Photo by Jeremy Beck on Unsplash

“Imagine there’s no heaven…Imagine there’s no countries…Imagine no possessions…And no religion, too.”  These are words from John Lennon’s song “Imagine”. The song was released on October 11, 1971. The words are anti-establishment and speak of a world free of divisions. “Imagine” is a song of positivity and hope about the possibilities of a better human existence.

On October 11, 1971 I was a fourth year Asian Studies student at UBC. I had long hair, wore beads around my neck and dressed in bellbottom trousers. I believed in the “brotherhood of man”. I yearn for this sense of brotherhood which   is not so easy to find these days. Nationalism and tribalism have been frustrating brotherhood in our present world. There are many examples of the negativity of nationalism. China is a good example in how it treats Hong Kong and Tibet and countries such as Canada. “Make America Great Again” is a slogan solely for the benefit of the United States. Benefits for other countries are secondary or of no importance at all. To make matters worse, it is clear that Donald Trump is actually more interested in making himself great again than he is for making America great again. It is tribalism which has allowed Donald Trump to maintain the support he has. His base supporters see Trump as their saviour from the established bureaucracy, the elite, and from unwanted foreigners.

My wife and I stayed at a boutique hotel in Florence, Italy last July. We shared breakfast with a number of fellow travelers. One middle aged couple was from New Jersey. They were immigrants to the United States from Croatia. They were well educated. The wife was an accountant. They were Trump supporters. It became clear it was Trump’s anti-immigrant stance that was their main reason for supporting him. I find this ironic.

We recently had our own famous anti-immigrant moment in Canada. Don Cherry, formerly of Hockey Night in Canada, expressed an extreme view on television in his support of Canada’s military and its veterans. He went on a rant about immigrants coming to Canada who did not wear poppies on Remembrance Day. It was those living in Toronto he aimed his anger at. Who knows how many Canadian-born residents relative to foreign born residents were guilty of not wearing poppies in Toronto. But Don Cherry decided to pick on immigrants.  Don Cherry is called a Canadian icon. He is a true patriot. It is why so many in Canada in a tribal manner were outraged with him being fired.

It was Japanese-Canadians of the 1930sand 1940s who suffered discrimination because of their racial heritage. There has been an increase in community efforts over the past years to see that all residents of Canada learn the lesson of how immorally and illegally Japanese-Canadians were treated during that time. New efforts at seeking justice and acknowledgment of wrongs committed against them are being undertaken at present.

No matter if everyone has the same goal, small divisions appear among otherwise like-minded individuals. Take for example the name Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre. A few members of the Japanese-Canadian community are adamant that it should be called the Japanese-Canadian National Museum & Cultural Centre. They resent the narrow association with Nihon. There appears to be a minority of older Japanese-Canadians who understandably continue to blame Japan for the fate that befell them at the time of World War II.

There are many traditions and customs that tie new Japanese immigrants to Japanese-Canadians in our community. Although there may be some divisions between the two groups, I value their greater shared sense of humanity.

We have a Nikkei Community Godo Shinnenkai New Year’s Celebration on January 11, 2020. Groups of new Japanese immigrants, Japanese-Canadians and other residents of Canada meet to celebrate an event which brings us together in brotherhood. I will be there. I hope you are there too.          

Gary Matson

Kiyukai Adviser