When my son Aaron (who is now 28) was in kindergarten, he was typically a wonderfully polite and intelligent little boy. So, you can imagine our surprise when we received a phone call one day that he was being suspended for hitting another child. We immediately arrived at the school to pick him up and learn what had happened.
We sat patiently and listened to the teacher explain how for some unknown reason Aaron had punched another boy and then pushed him over in his chair. We listened to what his punishment was going to be and then we loaded our “very quiet” boy in the car to head home.
When we finally had a chance to sit down and talk with Aaron it was one of those parent moments of mixed feelings. Yes, he said, he had punched the other boy. Yes, he had pushed him over in his chair. But he did this because the boy had been bullying and picking on a little girl that sits at the same table.
The boy had tormented the little girl until she began to cry and the teachers hadn’t seen or done anything. So, our little guy, in all his righteous indignation of 5 years old, took matters into his own hands. He knew full well that he would be punished, but he just couldn’t let the bullying continue.
Now, I know there might be some who read this who would say that it didn’t matter what the reason, there should never be any excuse for using violence. But as a parent, while I don’t condone hitting or fighting, what I can say with pride is that at 5 years old, Aaron saw an injustice and was willing to accept whatever the consequences would be in order to act on behalf of the little girl. He was an advocate for her. He stepped up and defended her when no one else would. And in my humble opinion, we need more 5-year-old Aarons in the world — even today.
So, here we are 23 years later and the museum is busy getting ready to host a very special exhibit called, “What if Heroes Were Not Welcome Home?” This exhibit was developed recently at the Oregon Historical Society and was on display there during the same time as the national traveling Congressional Gold Medal was touring from the Smithsonian. Maybe some of you had an opportunity to visit it while it was in Portland. Now, it’s coming to Hood River as it begins a state-wide tour for 2014.
While this interpretive exhibit is based on the Linda Tamura book, “Nisei Soldiers Break Their Silence,” The History Museum is taking the opportunity during this time to not only honor our County’s Japanese American military heroes, but also to recognize a small group of citizens who, like my son, stepped up after World War II and assisted and befriended their Japanese American friends and neighbors against strong racial sentiment in Hood River County.
While the citizens we refer to as the “heroes” have since passed away, their descendents have been invited to join us for a special day of thanks and celebration for these “Heroes Unheralded” on Sunday, Jan. 12, at 2 p.m. at The History Museum. The public is welcome and invited to join us for this wonderful day of reconciliation and recognition.
The exhibit itself will be on display in the Atrium Gallery from Jan. 2 to Feb. 26. Our display will also include some very unique interactive opportunities for adults as well as kids.
The desire and goal for this exhibit is to ask ourselves as residents of Hood River County and citizens of the world: Have we learned from some of the mistakes now so evident in our history? Or: What would we do if we saw injustice in our neighborhood or community? Would we just look the other way, or would we take some action? What would you do? How would you respond if the persecution were directed at you?
I sincerely hope that you take time during January and February to stop by The History Museum and engage with this exhibit and join us in this very important conversation.
The History Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no admission charge. We are also scheduling special groups and school tours during this time such as book clubs and school classes.
For more information on this and other activities and program at The History Museum of Hood River County, contact the museum office at 541-386-6772 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s all for now. I sincerely hope you and your family had a Happy Holiday … from my desk.
Connie Nice’s blog appears about once per month, and typically runs next to Yesteryears, the weekly Hood River News history column. Yesteryears will continue Saturday.