Letter from Kenji Okuda to Mr. and Mrs. Farquharson dated November 8, 1942

Letter from Kenji Okuda to Mr. and Mrs. Farquharson dated November 8, 1942. Mary Farquharson Papers, 1942-1945, Acc. 397-5, Box 1, folder 1. University of Washington Libraries: Manuscripts, Special Collections, University Archives.

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November 8, 1942
Amache, Colorado

Dear Prof. and Mrs. Farquharson,

How time spins along! It seems only yesterday that I received your long, interesting letter, and over a month has elapsed. Time flies, but in camp where one soon learns to take life so easily, we find ourselves doing less and less and wanting to do even less. The greatest need is for personal discipline… I’ve got to start in soon and practice it. In a sense, I think that spiritual growth would be much easier in prison or in some confining atmosphere which does not offer so many avenues of distraction… on the other hand, to attain spiritual discipline despite these distractions is to strengthen yourself against the forces of evil however insidiously they attack.

Nevin Sayre and Caleb Foote have been very recent visitors in camp. The two did more than anyone else could in making us more sensitive to the issues involved… I hope that we can get a small cell group organized from the five Japanese American pacifists and four (so far as I know) in the Caucasian teaching staff. Unfortunately Bayard Rustin did not accompany Nevin Sayre… we need to face some of our personal problems more squarely and examine ourselves in the midst of crying out for racial equality. The great majority of the Nisei seem to think, and I suppose to a certain extent every minority race thinks, that their problems are unique, and that they can be resolved as a problem neglecting the broader aspect of race relations and of majority opinion toward all minority groups. For that reason… to put it selfishly… I hope that several Negro men or women will be hired as teachers in the educational system. The elementary school principal talked this over with us… the shortage of teachers is frankly very acute… and I think that we can profit much by having these contacts with other races which teachers living on or near the project will offer.

How is Gordy faring? I understand that he is probably in the Federal prison at Dupont by this time, and correspondence with him is said to be very, very limited. If that is the case, I hope that those who are on the correspondents’ list will give my regards to him. Those of us in this camp who have heard or know something of his case are all in sympathy and admire him for his courage… more power and strength to him. I haven’t heard anything on the Takahashi case since the conviction… apparently Judge Black is not the most unprejudiced individual in the Northwest… and I’d be very much interested in getting the latest news.

Last week-end I was able to take a short trip up to Denver and bumped into Helen and Lily Yorozu. I met Lily at the unearthly hour of 11:30 p.m. in downtown Denver with Steve Clark… definitely an unexpected and thrilling experience. It seemed interesting, if not more than that, to be invited up from camp to speak to a church group on the Japanese and the problems created by the evacuation as well as those aggravated by the military move. It amused me when I tried to find a logical explanation for such a move… the results proved far from amusing. For one, I was struck with necessity of speaking forth and making ourselves heard… in Denver with at least 2,000 Japanese… seemingly so many resources at hand who could discuss the problems of the Japanese… and yet the ignorance within that church group! How much greater the need must be for contacts where there are no Japanese… or very few! The need of our going forth was impressed forcibly upon me… spokesmen to present ourselves. yet we cannot deny a lack of capable leadership within camp. Any intelligent thinking Nisei must resolve this dilemma for himself… it isn’t simple.

In our blundering attempts to create organizations to meet the needs of our camp existence, we are so prone to make errors which should be rectified before they become identified with the status quo. The Granada Christian Church, in its ideal, is a single church designed to include all Christians within its fold… of any sect or denomination… fundamentalist or liberal… but the ministerial body in attempting to define that church, which to my way of thinking never needed definition, has created the seeds of dissension and splits which have caused the thousand and one denominations to spring up. Membership is qualified by the requirement of baptism… the Apostles’ Creed is adopted as the creed… and we intend to make this an all-embracing church organization. Perhaps I am creating the dissension by even bringing up the problems… but I hope that I am not doing the wrong thing. We are trying, if I understand the situation correctly, to show the path into an all-embracing church which while admitting theological differences will work for the greater ideals of brotherhood and love… a Church Universal which is by its nature without definition. To attempt to define the Church by more than the most fundamental of requirements is to create a thousand Church infinitesmals! Will the others see my point of view when I shall try to undo this error (to my way of thinking)?

In a sense, it seems hypocritical to be debating such points when the all-important question of how to make the best of camp life as long as we must live in camp has yet to be adequately discussed. I think, though, that such a line of reasoning will find itself falling into the error of those who insist what we must first win the war and then concentrate on the peace… man can do a number of things at the same time… it is merely a question of whether he has the proper objectivity or not.

As Caleb stated, the two greatest dangers as drugs to camp improvement are the recreational program and the uncertainty created by the thought on the part of a large number of us that we may be leaving soon to seek greener pastures elsewhere. To the extent that dances, games, and parties become an end in themselves at the expense of intellectual or spiritual development, we are killing ourselves. I’ve felt the second drug acutely… much of my time has been wasted since I didn’t want to do anything worthwhile not knowing whether I’ll be here tomorrow or not. We’ve got to settle ourselves down and work… accomplish some concrete piece of good and strive unselfishly while we are in camp though the morrow may find us outside. Much of this feeling can be attributed to the general uncertainty felt in any time of crises… eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die!

The draft status of the Nisei is being discussed at length at the moment. The JACL is having a national gathering in Salt Lake City the middle of the month with two representatives from each center to discuss this very problem. Should we be drafted? How would the young men react? If not a draft, then should we be permitted to volunteer? According to the camp paper, we will be given an opportunity to volunteer for Intelligence Service training soon… I wonder how enthusiastic the reaction will be. Whatever the decision of Selective service… the implications and repercussions will be felt keenly by all of us. And another point… I understand that civil service exams will be brought into camp soon… a very hopeful sign if actually substantiated… seasonal harvest work is no solution, merely a temporary stop-gap, to the real problem of relocation into the economic and cultural life stream of this country.

If there is any coherence to this letter, it is purely accidental. I certainly enjoyed your letter, and I hope that you will write when you have some time available. My best regards to all…