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'Insight comes in flickers, doesn't it'

We three Collier girls grew up in the bright sunshine of Klamath Falls. We never wore sunglasses on the sparkling Lake of the Woods, and we looked at the eclipse of the sun through smoked glass. Now, in our mid-nineties, all three of us are blind with inoperable macular degeneration.

“We have lost our sight, but not our vision,” Marie assures us in our morning telephone talks. She was honored in July for her vision almost 70 years ago that the Japanese internment camp in nearby Tulelake Lake was a mistake. Her letter to the Herald & News, mailed from her husband Ross Ragland’s army base in New Jersey, was brave indeed, for Klamath was, and is, in my opinion, a very red neck town.

Recently at my great-granddaughter’s fifth birthday party, I was chattering with my son-in-law, Rob Scofield, who was just named an outstanding Lake Oswego businessman. I was telling him about going to the Japanese internment camp with a box of diamond rings, passing through the machine gun topped towers of the entrance, to sell an engagement and wedding ring for a beautiful bride in a long white traditional wedding dress. I was hinting a little at our greedy capitalistic culture by telling him that I was not even ashamed of selling those rings for a marked-up price three times the tag for Klamath Falls brides.

“The Japs probably were investing wisely the pittance they were able to get for their gardens and orchards when they were forced off the land their ancestors had developed,” I said.

Rob had his usual wise comment for me: “For starters, you could call them Japanese.”

I don’t consider myself a prejudiced person, and I have a great passion for Asian arts and architecture. One of my best friends at Mills College was Chinese; I raised two adopted Korean orphans with my large family in Eugene; I went every week to a foreign film class with a Taiwanese friend; and here in Lake Oswego, I have several Asian friends.

But insight comes in flickers, doesn’t it? Now you see through a glass darkly, but then, face to face, goes the reading from 1 Corinthians.

In our morning talk, we mulled over Marie’s saying that she had lost her sight but kept her vision. I am writing an article on revision and how essential it is for good writing to be able to read something over and revise it. I started to sing that wonderful song from the musical “Godspell,” “See you more clearly, love you more dearly, day by day.”

In the middle of July, we went to Klamath to commemorate the great mistake of our country in damaging the lives of so many of our Japanese citizens by putting even the most wonderful and innocent ones of them in concentration camps. The main speaker was Linda Tamura, who wrote “Nisei Soldiers Break Their Silence.”

I have just finished listening to “The Stubborn Twig,” a wonderful book that was a Lake Oswego Reads selection. “The Stubborn Twig” is about a remarkable Japanese family that pioneered in Hood River.

It is astonishing how many amazingly successful descendants have flourished in our state. We should have been honoring that loyal family, instead of locking them up.

Blind and stupid, let’s hold onto our beautiful American vision: “Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light?”

My grandson, Guthrie Stafford was writing a song for his guitar, putting his old grandmother to sleep with these wonderful words: “Why, oh, why can’t she see? Everybody wants to be loved, wants to be safe, wants to be free!”

Phyl Kern is a member of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.




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