This appeared in the Nugget News and was submitted to the San Francisco Chronicle, May 2021
“…I’m an American”
Eighty years ago, on 7 December 1941, Tadeo Fuchikami got on his motorbike and braved the flack that rained down during the attack on Pearl Harbor to deliver wireless telegrams. When asked if he wanted to make his deliveries given the attack, he said without hesitation that of course, he would. It was his job. Besides, he said, “He was no Jap; he was an American.”
Like countless other Japanese-Americans that day, Fuchikami was born in America and was an American citizen. Any ties he had to Japan came from oral histories told to him by his mother Chie, who had immigrated to Hawaii as a picture bride. His ethnicity labeled his identity but not his heart. He was an American and put his country before his own safety.
At some point, each one of us had an identity label—be it European, Hispanic,
African, Asian, Pacific Islanders, Native American, et cetera. When our ancestors arrived, they blended and became Americans just like Tadeo Fuchikami.
Beating, killing, verbally abusing, or incarcerating someone because of their looks or name is criminal and beyond the pale. Did Americans pummel American’s during the H1N1 flu epidemic in 1918? It originated in the Great Plains of the United States. Over a third of the world’s population became infected from the “American Virus,” mislabeled as the Spanish flu because Spain was hard-hit. Why are Central Oregonians verbally abusing fellow American’s over a virus that spread from bats in China? Will people from the countries of Covid-19 variants become targets too?
Tadeo Fuchikami can be a model to us all during this current crisis. Like him, we need to brave the flack and remember that we are citizens of the United States. Embrace those who say, “I’m no virus, I’m an American,” and arrest those who terrorize others because of a misplaced label. We won’t win this war by fighting each other.