I decided to take a little break from my weighty posts of the last few weeks and ask everyone if they find anything particularly Mormon in the following passage:
I am proud that I am an American citizen of Japanese ancestry, for my background makes me appreciate more fully the wonderful advantages of this nation. I believe in her institutions, ideals, and traditions; I glory in her heritage; I boast of her history; I trust in her future. She had granted me liberties and opportunities such as no individual enjoys in this world today. She had given me an education befitting kings. She has entrusted me with the responsibilities of the franchise. She has permitted me to build a home, to earn a livelihood, to worship, think, speak, and act as I please-as a free man equal to every other man.
Although some individuals may discriminate against me, I shall never become bitter or lose faith, for I know that such persons are not representative of the majority of American people. True, I shall do all in my power to discourage such practices, but I shall do it in the American way: aboveboard, in the open, through courts of law, by education, by proving myself worthy of equal treatment and consideration. I am firm in my belief that American sportsmanship and attitude of fair play will judge citizenship and patriotism on the basis of action and achievement, and not on the basis of physical characteristics.
Because I believe in America, and I trust she believes in me, and because I received innumerable benefits from her, I pledge myself to do honor to her at all times and in all places; to support her Constitution; to obey her laws; to respect her flag; to defend her against all enemies foreign and domestic; to actively assume my duties and obligations as a citizen, cheerfully and without reservations whatsoever, in the hope that I may become a better American in a greater America.
This passage is known as the Japanese American Creed and was written by Mike Masaoka in 1941 for a meeting of the Intermountain Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in Salt Lake City. He wrote it to fill a blank page in the meeting’s program. After Pearl Harbor, the JACL embraced the creed’s rhetoric in order to show their commitment to the United States. Senator Elbert Thomas from Utah entered the creed into the Congressional Record in 1942 as a demonstration of Japanese American loyalty. The message was powerful enough that my blind great uncle was able to quote it in its entirety in an oral interview he gave in the 1980s. More recently, the creed played a more controversial role as Japanese Americans debated for and against its inclusion on the National Japanese American Monument to Patriotism in Washington D.C. This privately funded monument was built to honor Japanese American soldiers in 2001. Masaoka’s collaboration in the internment process has continued to polarize the Japanese American community across generations and political affiliations.
My biggest question for the JI is if there is anything identifiably Mormon about the statement? Do you know of any examples of similar statements by church leaders at the time? I am still grappling with the question of how much Masaoka’s Mormon background affected his thoughts and actions, and would be grateful for your insights.