By Mike Murase
This article is posted with the permission of the author
[Editor's Note (from Counterpoint): Gidra suspended publication after, the Fifth Anniversary issue in April 1974. The following article originally appeared in the final issue of Gidra.]
This issue of Gidra will be the last issue of Gidra, at least for three months-probably longer and possibly forever.
It is difficult now to recall what happened during the five-year life of Gidra, to write down all that has transpired. Yet, an explanation of why we decided to suspend publication seems to be in order. As well, some reflections, predictions and random thoughts are unavoidable.
It should be noted at the outset that what follows is not the collective statement by the entire staff, but is only a part of what I feel and see personally. While we as a staff agree on many things, we are by no means singular in our outlook toward change, neither are we always united in the methods. The fact that no blanket conformity exists has been a strength, I think, but there is a need for struggle between ideas of different kinds. In the past we haven't always settled questions of an ideological nature or controversial issues by the democratic method of discussion, of criticism, of persuasion and education. We have yet to examine many of our shortcomings in a systematic fashion, and, worse, we have not always taken steps to correct those that we already recognize.
As it is said, dust will accumulate if a room is not cleaned regularly, and our faces will get dirty if they are not washed regularly. Gidra, the paper and the staff, may also collect dust, and also need sweeping and washing. And the collective dust of Gidra has a way of piling up, so much so that we must stop all else to sweep and wash. Problems have a way of being cumulative, so much so that only a comprehensive problem-solving approach can make a difference in what we do. It is time for self-appraisal and evaluation, not only as an organization, but for many of us, as individuals.
There is a shared feeling, a premonition if you will, that now is somehow a good time to sum up our experiences. We want to go on, continue publishing, but we need now to see how far we have come, so that we may be clear about where we are headed and how we will get there.
What is happening at Gidra is not unique to us alone. Many groups seem to be undergoing similar experiences. In Los Angeles, Yellow Brotherhood, a self-help group for youth on the Westside, and JACSAI (Japanese American Community Services/ Asian Involvement), a multi-service community office in Little Tokyo, both organized soon after the birth of Gidra, are now in the process of evaluating their programs and face critical periods in their development. Other organizations are confronted with pessimism and confusion within their own ranks,
For us at Gidra, what we face isn't a phenomenon that hit us broadside without warning. It is something we had lived with for at least three years, and something that was anticipated from the very beginning of our involvement. Gidra has never been without problems. Even in 1969, our first year of existence, we faced organizational problems with inequitable work distribution, not to speak of uneven political and personal development.
More recently, for several months now, the process of putting out the paper-the tedious routine of investigating, writing, editing, typesetting, layout, mailing-had become mechanical, individualized and alienating. Fewer people came to the office to do the work each month. Attendance at staff meetings became irregular. At one meeting not long ago, there were only four of us. With only a handful of people working long hours, deadlines passed. ...The "press runs"(originally one week periods set aside each month for actual production of the paper) became longer and longer. Tasks began to consume more of our time and drain people of energy. Morale and discipline plummeted.?
So, after this Fifth Anniversary Issue, we will concentrate our efforts on summing up and developing new approaches to creating a vehicle for communication/expression/education that will be relevant to and meaningful for people.
The staff will be meeting twice weekly in the months to come, and plan to get together with various community organizations to invite feedback and suggestions. We will also be thinking of ways to keep our subscribers informed of our progress during the evaluation and planning period.
There is still the possibility that Gidra will be revived. On the other hand, Gidra may never "hit the streets" again in its present format. Some alternatives to be discussed include weekly or bi-weekly newspaper with more emphasis on community events and issues; a series of educational pamphlets dealing with specific issues, concepts or themes; an anthology of literature relating to Asian Americans or a compendium of past Gidra articles and other works; and an Asian American Movement news service. The scope of each of these ideas may be local, state-wide or national. It may become truly Asian American in perspective or more decidedly Japanese American in focus. One thing has become clear: Gidra cannot go on unchanged. It will change, but the direction and the ultimate quality of that change must be consciously and methodically discussed. And that change will depend on the future composition of the staff and that staff's perceptions about what people need.
