The Sato Gene

Most of what I learned of the internment was briefly taught in school, and from the MJCCA. The suffering and loss was not described in a personal level in my family. I learned much of my family’s involvement as an adult, but we had always held on to things, and loathed to waste, keeping careful inventory things, and  future potential. It’s a perspective that’s made me resourceful.

My family often refers to the “Sato Gene” as a quality of both stubbornness and tenacity. I suppose the stain of the internment for my family was that even decent, hard working people are not guaranteed anything in life, and you need to work hard to protect the people you care about, taking nothing for granted. That said, I think my family has focused on what we did have, and could do, more than what we lost. But uncovering the history now, with modern resources, I still feel robbed by time and trauma of the inspirational history of the issei and nisei. I think of what might have been.

I see stubbornness and tenacity as strengths but also as a survival instinct, and an aversion to vulnerability. I think it’s manifested in a drive to not show weakness, and to work even harder to deflect emotional stress and anxiety, in myself, and every generation in my family. Recognizing this, I try to let myself be vulnerable, and remind my family to take time for rest. I have a privileged life, and if my vulnerability allows for someone else to finally unburden themselves, or be honest with themselves, I think that’s a gift I can give.

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