Additional Resources on Japanese-American Internment Camps During World War II

I began this series of posts talking about how little I knew about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, even when I was an upper-division college student at UC-Berkeley. At the same time I “discovered” the internment, I also discovered resistance within the internment camps.

Almost 30 years later, now, and much more has been done to publicize both the internment and the resistance. In addition to the digital copies of the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Records that I explored in hard copy at UC-Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, there is Densho, a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving, educating, and sharing the story of World War II-era incarceration of Japanese Americans, with its rich and growing online encyclopedia. The Smithsonian National Museum of American History has exhibits online, as does the National Archives. The National Park Service is doing a great job at Manzanar, as I wrote about already. They also published a free on-line book, Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites, which I consult often.

In addition, John Okada’s 1956 novel, No-No Boy, is back in print. The first Japanese-American novel, it is a fictional telling of the story of the resistance to the loyalty questions.

I was interested to learn just recently that a documentary called “Resistance at Tule Lake” is just being finished and screened. The trailer is available on YouTube:

The aforementioned Densho site also has made available a number of interviews with individuals who resisted their unjust internment by answering “No-No” on the loyalty questionnaire or otherwise resisting the draft. Here a a few:

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This is obviously just a start. If you know of other resources beyond these, please mention and link to them in the comments.

Trying to Put My Writing on a Diet

Like many academics, I write alot. Books, book chapters, articles, book reviews, lectures and lesson plans, manuscript reviews, letters of recommendation, my blogs (this one less than my Gun Culture 2.0 blog), emails, and more.

Like some academics, I enjoy writing. Although I enjoy writing, it is hard. Or perhaps, I enjoy writing because it is hard. The most rewarding things in life aren’t easy.

As legendary writing teacher William Zinsser puts it, “A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”

Unlike most academics, I sometimes actually think of myself as a writer. That is, I try to think of myself not as someone who is just reporting research findings, but someone who is trying to present ideas in an clear, interesting, and compelling way.

To that end, I try to read and think about not just the substance of what I am saying but the writing itself. Zinsser’s On Writing Well  is a book I return to often.

Among his advice is to write what you think you want to say, then cut it in half (or something like that). There are so many wasted words in writing, some due to poor mechanics, some due to poor thinking.

Here’s an example I came across recently in my work on concealed carry laws:

BEFORE: What permits are called can sometimes be meaningful.

AFTER: Permit names are sometimes meaningful.

In this case, I am clear about what I want to say but I just say it poorly. Poor mechanics. My work is replete with such problems.

My writing accountability partner recently recommended Helen Sword’s Stylish Academic Writing  to me.

In the “Things to Try” section of her chapter on “Smart Sentencing,” Sword recommends a free diagnostic tool available on a web site she has created called The Writer’s Diet. You cut and paste a section of your writing into the tool and it tells you how “flabby or fit” your writing is.

I put some of the sections of the introduction to my book on Gun Culture 2.0 through the test and here is what I found.

The catchy story that begins the chapter: FIT AND TRIM!!!!

 

The analytical framework, mid-section of the chapter: NEEDS TONING!

 

The descriptive final section of the chapter: FIT AND TRIM!!!!! But needs some work with the prepositions.

This is not to say that I am a good writer, but it is a reflection of the fact that I take writing seriously and try to put in the work to make my writing better. It is an ongoing process.

My Love of Whisk(e)y and the Alcohol Epidemic in the United States

I love whisk(e)y. My love knows almost no boundaries. American, Canadian, Indian, Irish, Japanese, Scotch, Texas. Barley, corn, rye, wheat. Neat, rocks, mixed.

To fuel my love I have been reading Reid Mitenbuler’s recent book, Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey.

cover-image-bourbon-empireEarly on, Mitenbuler introduces the first alcohol distiller among the British colonists, George Thorpe. Around 1620, Thorpe first distilled alcohol from Indian corn mash in the Berkeley settlement near Jamestown, Virginia. (See another account of this here.)

This wasn’t because without the distilled spirit the colonists would be tee-totalers. Nay. Mitenbuler makes clear that the colonists loaded their ships with beer for their trips across the Atlantic and to sustain them in the colonies.

Alcohol, then as now, was part and parcel of the everyday lives of people living on this continent.

Although I am still in the revolutionary era in the book, I expect that Mitenbuler will discuss the many personal and social ills associated with alcohol use. These, of course, led up to the historic and failed experiment with banning alcohol from 1920 (with the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution) to 1933 (with the ratification of the 21st Amendment).

Since the repeal of prohibition, public health scholars continue to document the toll that alcohol takes on individual lives and our society as a whole. According to the Centers for Disease Control, among the short-term health risks of inappropriate alcohol use are:

  • Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns.
  • Violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.
  • Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels.
  • Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women.