A new staff may take shape in different ways, too. With the present staff as a nucleus, others interested in media/communication/propaganda ma y be recruited. The possibility of a merger between Gidra and another progressive media group or community newspaper cannot be ruled out. Or, Gidra, as an entity, may be dissolved, so that individuals from Gidra and others can have a new beginning, on an equal footing, in a totally different venture, including anew name, new structure and new format. In short, many things can be done, but hopefully, they will be accomplished by design rather than by default or accident.
Before we get too wrapped up in the prospects, I think it worthwhile to retrace briefly our five-year history.
On the campus of UCLA on the afternoon of February 5, 1969, five students-Dinora Gil, Laura Ho, Tracy Okida, Colin Watanabe and I met with the administration of the school to discuss the possibility of starting a community-oriented publication which would reflect the sentiments and ideas of the students and the communities from which we came. The rationale was simple: Like the rationale for ethnic studies, we argued that an institution of higher learning has the responsibility of teaching its students not only the ideas of the dominant society but the ideas of the many cultures and many histories that make up America. We explained to the administration that a forum for discussion of socially relevant topics as well as a vehicle for creative expression was urgently needed in the Asian American community. It was to be an educational experience, we said. The administration didn't buy it, but stood firm on its own proposal to publish a scholarly sociological journal to insure that a university-sponsored publication would not mar the delicate image of the university.
Later, as we sat and talked in the office at the Asian American Studies Center, someone suggested, "Why not start our own paper?" Good idea. But how do we do that? We decided that if each of us contributed $100, it would be more than enough to get started. So it was that five of us, students who had no practical experience in journalism, gave birth to the idea that was to become Gidra.
Tracy Okida, who had a penchant .for being where he wasn't, dragged out the name Gidra from deep within his nepenthean cerebrum. He had a way of making most politicians look amateurish when it came to impromptu speeches. One day not long ago, he walked into the office and soliloquized:
And that is how it probably happened for me, unless it happened the same way else-where. That is how I became involved with it and that is why I stayed. I'm glad you asked me this, because this is a very tricky question and one that is intimately connected with the answer in more ways than I can truthfully say I know about. After all, it started a long time ago and it's pretty hard to judge distances; it could be really close.?
He paused for about four days, then continued:
Now that I think about it, I would never have known Gidra if I were someone else instead of me, or even just someone else with better ears too. I would even go so far as to say that I am positive that such would have been the case if it happened. And it did, which is better than nothing at all, and I think we all want something better with all the different kinds of ways we ask and search for it.
A very sensitive artist and poet, Tracy was at his best when he escaped the conventions of prose:
How sad Yellow Brother
you must be,
born so small and loving
tiny hands reaching. ..
Just to grasp...just to have a warmth
...just to hear, "I love you, you are mine."
And who will love you, sad Yellow Brother...
...sad little brother of mine.
How sad Yellow Sister
you will be,
to learn that you are mute-
pretty voice longing...
Just to speak°just to sing a song
...just to say, "I love you, you are mine."
And who will love you, sad Yellow Sister...
...sad little sister of mine.
How sad my family
we should be,
to be so short in thinking
young men dying°
Just to free...just to give us life
...just to prove, "I love you, you are mine."
And who will love them my Yellow Family°
...sad Yellow Family of mine.
How sad my people...
we needn't be !
be strong and join the marching
we all are fighting...
Just to be...just to have our way
...just to be proud of our heritage
To be together and love all mankind
And who will love you, my Yellow People
...sad Yellow People of mine...
Who will love you, my Yellow People?
"I love you, you are mine."
P.S. ...but you piss me off one hell of a lot...!
More recently, Tracy has been working for a printing and graphics enterprise in Los Angeles.
