Jul 26, 2015

Always Reading, Always Learning


I love to read! I read to learn. If there is ever a day that goes by that I haven't read something, it's a sad day indeed. The longing in me to learn new things is so profound that I simply can not stop reading. The topics are as varied as what I learn. From a very young age I have been inspired by human interest stories - specifically survivor stories. These range in variety from Holocaust survivors, to North Korean escapees, to the Rwandan genocide, to those unfortunate souls in our own country who survived internment camps during WWII.  This is such a book.

I normally save all my book reviews for the "Books" section of my blog.  But I learned some amazing things from this book that I can't stay quiet about.  Life-changing things, in fact.  I've been aware of the internment camps for Japanese Americans for a few years now (pathetic that I never learned of this in high school or college).  However, I had no idea how many German and Italian Americans were also affected.  And as par per course, I also had no clue about how secretive our government was.  This book reveals more of our sad history in regards to how we treat immigrants to our country, how we quickly throw out all civil rights when war or the threat of war looms and how the government does whatever it wants, however it wants despite the cost of human lives.

I have no intention of summarizing the book here. But I do want to share the three most amazing things I learned while engrossed in this book for the past week.  

I was first inspired by the Japanese ideal of gaman.  This ideal is one of the only things that enabled so many of the Japanese Americans to live through such a humiliating event at the hand of their own government. Gaman means "learning to endure the unbearable with dignity and forbearance. It is a way to endure suffering without losing one's sense of identity, dignity, and purpose."  Wow.  Just
wow! This is the exact same as the Christian ideal of long-suffering as described in Galations 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control". This is a virtue that we desperately need in society when intolerance, insensitivity, impatience and impulsive anger are so prevalent. Patient endurance (gaman) allows you to not be a victim of your circumstances. It helps you grow in character when the worst is thrown at you. To actually live what you believe, that is inspiring to me, no matter what your religion.

The second thing that jumped off the page to me was a quote in a letter written by Earl Harrison, head of the INS during the internment period.  He wrote a letter to all INS employees urging them to be patient. It reads: "It is often difficult to be patient and exercise an unruffled self-restraint in the face of scathing verbal criticism, or when threatened with physical violence, but it always enlists sympathetic support and pays dividends. To become impatient, sarcastic, hostile or personal in remarks is an admission of weakness and defeat and, needless to say, should never occur." First of all, I'm extremely thankful that someone with some compassion towards immigrants was in charge of the INS at this time frame (he later quit in protest of how the government handled the whole thing). But what hit me was the eloquent simplicity of what he said and how he said it. Couldn't each of us be reminded of this on a daily basis? It is basically the concept of returning evil with good - the exact opposite of what we feel entitled to do. But this also demonstrates the life of Jesus and if we are supposedly following him, we would do good to imitate his actions. Instead of standing up for our own rights, maybe holding our tongue and doing good to those who persecute us might make a bigger difference on a larger scale.

Lastly, the book begins with a quote from a German concentration camp survivor.  Her family was exchanged for an American family during the war as part of secret government dealings. What she says is so profound and deep that I'm just going to end with that and let the enormity of it sink it. After what she lived through at Bergen-Belsen, that she can honesty utter these words is a testament to her strength of character:

Enemies are people whose stories you haven't yet heard and whose faces you haven't yet seen.
-Irene Hasenberg Butter


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