The impact of the violence my grandparents experienced and my parents experienced growing up, definitely impacted the way I was raised. There were words of advice that like mantras were repeated over and over:
- Get a good education so you can get a good job. Others can take away your material possessions but no one can take away knowledge and education. Material possessions aren’t as important as who you are and what you carry inside you
- Think of others before yourself. Give them the best.
- Respect your elders, other people and their property and possessions.
- Everyone is equal. You’re just as good as anyone else.
- If you want to make the team whether that be sports or academic, you’ve got to be better than others.
- When you’re in the world, you represent your family, not just yourself. If you do something “wrong”, you bring shame to your whole family….grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and parents.
- Don’t waste ANYTHING whether that be food, money or anything else.
- Do the best that you can in everything you do. Work hard. If you fail, it’s so you can learn. Get up again and keep going.
- Don’t follow others whether another child or an adult and an authority. They’re not always right. You need to figure out what you think is right and do that. Be a leader, not a follower.
- Respect others, speak respectfully to others even when you disagree.
- Honesty is the best policy.
- Be independent. If you want to do something and others don’t, just go ahead and do it.
Most of all as in the tradition of Japanese culture, my parents modelled the words in their behaviour and in their words. I felt like most of the advice was good, some was conflicting. Some comes from trauma and distorted beliefs because of the shame and guilt from experiencing racism and being put in concentration camps…. that “we need to prove that we’re good citizens of Canada”. Later on as I became more aware I would think, “Why? No one else is trying to prove that they’re good citizens. You’re a citizen or you’re not. ”
My grandparents and parents lived their lives, “for the sake of the children.” My parents were calm, rarely if ever seemed to be overwhelmed, (although I’m sure at times they were). And I feel that the stability of not only my own nuclear family but my extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins gave me a sense of security to be an adventurer. When I examine their lives and their stories, I totally respect and admire that they were able to carry on with dignity, always doing the best that they could. Now that I’m unearthing the details of what they went through, I wonder whether, they have lived what they did and come through it. And they seemingly had little bitterness or anger. Whereas I notice that I still have anger at times about the violation of their rights and freedoms.
While their human and civil rights were ripped away by strokes of the pen, and they experienced post war discrimination, they valued the freedom, privileges and advantages of being citizens of a materially developed country after the War. The messages that were passed onto me, “You can do whatever you dream about. If anyone can do it, you can do it.”
Those were some of the best messages any parent could have passed onto their children. Thankfully I’ve lived a vibrant, exciting life that is out of the box, free to be me. Out of their sorrow, struggles and their continued determination and persistence to rise out of ashes of my parents and my ancestors with their own faith in themselves and in others and their wise advice……gave me this gift of the encouragement to live my dreams. I am very thankful and grateful to them.
What I pass onto the upcoming generations is: If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you’re going. Delve into own family history and connect with your ancestors, alive or deceased as they have gifts to give you. They may not be physically with you but they are present with you. Never forget the violation of human and civil rights that happened to your ancestors and stand up if those rights are being violated for you or for others. Remember their stories, joyful stories and stories of suffering and tell them.
Question everything, dig deeper than what perceived “authorities” and “experts” are telling you. Anytime your human or civil rights or the rights of Mother Earth or the rights of others are being threatened or violated, think for yourself, make your own choices, speak out with others who are awake and don’t follow blindly. Be yourself and live in your own integrity. And live your dreams, you are here to create the exciting present and our inspired future and you can do it!