Colin Watanabe recalls that day when we started Gidra, and the months he spent on the staff:
I've found that many people have great ideas, but that's about all. When it comes down to acting out their convictions, something happens to them. Gidra, as a radical departure from what's been done by Asian American youth in the past, may help to break the mental hangups that prevent more people from doing the things they believe in. It's a tribute to the determination, not the ability, of people." ?
Rafu Shimpo, the nation's largest Japanese American daily published in Los Angeles, and its English section editor Ellen Endo, was curiously silent until the third issue aroused her to recognize the existence of Gidra. And at that, the first official correspondence came from her attorney stating in part, "please be advised of our representation of Miss Ellen Endo, in connection with her claim against you for libel and slander." The alleged libel appeared in the June, 1969 issue in our editorial about the press coverage of the month-long hearing concerning Los Angeles County Coroner Thomas T. Noguchi's dismissal by the Board of Supervisors for suspect reasons. Since we had attended the hearing ourselves, we became aware that Rafu Shimpo had been using wire services and other inaccurate accounts rather than in person coverage, Ellen also implied in her column that those who support Noguchi, who subsequently was exonerated, would soon be "wiping eggs off their faces." And she asked, "How do you like your eggs scrambled or poached?" Our editorial reply was that "we will take it scrambled, Ellen, just like your head." And in return we inquired, "What's the matter Ellen, is three blocks too far to walk for the truth?"
In another incident worth noting, the Rafu accounts of anti-war activities that took place during the Nisei Week festivities in 1972 contained numerous inaccuracies and distortions.
Gidra (and I) have long been critical of the perspective Ellen Endo represented in her role as a journalist, especially with reference to reporting of community events. But there is another side to this story. In the past year or so, Ellen has transformed Rafu Shimpo (English section) into a socially relevant, reliable source of community news, and has brought to the public's attention many local and national issues of concern to all of us. Through her weekly columns, she also keeps us informed of concerns of segments of the community we often overlook. In some measure, I believe that what we set out to do with Gidra has partially been accomplished by Ellen and Rafu Shimpo.
Within months since the inception of the paper , we were to lose three key members of our staff. As the paper demanded more attention, some questioned whether it was becoming an end in itself. They argued that direct involvement and organizing were more important than the production of a newspaper . Others of us felt that through Gidra, we could organize and promote community involvement. The time came for a choice to be made, and the outcome was that Dinora, Laura and Suzi Wong, who had joined the staff in May, decided to work on organizing students at UCLA.
In the months that followed, the efforts of these three culminated in the formation of the Asian Radical Movement (ARM) at UCLA. In November, 1969, all three were arrested during a sit-in demonstration to back demands for the rehiring of a black cafeteria worker and for an improvement in the conditions of all campus workers. As a result of the arrests, and subsequent convictions, all three received suspended jail sentences and probationary status which prohibited them from participating in demonstrations and rallies. They have, for the most part, been politically dormant since then. Now, Laura is an assistant editor for ABC television and Dinora will be entering medical school at UC Davis in the fall, while Suzi is doing graduate work in comparative literature at the University of Indiana.
For those who remained with Gidra, there was much work to be done. New offices on Jefferson Boulevard on the Westside were rented and refurbished. Gidra was incorporated as a non-profit corporation. In this rebuilding period a number of others joined the staff. Warren Furutani, perhaps known for more significant contributions to the Movement, became our first regular columnist. Julia Aihara and Amy Murakami contributed by working long hours. Amy reorganized the subscription and mailing system that had perplexed us. They are both teachers now. Vivian Matsushige, who now works at the Asian American Studies Center, and Laura Shiozaki and Naomi Uyeda, former UCLA students, also contributed their time and energies.
Ivan Ohta and Danny Matsumura were the first staff members without college backgrounds. Ivan was a student at Roosevelt High on the Eastside where he was involved in a movement for students' rights. Danny, a former member of the Yellow Brotherhood and a high school dropout, brought with him a perspective "from the streets" which contributed to the milieu in a unique way. He shared with us his perceptions of things while he worked on tasks the rest of us were unwilling to undertake.
