George Takei's Memoir Of Injustice: "They Called Us Enemy" | WYPR

George Takei's Memoir Of Injustice: "They Called Us Enemy"

Jul 29, 2019

Author-actor-activist, George Takei.
Credit Photo courtesy TopShelf Productions

Before Tom welcomes today's guest, he shares a few thoughts about President Trump's decision this past weekend to single out Baltimore and Representative Elijah Cummings -- the Democratic Chair of the House Oversight Committee -- with  a series of scornful and racist Tweets. We've included the full text of Tom's comments at the bottom of this post. 

As Tom notes in his commentary, "one of the things we can do to understand and address the problem of racial intolerance is to make an effort to understand history."  Tom's guest today has made an important contribution to that history.

The Japanese American actor and activist George Takei has pursued a career that spans 60 years, including his iconic role as "Hikaru Sulu" in the Star Trek television series and the hit movie sequels.  He has also become an influential and powerful voice for social justice, marriage equality and LGBTQ rights. 

Credit Cover art by Harmony Becker/Top Shelf Productions

Earlier this month, Mr. Takei published an illustrated memoir recounting how he and his family were incarcerated by the U.S. government in internment camps during the Second World War.  Mr. Takei, his parents, and his two younger siblings were among 120,000 people of Japanese descent who were imprisoned during the war, and his memoir deftly illuminates the effect of the stress and hardship of that experience. 

Mr. Takei's new book is They Called Us Enemy,  written with Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott.  The art is by Harmony Becker, with letters by George Lazcano

George Takei joins us from the studios of NPR West in Culver City, California.

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Here is the full text of Tom Hall's opening commentary today:

Before I welcome our guest today, a word about the events this weekend that began with the President singling out our city and Representative Elijah Cummings, the Chair of the House Oversight Committee with scornful, racist and ludicrous comments to his beloved Twitter followers.  Among other statements, Mr. Trump called Congressman Cummings “racist.” 

We invited the Congressman to join us on Midday today, not to discuss the President’s Tweets, which are absurd on their face, but rather to talk about his committee’s focus in the oversight process.  He is not available to be with us. 

Last Thursday, the House Oversight committee, along party lines, voted to subpoena email and text messages from the President’s daughter and son in law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.  Mr. Cummings told the New York Times: 

“The committee has obtained direct evidence that multiple high-level White House officials have been violating the Presidential Records Act by using personal email accounts, text messaging services and even encrypted applications for official business — and not preserving those records in compliance with federal law.” “What we do not yet know is why these White House officials were attempting to conceal these communications.”

The oversight, intelligence and judiciary committees, as well as federal law enforcement authorities will continue their investigations into the Trump administration, the 2016 Trump campaign, the Trump inaugural committee, and the Trump Foundation, and as always, we will continue to cover those investigations on this program.  

We have discussed Mr. Trump’s racism on multiple occasions here on Midday, and that subject may very well come up again today, with my guest, the actor George Takei.  Mr. Takei’s new book is about the racial bigotry of another President, Franklin Roosevelt, a President who is revered for ending the depression, and successfully prosecuting the war effort in the 1940s. 

And, of course, we will continue to cover what President Trump does, and, we will try to be careful about falling into the trap of focusing inordinately on what the President tweets.  With all due respect to those on social media who are posting pleasant pictures of MD’s 7th Congressional District to counter the President’s comments, and those who are posting pictures of the blight and disrepair that those of us who live in this district know all too well, (I am, Mr. President, one of those human beings who does want to live here), proving Mr. Trump wrong misses the point.  Holding Mr. Trump and other political leaders accountable for solving the problems that attend cities from Baltimore to Gilroy, California is what matters most.

On Wednesday on this program, we will continue our series, Midday in the Neighborhood, in which we meet people who live in the 7th district and elsewhere, and find out from them --the people who really know -- what’s going on in their communities. 

The roots of many of the problems many cities face can be found in racial inequity and intolerance.   And one of the things we can do to understand and address the problem of racial intolerance is to make an effort to understand history.  My guest today has made an important contribution to that effort...."