A trip to Heart Mountain WWII Japanese American Internment Center is always a very emotional outing for me. It’s one thing to read about historical events or view serious documentaries, but when you visit sites where those events actually occurred or meet people who lived there, the true meanings hit home.
Many times I have taken friends or relatives – even nieces and nephews who would prefer a trip to the pool – to Heart Mountain and have encountered people who actually lived there. They are often visiting with their own friends and family. Invariably I am struck by their strength of character and ability to remember the injustices without allowing bitterness to overtake them. I keep expecting them to hold me responsible, but they never do.
Last week was a convergence of reality and fantasy, television characters and real-life people.
You’re probably familiar with the actor George Takei who played Sulu on the original Star Trek television show and later in some of the movies. If you spend much time on social media, you may know that Takei has developed a following for his very funny posts and memes that show up on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.
There was not a lot of humor when Takei visited Heart Mountain. When he was five years old, Takei was placed in a Japanese American internment Camp in Arkansas to spend World War II. The camp was much like our own Heart Mountain with whole families housed in one or two rooms in makeshift barracks. George was reminded of the life forced upon him more than 70 years ago simply because of his ancestry and being from the “wrong” race.
Like many people, including George Takei, during a visit to Heart Mountain I consider if large-scale internments, deportations or surveillance of our citizens could occur in this country today. I like to think not, but I am convinced that we must maintain our links to the past through places like Heart Mountain to remind of these injustices.
While I was always more of a fan of Mr. Spock than Mr. Sulu (sorry, George Takei, but I always imagined Spock was heading my way every seven years), I encourage everyone who makes the trek to Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country to boldly go to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center.
Until next week, I am lovin’ life – hopefully, a long and prosperous one – in Cody Wyo.