died at the hands of a fascist madman and as a result of centuries of complicit racist behavior by people globally. That injustice should never, ever be repeated at any scale.
In May, 1942, the United States government caged over 110,000 people, 2/3’s who were American citizens, in remote locations throughout our country. The imprisoned, locked away in American concentration camps without the benefit of due process, lost up to four years of their lives just for looking different than the mainstream population. Not a single case of sabotage could be attributed to these people. On the contrary, the 442nd Infantry Battalion, comprised of many Japanese Americans from the camps themselves, was the most decorated American battle group during WWII. They also proportionally suffered the most injuries and deaths of those fighting for our liberties against the Axis powers and proved to the world that the sons and grandsons of Japanese immigrants to America were as patriotic as anyone.
The tragedies in Manazanar were real and personal. The infant who would have been my oldest cousin had he lived, died shortly after his birth, because there were no incubators with oxygen in the camp hospital. My father lost his home, business, trucks, and equipment that he had spent twenty years accumulating when he was forced behind barbed wire with armed guard towers surrounding him.
In the aftermath of the war when these “prisoners” were finally “freed,” my father was given a bus ticket home and $25 to restart his life.
These “concentration camps” were what Councilman Fisch was referring to. I know this because I talked about my personal history with him in the spring of this year long before the current attempts to smear his reputation and integrity began. His beliefs echoed mine in that discrimination of Americans against their fellow Americans should under no conditions be repeated. The words, “Never Again”, held deep meaning for us both.
For those that believe that we should shunt the homeless into places like Palmdale so that Culver City can return being a racist backwater, they need to be aware and reminded that all Americans deserve to be treated with dignity, compassion, and fairness. This includes people of color, those of every income level, and the homeless among us.
Furthermore, please acknowledge if you can, that the past does not recall “Happy Days” for everyone. Loving the past is not a universally shared experience, but one reserved for the privileged.
Alex Fisch has approached his civic responsibilities with intelligence, forbearance, compassion, and vision. He has done much, much more than just talk about Culver City’s problems. He has led the city out of looming bankruptcy created by generations of his “business friendly” predeccesors by creating dependable funding for city employee pensions (Measure RE). He has had the vision and legal experience to help steer Culver City through a devastating and unprecedented pandemic. He “walks the talk” in the battle against climate warming by biking, using public transport, and minimizing car use.
It is infinitely easier to criticize and stonewall efforts for positive and necessary change, than to create and implement legitimate ways to solve real and systemic problems. Instead of passing the buck as many have done in the past, Alex Fisch has accepted and followed through on the difficult, painstaking work necessary to solve them, including the huge challenge of homelessness.
Alex Fisch is beholden only to the community good, integrity, and a positive vision for the future. Re-elect Alex Fisch so that he can continue benefitting Culver City through his experience, unparalleled training, intelligence, and deep compassion for all.
Professor Emeritus, Loyola Marymount University
Member – Culver City Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Member
Thank you Art Nomura.
We’ll said. There has been so much negativity thrown around this election cycle so thank you for sharing these thoughts. No matter the outcome of our current election I’m grateful to our city council, especially councilperson Fisch for centering the well being of the community in their deliberations.