Occasional comments about business and politics in Portland, Oregon, mixed in with stories from our city's colorful if not always compliant past.
"The more pity, that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly." -- Touchstone
The tour guide at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California, an energetic and enthusiastic woman of about Isaac's vintage, painted a sympathetic portrait of our 37th president. For example, she described the 1960 presidential election as a contest between a highly intelligent vice president seasoned with eight years in the administration, experienced in foreign policy, with a steady hand, against a naive and inexperienced playboy. She did reluctantly admit that John Kennedy was handsome and attractive, and Richard Nixon . . . "well, he had to work with what he had." The Nixon Library did have a remarkably fair and balanced depiction of Watergate and the events that led up to President Nixon resigning the office, installed after Mr. Nixon died to replace the exhibit that he had approved.
Three things struck me. One was when our guide, in talking about the famous people who had visited the Nixon Library, told us that Justice Brennan had visited the Library a year or two ago and was very impressed with it. Justice Brennan died in 1997. The second thing was when she mentioned that the British had burned the White House in World War II, conflating a war in which we were allies with a war 130 years earlier in which we weren't.
The third thing was one of the delicious ironies which is either a complete coincidence or the result of an Isaac-like humorist at work behind the scenes. On the bus to the Library, our group was shown a half-hour film about President Nixon, produced in the early 1990s with the President's cooperation. (He died in 1994.) The film had to discuss the Watergate scandal, which it did -- almost exactly 18-1/2 minutes after the film started. A coincidence? You be the judge.
It all boils down to what I would most like to do as a musician. Put songs on people's lips instead of just in their ear. I wish I could live long enough to see more people singing again, either solo or in groups. For recreation. For reverence. For learning and laughter. For struggle. For hope, for understanding.
I know I won't live that long, but if this world survives, I believe that modern industrialized people will learn to sing again.
-- Pete Seeger, Where Have All The Flowers Gone: A Singer's Stories, Songs, Seeds, Robberies (1993)
Hatsutaro Azumano came to the United States from Japan in 1902 as a teenager to pursue the American dream. In 1917 he married a recent immigrant from Japan, and in 1918 while living near Front Avenue and Main Street they had their first child, a boy whom they named Ichiro (a common Japanese first name for eldest sons). Ichiro's parents may have remained traditional even as they pursued business -- Hatsutaro Azumano became a salesman for Fuji Grocery and Produce a few years later and by 1930 had moved his family from the crowded Front Avenue lodging house to a private house on Williams Avenue -- but within a few years after his birth they had given their son the additional and very American name of George.
A young man with the good old American name of George, born in Portland, Oregon, who graduated from the University of Oregon in 1940 with a business degree, and who went into the United States Army in 1941, might be forgiven for thinking ill of his native country for imprisoning him with thousands of other Americans from 1942 to 1944 in the Minidoka camp simply because of where his parents had been born. If Mr. Azumano resented his war experience, he rarely talked about it.
Had he wanted to, Mr. Azumano, who died this morning at the age of 95, could have told of the time that the city of Portland prohibited its Japanese-American citizens from leaving their homes between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m., or of the other governmental restrictions on their lives before the trains left for the concentration camps. He might have told of being penned in the old livestock yards in Portland with the persistent smell of cow dung in the air while he and his family awaited the trains east to the camps. Instead, he mostly maintained a serene, and in his later years a stately, manner as he went about his business.
Or, more accurately, his businesses: in 1949 Mr. Azumano opened his own insurance agency, soon adding a travel agency, and grew both businesses over the 40 years that followed. He also invested his time and money in civic enterprises, establishing scholarships for needy students, serving on commissions, and doing other things to benefit Portland, in a quiet way. Eventually the awards and recognition followed: service as a trustee of Willamette University, the Order of the Rising Sun in 1982 from the Emperor of Japan, and many others.
Through his long and remarkable life, Mr. Azumano was proud to be an American. It says something about a man's character when he can raise a family, succeed in business, contribute to civic life, help educate the poor, and still be loyal to the government that denied him the rights of his neighbors. Portland will miss him.
Carrying on our tradition of remembering Grandmother Laquedem, whose lifelong democratic socialist (sometimes lower case, sometimes with capitals) support of the working classes ended only with her death on Labor Day itself many years ago, we commemorate the day with a suitable reading. Today's reading comes from the Labor Day speech of Woodrow Wilson, then the Governor of New Jersey and a candidate for the presidency, on September 2, 1912.
Very well then, when I speak to you today, I want you to regard me as a man who is talking business. I want in the first place to say that I shall be scrupulous to be fair to those with whom I am in opposition. Because there is a great deal to be said for the programs of hopeful men who intend to do things even if they haven’t struck upon the right way to do them. And we ought not to divorce ourselves in sympathy with men who want the right thing because we do not think they have found the way to do them.
I want to speak upon this occasion, of course, on the interests of the workingman, of the wage earner, not because I regard the wage earners of this country as a special class, for they are not. After you have made a catalogue of the wage earners of this country, how many of us are left? The wage earners of this country, in the broad sense, constitute the country. And the most fatal thing that we can do in politics is to imagine that we belong to a special class, and that we have an interest which isn’t the interest of the whole community. Half of the difficulties, half of the injustices of our politics have been due to the fact that men regarded themselves as having separate interests which they must serve even though other men were done a great disservice by their promoting them.
We are not afraid of those who pursue legitimate pursuits provided they link those pursuits in at every turn with the interest of the community as a whole; and no man can conduct a legitimate business, if he conducts it in the interest of a single class.
Our usual jovial support of management and the capitalist classes will return tomorrow.