Long-term health risks include:

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
  • Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
  • Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment.
  • Alcohol dependence, or alcoholism.

Despite this epidemic of alcohol-related problems in America, any person over 21 years of age can walk into most supermarkets, liquor stores, wine stores, beer stores, bars, or restaurants and buy alcohol. No “prohibited persons,” no permit required, no criminal background check, no mental health assessment, no registration, no additional fee beyond the cost of the product.

To see how easy it is to find alcohol in my quasi-homeland, I asked Google how many liquor stores there are in San Francisco.* Google returned the following map:

liquor stores in san franciscoIt is surprising that given the daily toll taken on individuals and our society as a whole that more people are not up in arms about this alcohol epidemic.

Of course, what could the people possibly do to resist the virtual ownership of the federal government by the alcohol lobby, which according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ opensecrets.org website had 292 lobbyists, $18.9 million in expenditures, and 31 clients in 2015.**

Thankfully, no one holds me — a responsible alcohol user — accountable for the mis-use of alcohol by (many, many thousands of) others. No one looks to me to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. No one requires me to have a 0.00 blood alcohol content before driving because so many others drink and drive irresponsibly. No one asks me how many more people have to die before I, for the good of my fellow citizens, give up alcohol. (Because if we could prevent even one more death by instituting common sense alcohol laws…)

The problems associated with alcohol in this country also do not prevent me, thanks be to God, from being able to purchase and consume the product.

20151209_215426.jpgI am also extremely fortunate to have very generous friends who share my love of whisk(e)y with me. To wit: Last night my friend offered a bourbon and rye tasting competition between Tennessee-based Prichard’s Distillery and the Buffalo Trace-owned Colonel E.H. Taylor brand.

The clear winner was Prichard’s Double Barreled bourbon, so named because the spirit is aged once at 120 proof in new charred oak barrels (as is required by law to be called a bourbon), then cut to 95 proof and re-aged in new charred oak barrels. The double barreled aging and the relatively moderate alcohol content (in comparison to many craft bourbons today), 90 proof in the bottle, made this an easy-drinking bourbon. And somehow, despite being aged twice in new charred barrels, it was not overly sweet.

The name and label art was also a big winner, in my opinion at least, because I also love a double barreled shotgun.

20151209_215435.jpg*San Francisco, the land of unicorns and rainbows, where the last gun store, High Bridge Arms, was just forced out of business.

**Compared to 55 lobbyists, $8.4M, and 8 clients for the gun rights lobby in 2015.

William Butler Yeats on the Experience of Modernity

I have always invoked Marshall Berman invoking Karl Marx invoking Shakespeare (Prospero in “The Temptest”) to describe the experience of modernity:

“All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.”

All That is SolidBut I could equally well use Irish poet William Butler Yeats from “The Second Coming” (1919) via African novelist Chinua Achebe:

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…

 

ThingsFallApart

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) by Charles Beresford Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Live Tweeting PBS Frontline Episode “Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA”

Thanks to a recommendation from my fellow sociologist of guns, Jennifer Carlson, I was asked by the digital content manager for PBS’s FRONTLINE to participate in live Tweeting before, during, and after the premier of their upcoming episode, “Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA.”

The episode airs at 10:00am Eastern Time on Tuesday, January 6th. I will be Tweeting from @gunculture2pt0 and PBS will be tweeting from @frontlinepbs — using the hashtag #GunnedDown.

Frontline Gunned DownHere is a brief description of the episode by PBS: “How the NRA became a powerful lobbying force. Included: remarks from individuals on both sides of the gun-control debate, including former NRA spokesman John Aquilino; Vice President Joe Biden; and former NRA executive vice president Warren Cassidy.”

A five minute YouTube preview video is also available:

I was also asked to suggest to PBS Frontline some individuals who might live Tweet the episode from a more pro-gun perspective. I will be interested to see who they may have asked and who may have said yes.

Of course, anyone can Tweet the event using the hashtag #GunnedDown, so I will look forward to “seeing” old and new virtual friends/colleagues Tuesday night.

 

Concealed Carry Fun with Google Ngram

My writing accountability partner recently turned me on to Google Ngram. The search engine lets you you electronically comb through millions of books in Google’s database for certain words or phrases. (You can read about the technical details on Google or Wikipedia.)

I searched for the phrase “concealed carry” as a case-insensitive phrase and the engine returned the following chart.

Google NGram Concealed Carry

 

Because the phrase has to appear in 40 or more books per year to register on the chart, the fact that it shows up in 0% of the books before 1980 doesn’t mean the phrase never occurs. But it doesn’t commonly occur through the 1980s, and then starts picking up in the 1990s — surely a lagged effect of Florida passing its concealed carry law in 1997 given the time it takes most people to publish books. The term steadily rises through the 2000s (the Google database ends in 2008). I don’t put much stake in the decline from 2006 to 2008, since we don’t see a big downward trend in either of the other spellings during that time. Without seeing the period from 2008 forward it is hard to know if it is just a blip or if it marks a trend.

