The Badger Club meeting to remember the 75th anniversary of the Minidoka Relocation Center for Japanese-Americans during World War II is now rescheduled for April 27. I first wrote about this event in the newspaper on Jan. 15. Weather forced cancellation then, but that article stimulated local comment in the newspaper and online. The community comments reinforce the Badger Club’s reasons for holding the meeting, and (in some cases) challenge the Club’s commitment to civil discourse.
Gary Bullert asked the Tri-City Herald if he could provide another perspective. On Jan. 29, he did so, with an op/ed entitled “Was the relocation of West Coast Japanese racist?” He argued it was not. The Herald Editorial Board noted on Feb. 5 that this set off a “a viral explosion of passionate, angry responses” that “hurled our newspaper and our community into a controversial firestorm.” For the record, there were 137 online comments to the Bullert article and 5 published Letters to the Editor. The board noted, “Readers detested his point of view, and said so. Some comments were civil. Many were not.”
While I understand the passions engendered by Mr. Bullert’s article, the uncivil comments are a departure from what the Badger Club stands for. In contrast, David Arnold wrote a response on “The Politics of Fear” that was published in the newspaper on Jan. 31. So while I decry the lack of civility by some, I am heartened by the broad community involvement on the topic of the so-called “other” among us, which is as timely today as it was 75 years ago.
This coming Thursday provides an opportunity to further that community involvement. The upcoming meeting will have the same format as the original. It is not a for/against forum, but presentations will be given by Mia Russell, the Executive Director of Friends of Minidoka, to provide a historical perspective on the camps and by Joseph Shoji Lachman. Joseph will share his family’s personal history at Minidoka, but also comment on the parallels to current concerns of Muslim Americans, based on his experiences at the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Seattle.
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After these formal presentations, there will be a 30-minute question-answer period, where we hope there can be a civil discourse about the broader issues that that arose in 1942 but still are relevant today. Please remember that to ask a question, you must be a member of the Badger Club. It will be possible to join on the evening of the presentation.
The evening will conclude with a Japanese drumming performance by Spokane Taiko.
The Columbia Basin Badger Club is a nonpartisan Tri-City organization that is dedicated to civil discourse on topics important to our region.
Allan Konopka is a member of the Program Committee for the Badger Club. He is a retired microbial ecologist who lives in Kennewick.
IF YOU GO
When: 6 p.m., April 27
Where: Shilo Inn, 50 Comstock St., Richland
Cost: $25 for Badger Club members, $30 for others, and $35 on the day of the event
RSVP: Call 628-6011 or go to cbbc.clubexpress.com