To mark the 212th anniversary of the birth of Millard Fillmore, what better than to revisit his policies? Here is a bit from his second State of the Union address, in which President Fillmore describes his view of American foreign policy:
Our true mission is not to propagate our opinions or impose upon other countries our form of government by artifice or force, but to teach by example and show by our success, moderation, and justice the blessings of self-government and the advantages of free institutions. Let every people choose for itself and make and alter its political institutions to suit its own condition and convenience.
Our addiction to changing the forms of government of other nations hasn't, on the whole, worked out very well. We've provided some excellent training to our military, but we haven't been exemplifying "success, moderation, and justice."
Richard Inukai didn't talk much about his experiences in the two years he spent in a federal prison, mainly because he didn't remember much about those two years, for they started in 1943 when he was born in Minidoka, Idaho.Tule Lake, California. His parents, residents of Hood River, were among the tens of thousands of Americans of Japanese descent uprooted when they were ordered by the federal government in 1942 to leave their homes in Washington, Oregon, and California and spend the rest of World War II in confinement. Tule Lake was not called a prison, of course; its official name was the unassuming "Tule Lake War Relocation Center," a pleasant euphemism that made no difference to the men, women, and children confined there. The Supreme Court, in the Korematsu and Hirabayashi cases, had held that the constitution did not prohibit imposing special curfews on, and then relocating and imprisoning, United States citizens in wartime, including Richard Inukai and other newborns, strictly because of their race.
After the war his parents made their way back to Oregon, and then to Portland, where his father, Tom Inukai, operated a service station. Richard Inukai, who died the morning of July 3, absorbed his father's work ethic -- Tom Inukai often worked seven days a week -- but after serving four years in the Marine Corps Reserve he went into a different part of the car business, first in the Ron Tonkin organization, where he rose to be the manager of Ron Tonkin Gran Turismo, then in the early 1970s as the operator of a used-car lot on 82nd Avenue, and later in that decade as the owner of Dick's Country Dodge in Hillsboro. Over the years he added Ford, Chrysler, and Jeep franchises, also in Hillsboro, operating under the common name of Dick's Auto Group.
On the rare occasions that Mr. Inukai talked about the war years, he sometimes showed his anger, not for himself but for the other children locked in the camps. That anger may have led him to become a generous contributor to the Boys and Girls Clubs, and to lead the funding of the near-tripling of the Hillsboro club, now named the Inukai Family Club. It's not named after him, at least not exactly; and I suspect that in his own mind he thought of it as being named after his parents, so that they could, by proxy, give to the children of Hillsboro something that the United States government kept them from giving to their own.
A.P. Herbert, whose works adorn our more-or-less annual celebration of Income Tax Day, provides a reading for our friends in the District to consider as they take on their legislative duties. This is a portion of one of Herbert's aptly-titled "Misleading Cases in the Common Law," headed "In Re MacAlister," and subtitled "What is the Liberal Party?" An elderly woman has died and left one million pounds to "the Liberal Party," and thirteen different political parties each assert that they are the one true Liberal Party. The judge's efforts to forge a compromise fail, and, as he says, "it says much for the sincerity with which these colleagues detest each other that, rather than share a common bank-balance, they would cheerfully continue with thirteen independent overdrafts." So Mr. Justice Tooth must decide which one of the thirteen Liberal Parties is the Liberal Party, which he does by looking at the principles for which they stand. The rest is quoted from the story, with some light abridgment:
I have therefore turned my attention in another direction, which was suggested by one of the plaintiffs, a Mr. Haddock of Hammersmith, who confesses frankly that the Liberal Party which he represents is a party of one, but insists nevertheless that it is the only Liberal Party. It has struck me as odd that no one of the distinguished Liberals concerned in this case has used the word Liberty, and had it not been for the obscure Mr. Haddock the subject might never have entered my head. But Mr. Haddock has argued with some force that there must at one time have been some shadowy connexion between the Liberal Party and the idea of Liberty. Now in cross-examination, the witnesses Asquith, George, Grey, Simon, Runciman, and indeed nearly all the plaintiffs, have confessed that they have been guilty from time to time of legislation, or proposals for legislation, of which the main purpose was to make people do something which they did not wish to do, or prevent people from doing something which they did wish to do. Few of them could point to an item in their legislative programmes which had any other purpose, and, with the single exception of Mr. Haddock, they have no legislation to suggest of which the purpose is to allow people to do something which they cannot do already. On the contrary, it appears, they are as anxious as any other party in Parliament to make rules and regulations for the eating, drinking, sleeping, and breathing of the British citizen. On these grounds, therefore, Mr. Haddock has argued that these plaintiffs have not the idea of liberty in the forefront of their political equipment, and do not therefore deserve the name of Liberal. Mr. Haddock's own programme is simple: (a) to propose no legislation unless its purpose is to allow people to do what they like, and (b) to support no legislation whose purpose is to stop people from doing what they like.
Here and there, he admitted, good cause being shown, he is prepared to compromise; but that, prima facie, is his foundation and beginning. For example, the first measures which he intends to introduce are a Bill to repeal the Marriage Act of 1886, by which a wedding may not take place after three o'clock in the afternoon, a Bill to allow the sale of Bodily Refreshments at any Hour at which Any One is Willing to Sell Them; a Bill for the Institution of the Death Penalty for Police Officers who Enter Respectable Clubs Disguised in Evening Dress, Bills to amend the laws relating to Divorce, Lotteries and Gaming, Sunday Toil and Entertainment, and other beneficent measures whose purpose is neither to improve, uplift, enrich, nor reform the British subject, but to increase, by however little, his liberty and contentment.