Not surprisingly, there were other readers who wanted Gidra to be more persuasive and more direct in explicating our "politics" and scowled at the "how-to-do " articles, labeling them "petty boojiwah " or "imitations of white hippie counterculture."
We tried to present the progressive viewpoint in a principled way, but our response was to publish a wide range of perspectives in a variety of styles, writing about many issues and activities. The paper's diversity of perspectives stems from our varied attempts at defining ourselves. We tried to extend the role Gidra plays in the ongoing revolution both through collective policy decisions and our personal interactions. Therefore there is much more freedom than consistency in our pages.
In the spring of 1972, Gidra learned of an opportunity to send a representative to the People's Republic of China. There were many enthusiastic volunteers, but after the excitement subsided we began to discuss not "who wanted to go" but "who should go" as our delegate. We wanted to select someone who would be able to absorb as much as possible about socialism in practice in a short period of time. The perceptions of one person, we knew, would be limited, but how a person interprets what she/he observes is largely determined by the experience and political development that that person has. More than being able to grow personally from such experience, as all of us can, the person had to be able to transmit that experience to people upon return to our community. To convey the total experience of seeing, doing and feeling something so alien to us as revolutionary China, and to translate that experience to our situation in America would not be easy.
After hours of discussion, we selected Evelyn Yoshimura to represent us because of her many qualities. She is perceptive, tactful and articulate. She relates well with a variety of people, and she has the rare ability to break down abstractions into concrete, day-to-day terms.
Evelyn returned in the fall and gave presentations and informal talks on China with many community groups, and shared her experiences by writing articles about her trip. What we learned through her about China was an important element of our political development and understanding of socialism at work.
Through 1972, we were undergoing more changes, but the most significant was that we began a study group of our own. At our first meeting on April 7, we talked about what we wanted to learn from the study. Evelyn wanted the answer to the question, "How does Gidra fit into the overall Movement?" Bruce Iwasaki hungered for "facts-concrete knowledge of concepts like 'imperialism '-some kind of objective body of knowledge." Steve said that "our life-styles and behavioral patterns are expressions of our ideologies. I want to see how I fit into Gidra and the Movement." And so it went.
Doug Aihara, who grew up in Montebello and was an Eagle Scout in the 379 Koyasan troop, asked, "How do we move people to action?" Doug had often talked about wanting to make Gidra more accessible to people and about wanting to rid the Movement of its seeming exclusivity. He discussed new ideas and concepts with his mom, his boss and with practically anybody he could find to talk with. Tirelessly, he pursued the answers, and tried to get other people involved. When people came to visit the office, Doug would show them around, patiently explaining the procedures we go through each month. Now, he's getting into music more, but during the day he works at Naris Cosmetics.
Finally a study group was organized. We set up study for six week sessions, having a recess and evaluation after each session, and with rotating chairpersons, and a permanent meeting day, time, and place. The study was divided into three parts:
(1) The Objective Conditions-Racism, Sexism, Capitalism, Imperialism... and alienation, inequality and irrationality... which engenders individualism, intolerance, irresponsibility, negative self-image and pessimism. We wanted to study Asian American and Third World histories, the War, the institutions in our society, the state of the Movement, etc.
(2) The Goals-Humanism, Socialism, Revolution. The examples of the Vietnamese, the People's Republic...collectivity, self-respect, self-reliance, self-determination, self-discipline, self-defense.
(3) How to Get from One to the Other. Step by step...
Naturally, it broke down into more manageable sub-categories but that's the rough idea. We read political pamphlets, newspapers, introductory readers, and some "classics." We used different techniques: discussion, investigation, role-playing, autobiographical histories, criticism/self-criticism.
