Happy International Day of Peace

PEACE [pees]

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: harmony, agreement

Synonyms: accord, amity, armistice, cessation, conciliation, concord, friendship, love, neutrality, order, pacification, pacifism, reconciliation, treaty, truce, unanimity, union, unity

The word “peace” has been floating around in my head a lot lately. Perhaps that’s because of the anger I see all around me. I have to admit, it’s probably also because of the anger I also feel inside.

Strangely, I think anger is good in some ways, at least for me. Most of my life, I have held my anger inside. There are a lot of reasons why:

  • The Japanese culture discourages showing anger, therefore my mother raised me to hide my anger.
  • I don’t like conflict, so when I disagree with someone, I convince myself it’s not worth bringing that disagreement to light.

But lately, I’ve noticed I’m beginning to feel more comfortable showing my anger. I’ll admit, it’s awkward, and sometimes I feel like a toddler learning to walk. I go overboard at times, then balance myself again and take another step forward.

So why, on this International Day of Peace am I discussing anger? Because I believe it’s an important tool of communication. When I’ve held my anger inside, I’ve withheld how I feel about something, and holding anger inside does not mean the anger does not exist.

Have you ever watched a pressure cooker? I remember when my mother used to cook with one, I’d watch the little “bobber” rock back and forth on top of the well-sealed lid as steam escaped. My dad explained to me that if the steam wasn’t released, the vessel would explode. Did I see the steam inside? No. But of course it was there. And like my father said, if it wasn’t released, it would explode.

Just like anger. It’s a human emotion. It’s okay to be angry. The sooner it’s released, the less volatile it is. My problem is, I’ve held it in too long, and so, it tends to be explosive.

It still feels strange to discuss anger on the International Day of Peace. Perhaps it’s not the discussion of how to express anger that’s important. I do believe it should be done in a respectful manner. Rather, in a discussion of peace, maybe what we should think about is that it’s not only important to express anger (respectfully), it’s also important to accept someone’s anger. It’s nothing more than a human emotion. We shouldn’t take it so personally, but I know we all do. I’m learning not to take anger personally. In a curious way, learning to express and accept anger is as freeing as learning to walk, and I’m grateful for that.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal
with the intent of throwing it at someone else;
you are the one who gets burned.”
                                                                — Buddha


Happy International Day of Peace. Today, I’m going to make peace with a person close to me with whom I’ve been in conflict.

What will you do to promote peace today?

The following is an excerpt from The Red Kimono. In this scene, Nobu is angry, but he cannot express it to anyone, so he is left to write of his anger in his journal. Nobu’s inability to express his anger will affect his life.


April 9, 1942

I’m sitting on a bus headed for Tanforan Race Track. Imagine. A race track will be our home for who knows how long. Nagare no tabi. A stream’s journey. I have no control over where it will take me.

I ask myself, “How can they do this to us?” Then I ask myself, “How can we let them do this to us?” Aren’t we American citizens? Don’t we have rights?

 Mama and Sachi are sitting in front of me. Mama stares straight ahead, and I don’t think her head has moved for almost an hour now. Sachi is asleep, worn out from getting up so early this morning.

Strange, that I want to protect them, yet at the same time, feel burdened by them. Especially by Mama. By her Issei generation. First generation. Their rules. Their pride. Their loyalty to a country that won’t even allow them to become citizens!

If it weren’t for Mama, I would speak up to these people who came into our homes, looking for things to confiscate—contraband they called it! Who were they to tell us we couldn’t go out at night in our own country – the place where we were born! We complied with all of their rules, and still, they made us sell everything, move out of our houses. Now they are sending us to Tanforan, to remove us from a place they now call a military zone. Hell, it was no military zone. It was our home.

But to save face for Mama, for the family, for the entire race, I keep my mouth shut. We must do nothing to impede the war effort, Mama says. So we comply with the laws against the Japanese, even those who are Americans themselves.

Saving face. It has always meant that we are proud and must maintain our dignity. But instead, I feel ashamed. We have allowed ourselves to be treated like a herd of animals, directed by men with rifles. To show we are loyal Americans, we have become less than human, and we hide our faces.

Okay, I am afraid, but not of the Caucasians—the hakujins! No, I am afraid of myself. How long can I swallow my dignity to appear dignified? How long can I comply with Mama’s wishes to accept the way we are treated?

Like the noise of this bus, it all rumbles inside me. And it’s taking me to a place as unknown as Tanforan. How long can I keep it inside? How long?

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4 Responses to Happy International Day of Peace

  1. Staci Troilo says:

    I never saw you as a pressure cooker, Jan. You always reminded me of a pan of slowly simmering water… open, quiet, barely a ripple. Happy International Peace Day. I hope you can release the valve a bit!

  2. Beautiful, thoughtful post, Jan. Too often, as individuals, as nations, we get stuck in a pattern of behavior that may have worked well at one point, but now stunts our growth and brings pain and suffering. It takes wisdom to recognize that these behaviors no longer work for us, inner strength to discover what does work, and great courage to change.
    Today, as you step forward, I will hold you up in prayer and be very grateful that you are my friend.

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