It is interesting to note that by 1994 the term “Concealed Carry” — CAPITALIZED to signify it as an entity — begins to appear and remains relatively stead through 2008.

No major insight here. Just some fun with Google Ngram that further documents the rise of concealed carry in American since 1987.

Read Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members: A Novel

Whether you write letters of recommendation or not – but especially if you write letters of recommendation – read Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members. It is a novel written in the form of letters of recommendation by Jason T. Fitger, Professor of Creative Writing and English at Payne University.

Although not a typical narrative, the novel nonetheless tells a funny and at times poignant story of an older professor dealing with changes in himself and in the university, through his many digressions in the letters of recommendation he writes.

I don’t want to give away too much, but some memorable passages from a couple of the letters include:

  • “This letter recommends Melanie deRueda for admission to the law school on the well-heeled side of this campus. I’ve known Ms. deRueda for eleven minutes, ten of which were spent in a fruitless attempt to explain to her that I write letters of recommendation only for students who have signed up for and completed one of my classes.”
  • “Only by rewarding West [a junior colleague up for an award] and others of his happy ilk, and perhaps by killing off senior faculty, myself included, will it be possible for that elusive and almost mythical beast – collegiality – to prevail.”
  • “I have decided to accept a desperate departmental nomination for chair. Janet [his ex-wife who works on campus] will tell you that, throughout this institution, I am widely disliked. (I’m sure you’re shocked at the news.) She has attempted to bolster me, however, by claiming that, though understandably reviled, I am not universally distrusted, and on that basis I should serve out a three-year term.”

It’s a fast read at 180 small pages. I was sorry when it ended.

Official Catholic View of Use of Lethal Force in Self-Defense

Miguel at the Gun Free Zone blog posted recently about a new book by a Texas police officer called Jesus Christ on Killing.

jesus-christ-on-killing-coverI expect to see evangelical Christians taking this position, but Miguel brings to light some interesting passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that I had not previously read:

The seldom discussed subject of the legitimate killing of a human being and how does that mixes with Judeo/Christian values.  As a Catholic (although in a long hiatus) I refer to the Catechism regarding the Fifth Commandment

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not.”

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

 If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

A burden we do not seek but we know we might face.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

 

Contemporary Application of Bourdieu’s Distinction in Musical Taste

In his famous book Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Pierre Bourdieu reports findings from a French survey of cultural tastes fielded in 1967-68. Of particular note is a figure showing the distribution of preferences for three musical works by class fractions. Bourdieu reports that Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” represents “legitimate taste” and is favored by “those fractions of the dominant class that are richest in economic capital.” Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” stands in for “middle-brow taste” favored by the middle classes. And Strauss’s “Blue Danube” represents “popular taste” — which Bourdieu characterizes as “so-called ‘light’ music or classical music devalued by popularization,” and also “songs totally devoid of artistic ambition or pretension” such as works by Petula Clark. This taste “is most frequent among the working classes and varies in inverse ratio to educational capital” (p. 17).

I do a mini-version of Bourdieu’s survey in my sociological theory class, playing these three songs for my students and asking them to indicate which they like. There are often very seemingly idiosyncratic patterns in the responses to these songs. Strauss is generally pretty popular overall, though, which is exactly the opposite of what Bourdieu would expect from my generally well-educated and fairly affluent student. Discussion of this often highlights the fact that the music in Bourdieu’s study is too old to allow for meaningful interpretation of the relationship between American social class, educational capital, and taste. So, I field another survey for my students.

I am assisted in my choice of songs by a student who sent me a link to the following chart, from an on-line story called “Does Your Taste in Music Reflect Your Intelligence?”

MusicthatmakesyoudumbLargeThe results bring together the most popular songs at 1,352 American colleges and universities and the average SAT scores at those same institutions. Of course, this is not a sociological study, though the person who did the work, Virgil Griffith, is a PhD student at Caltech studying the “information-integration theory of consciousness” (not exactly a rocket scientist, but close to alot of rocket scientists at Caltech).

Bourdieu talks about “educational capital” rather than intelligence, but we do know that one of the things that the SAT measures is the economic and cultural capital of the students taking the exam, so the SAT is not a terrible proxy for what Bourdieu is talking about.

In my reduced version of Bourdieu’s study, I chose three songs that appear high, middle, and low in the SAT spectrum: Radiohead’s “Karma Police” (high), OutKast’s “Ms. Jackson” (middle), and Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” (low). I asked students to indicate which of the three songs was their favorite. The results were as follows:

HIGH (Radiohead): 21%
MEDIUM (OutKast): 38%
LOW (Beyonce): 41%

I welcome any comments on the results of this exercise!