During those days, there was a definite feeling that we were becoming a tighter group, but not all of that can be attributed to political study. As student's, our hours were flexible. Most of us went to the office in the late afternoons and evenings, many times just to see our friends. We sat around in the office for hours, sometimes all night, working at a leisurely pace and talking and sharing and learning from each other. We used to go out to eat so often that it had become a custom that became known to friends who would drop by the office just to go out to eat with us late at night: Mago's, Lucy's, Tommy's, Leo's, Fatburger, Johnny's and Holiday Bowl. During more standard hours there were Walt's, Angelo's, Tenri, Bungo, Ho Sai Kai, and Chin's right across the street.
We learned to have fun together and enjoy each other's company. We shared in adversity and in joy. That's what kept the group together for so long. We supported each other and criticized each other. The difficult times that we endured together made us stronger. It seemed that for most of us, offering criticisms in a loving way was a difficult thing to do, and it was equally painful to freely accept them. This hesitation to give and accept criticism is an artificial by-product of a society that keeps people out of touch with their own feelings and afraid to communicate them to others. So many stones beside so many glass houses. Undoing this requires struggle, but too often we have chosen not to risk 'hurt feelings' or 'bad vibes' and settled for an unprincipled peace within the staff. In order to effectively accomplish the goal we have set for ourselves, there must necessarily be times when we question and criticize each other, even at the risk of creating tension and anxiety temporarily. A thorough and continuous ideological struggle is a prerequisite to building trust, understanding and love for one another as sisters and brothers.
Steve Tatsukawa, who made his mother very happy when he got perfect attendance at Henry Clay Junior High School, personifies someone who is able to relate to people. In the four years that he's been with Gidra, he has never demonstrated anger toward people, and is endowed with the ability to make people laugh and to make them feel good. Steve says that when people think of revolution, they conceive of it as being the equivalent of political upheaval. "In essence they are correct in their assumptions, for revolution does mean political upheaval or change or overthrow or substitution," he agrees, but adds, "but it means much, much more." He explains
No revolution has ever succeeded unless it was carried through by people with total revolutionary intent. Today in America, this type of person is now emerging. The foundations of American culture have been rejected by many: the materialism, the profit-motive, the competition, the basis of western culture as we know it.
The importance of the situation lies in the fact that we are witnessing an old culture dying and a new culture being shaped. This is a rare occurrence in history. And we, the movement people, have the responsibility of shaping the new way of life. It will be shaped not by writing or talking or thinking about it. The new way of life will come about by living it. Live the Revolution !
The creative mind of Steve Tatsukawa has played a vital role in the growth of Gidra.
Again when summer rolled around, we had NYC youth work with us, only in 1972, we had fifteen high school students coming down to the office every afternoon and most evenings. Because the program was so hastily organized, we had set up limited training sessions. Many of the NYC people who had extra time worked with Yellow Brotherhood. They also led a group of two hundred youth to the streets of Little Tokyo during Nisei Week to demonstrate their opposition to the war in Vietnam under the banner of the Van Troi Anti-Imperialist Youth Brigade.
But not all youth in our communities were being politicized or given support as the editorial from that month attests:
Many Gidra articles have been written in strong opposition to war-to the waste of lives and resources, the atrocities, and the weaponry. We say that we want peace, and we say that we are willing to fight for it. Many of our articles have also reflected serious skepticism about the effectiveness of rallies and demonstrations, not only against the war, but also concerning other social/ political injustices. Many of us have participated in these demonstrations, and at those times have stressed nonviolence although we have often felt the urge to take more militant actions. But most of the work done in the name of the Movement is aimed at positive alternatives, meaningful changes, and not alienating the community. We often confuse our understanding of the need for a "fighting spirit" to carry out a protracted struggle with our feelings of wanting quick action and fast changes. We often feel frustrated and begin to have doubts about our effectiveness in bringing about the desired changes, or in reaching the community with our intentions.
Meanwhile, back in the streets, many sisters and brothers are busily, energetically, and resolutely going about fighting among themselves, or carrying on with some other forms of self-destruction. Beginning with negative self-images, sisters and brothers become apathetic and unproductive, drop reds and take other drugs, slash their own wrists, and attempt many other forms of suicide. If only the energy spent by these sisters and brothers could be turned from negative, self-destructive violence into a positive fighting spirit directed at the sources of common problems. ...
