The Chink
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When he was eight, he emigrated to the United States of America, where his uncle tended gardens in San Francisco. [. . .]

The Chink picked up English and other bad habits. He went to high school and other dangerous places. He earned American citizenship and other dubious distinctions.

When asked what he wished to do with his life, he answered (although he had learned to appreciate movies, jukebox music and cheerleaders) that he wanted to grow yams on the side of a volcano - but as that was impracticable in the city of San Francisco, he became, like uncle, a gardener. For more than a dozen years he made the grass greener and flowers flowerier on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. [...]

By special arrangements with his employers, the Chink attended one class a day at the university. Over a twelve-year span he completed a good many courses. He never graduated, but it would be a mistake to assume he did not receive an education.

He was astute enough to warn his relatives, on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbour, "The shinto is gonna hit the fan. We'd better get our yellow asses back to some safe volcano and eat yams till this blows over."

They didn't listen. After all, they were patriotic, property-owning, tax-paying American citizens.

The Chink wasn't anxious to flee, either. He was in love again. Camping on the rim of a different volcano. So to speak.

On February 20, 1942, came the order. Two weeks later, the Army took steps. In March, evacuation was in full swing. Some 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry were moved out of their homes in "strategic" areas of the West Coast and settled in ten "relocation" camps further inland. They could bring to camp only what they could carry. Left behind were houses, businesses, farms, home furnishings, personal treasures, liberty. Americans of non-Nip ancestry bought up their farmland at ten cents on the dollar (The crops failed). Seventy percent of the relocated people had been born and reared in the US. "Loyal" Japanese were separated from "disloyal." If one would swear allegiance to the American war effort - and could pass an FBI investigation - one had the choice of remaining in a relocation camp or finding employment in some non strategic area. The camps were militaristic formations of tarpaper barracks, supplied with canvas cots and pot-bellied stoves. Six to nine families lived in a barracks. Partitions between "apartments" were as thin as crackers and did not reach the ceiling. (Even so, there were an average of twenty-five births per month in most camps.) There was no great rush to leave the camps: a loyal family that had been relocated on an Arkansas farm had been killed by an irate anti-Jap mob.

Disloyal Japanese Americans - those who expressed excessive bitterness over the loss of their property and the disruption of their lives, or who, for various other reasons, were suspected of being dangerous to national security - were given the pleasure of one another's company at a special camp, the Tule Lake Segregation Center in Siskiyou County, California. The Chink had been asked if he supported the American war effort. "Hell no!" he replied! "Ha ha ho ho and hee hee." He waited for the logical next question, did he support the Japanese war effort, to which he would have given the same negative response. He was still waiting when the military police shoved him on the train to Tule Lake

Taken from "Even Cow Girls Get the Blues" by Tom Robins, 1976

Exercise keyed in by Lilliam Hurst

Using Hot Potatoes

Software created by Martin Holmes
Updated Feb, 2001