Recently, a congressman announced his opposition to a computer corporations’ honoring of the late activist, Yuri Kochiyama.
Kochiyama, in her long and eventful life, fought for many things, among them, this commentator’s life and freedom.
By attacking her, this congressman sought to attack me, but it appears his aim was off, for after all is said and done, he only succeeded in besmirching himself.
Here’s why: Pennsylvania’s Republican Senator, Patrick Toomey, attacked the memory of a woman who has become a legend in the minds of many. For if anybody knows anything about freedom and its costs, it isn’t Toomey, a thin-lipped mediocre politician who began as an investment banker; it’s Yuri, who , when just a little girl, was thrown (along with her entire family) into an American concentration camp for the high crime of being Japanese in a racist, white nation.
When she grew up and married Bill Kochiyama, she was active in the civil rights movement, fighting for social justice for Black children. She later joined the Black Liberation movement, and in one of the most touching moments of that movement, when Malcolm X was assassinated, the young Japanese woman cradling Malcolm’s head, as he breathe his last? That was Yuri.
She would later support a plethora of freedom movements — yes, including this commentator’s — because, who best to fight for freedom than those who know the absence of it?
When most little girls played with rag dolls, or played jacks, little Yuri, who used to sing: ‘My country tis of thee, sweet land of Liberty, of thee I sing -‘, looked around her and saw barbed wire, armed guards, and dry, barren earth, blowing tumbleweeds.
This sensitive, beautiful little girl, and American citizen, mind you 9y’know, ‘born-in-the-USA), saw the scowling faces of fear and armed hatred in the visages of American troops, and the even uglier politics of rabid, rightwing racists which made such cruel concentration camps possible.
The question arises: who is more worthy of honor; Yuri Kochiyama, a life-long freedom-fighter; or Patrick Toomey, a narrow-minded politician, trying to play his off-note of fear for political advantage?
We love Yuri Kochiyama — and Toomey isn’t worthy to lick her boots.