In the pages of Gidra, we condemned the use of some drugs, not because they were drugs, but because they were killers of human beings. It is not unlike denouncing other killers of people-war, poverty and hunger. We are not against the users of drugs, we are against the conditions that force people to seek self-destructive alternatives. We are against manufacturers of drugs, like Eli Lilly Company, a multi-national corporation, that cannot account for the distribution of 40 percent of their seco-barbitols. We are against the black-marketeers who pour the drugs into our communities in order to pacify and kill us.
Drugs have been an integral part of the culture of America, and so has it been with those who want to change America. One drug is replaced by another. Many on the staff smoke marijuana, and some have tried other drugs, but we have had a policy of "no possession or use" in the office ever since we began. And that policy has been scowled at, ridiculed and sometimes violated by some. Some have argued that "to smoke (marijuana) or drink (beer) in the office seems to be an activity geared not to escape reality but, in fact, to be right in the center of reality."
At the end of 1972, we almost didn't make it. Two days before the scheduled press date for the December issue, when there were only a few articles turned in, we were seriously considering skipping that month. We decided, however, to go ahead because we felt a responsibility to our readers. It was two weeks late in getting out, but volume four was completed.
Early in 1973, artists David Monkawa, Dean Toji and Glen Iwasaki joined Alan "Batman" Takemoto (who had been on the staff since April 197 2) to make up the most talented group of Asian American illustrators to be on anyone staff. All of them had been serious artists in the traditional sense, but they struggled with their former conceptions of Art and became a vital force within Gidra as they began writing and participating in other staff functions.
David talked about art in America, and what he is trying to accomplish:
In America, popularized art in the media neutralizes and dulls the senses, instead of trying to sharpen them. Comic books are not meant for you to think too much because people might start getting too aware of what's really happening. Then the boat begins to rock. But the point is we shouldn't let ourselves be strayed by entertainment that deals with mysticism or takes you on supernatural trips. Or by entertainment that drains you of your mental energy by seducing you into watching unrealistic and romanticized movies about pseudo-revolutions, personal relationships or anything else.
Sure, we like to entertain too, but we'd like to do much more than that. We want to free our minds at the same time you free yours by developing them through looking at comics, movies, books and television with a critical eye; that is, asking ourselves "how" the thing we're viewing is supposed to be judged. Is it trying to communicate a certain feeling, a political idea, a message about life or a depiction about how a particular person thinks? Whatever it's trying to communicate, does it do it in a way that shows care and thought or haphazardness? Is the medium in which the artist works the best medium for what he or she is trying to say.
Even in high school, David questioned the way all of us were conditioned by rituals that were imposed on us. As a Sunday school teacher at Centenary Methodist, he discussed with his eighth grade students the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance. He was asked to leave by the church hierarchy,
When Dean first started coming down to the office, he was abrasive and autocratic, "Batman " protested, "Hey, you can't boss me around; I've been here longer than you have! " When Dean was little, he was very shy, and he never did much with groups. He once sent away to the Archie Fan Club to be a cub reporter, but they never wrote back. When he was in high school, he got into rock 'n roll and read a lot of books about total and all encompassing "ways of being," but his real passion in life was art. When Dean discovered Gidra he found a way of combining his love of art, search for a "way of being," and a chance to create changes in a society that had alienated him earlier.
Many personal changes were to take place during 1973 for many on the staff. The process and content of the paper were greatly influenced by those changes in our lives. Most of us were already involved with other community organizations and "work areas": Creative Workshop, Little Tokyo Anti-Eviction Task Force, Yellow Brotherhood, Joint Counseling Center, Asian Women's Center, Amerasia Bookstore, Asian Law Collective, just to name a few. Changes in personal relationships and living situations also had an impact. Many of us were forced to readjust priorities as we took on full-time "straight gigs." The three students: Bruce and I were studying law. Linda Fujikawa was becoming increasingly involved at UCLA's school of social welfare, and in the area of casework.
