There is an argument that has been raging for about the last twenty years (maybe longer) regarding how arrogant it is to believe that America is unique or that Americans are exceptional. Since we all came here from somewhere else, the reasoning goes, it is those people that are unique, not America.
I ran into a couple the other day who proves that America is unique and that each of those individual people, regardless where they came from, have added to that exceptionalism. Certainly, anyone who has traveled much outside the U.S. knows the completely different feel, ambiance or spirit of America.
The couple I mention are a little different, just because of choices they made. The husband’s parents left Japan in 1921 during the last immigration from that country before World War II. They settled in San Francisco and went about building a small business. They had a son, who was a young teenager in 1941.
When the internment of American Japanese started, they were moved from their home to the Gila Internment Camp in the desert of Arizona. Their home and business were confiscated without compensation and the family spent the war years in a concentration camp.
However, by this time, the family and their other camp inhabitants are truly American. So, they made tea out of lemons. They started a school for their children. They begged and borrowed metal and implements with which to start a small cooperative farm, they established shops to make what they needed and taught their children the skills that they knew they would need.
Right in the middle of that creation, as bad as things were, my client was drafted into the Army, leaving his family to fend for themselves. He was stationed in Georgia as an MP for the balance of the war.
When he got out of the Army, the GI Bill was just starting up. He took what he learned in the concentration camp and applied to the University of California, was admitted, became an engineer and went to work. But he couldn’t find anyone to start a family with.
So, in 1951 he went to Japan and discovered a girl who wanted to come to America. They married and returned to the U.S. where he worked for the next 50 years as an engineer in the aeronautics industry. They had a son, who is now grown and has a family of his own.
In discussing the war years with him, he says, “I have no regrets.” I learned a lot in the camp, more in the Army and yet more in college. Even though they were wrong, I was blessed to be an American, share all of these experiences and contribute to this great land. Persistence, dedication to ideals, forgiveness and hard work have left this couple happy, now in their eighties. May we all be so fortunate?