Linda, who was a cheerleader for the Gardena High Mohicans, is a pragmatic and dedicated person. Linda wanted to be effective in what she did, and not just adopt the superficial embellishments of a radical. She once commented:
In the movement's revolutionary fervor to forge a new lifestyle free of materialistic hang-ups we often try very hard to discard any traces of our recent petty bourgeois existence. A good case in point is in the clothing we wear. In fact, we often find ourselves in contradiction when we buy jeans and work shirts rather than wear our now-dated but perfectly wearable pin-striped ivy league shirt or that hot pink princess line dress. Nevertheless, the movement among Asian American people is relatively recent and for that reason, although realizing clothes are not and should not be important, they still often are.
Another symptom of that "revolutionary fervor" was our unwillingness/inability to deal with the realities of our economic condition: the problem of money has been a constant source of concern and apprehension for the staff. When we were students, it was easier because we did not have to worry about many of the financial responsibilities that troubled others, but concerns about "paying our bills" and economically surviving soon became real enough.
In our five-year history, no one received a single payroll check from Gidra. We tried to think of ways in which "survival needs" and our work at Gidra could be integrated, but because we had to work at other places in the meantime, we weren't able to become financially self-sufficient, at least not enough to have salaries for the staff. A vicious cycle.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the many generous contributors who believed in us-our subscribers and advertisers, our friends and our parents-and the Asian American Studies Center at UCLA who, from time to time, subsidized us, and GCYP, who gave us a grant. But in the final analysis, we weren't able to meet the financial burden of rising costs, both in our own bills and Gidra's. Yet we know even now, that there is a way to build and sustain a self-sufficient progressive media, and that someday we will do it, as changes keep happening within us and around us.
The ever-changing conditions call for deeper analysis, new strategies and greater resolve. And we need to understand the present, not as a static and isolated instant, but as a flowing moment in history.
Bruce Iwasaki, a son of a produce man and a graduate of UCLA, is an avid reader and a prolific writer who once wanted to be the Asian American Shakespeare. Now, he is more concerned with change, and the lack of change. The disciplined in-house expert on Vietnam deliberated in his usual analytical and long-winded way:
From my limited, absent-minded perspective (L.A. Japanese American, male, "student"), it's hard to say how the Asian movement has progressed except to be simply older, larger and different. It probably has less per capita macho trips than three years ago, less level chaos than two years ago, less tripping on and stumbling over new personal-political relationships than last year. Things seem to be condensing, settling (collectives, study groups) even as they are beginning (Women's Center) or restructuring (everybody). And though most individuals are less spread out-without, as one friend says, the urge to attend every movement meeting around-groups, projects, and organizations also get isolated. Even among friends, it's hard to keep abreast-if you're in different work areas. (Gidra hasn't always been much help on this I'm afraid, we all share in that blame). With this happening it is no wonder that coalitions so far have been precarious structures: either dissolving as they spread, coalescing no new minds, or never seeing day.
Our hand-waving sort of communications is, I trust, temporary for now. Somehow I figure some structural networks will evolve to remedy that. What concerns me much more is the communication over time. I mean this: Many people who come into the movement now don't think of themselves as stepping into any historical train of events - any movement - at all. Programs, platforms and people are givens. Proof that this occurs is demonstrated by people still having to go through anyone of a variety of movement syndromes (macho, overextension, elitism, etc.). And on every hand there's still the rhetoric. Maybe all these rites of passage are necessary; I don't know. But with our expanding sense of numbers, consciousness, and possibilities, comes an enlarged responsibility too. That is, the responsibility for preserving the movement's past, its sequence of ideas, its different experiences, its changing spirit. Many of us know as little about where we've come from in five years as we do about the Nisei Progressives in the '40s or the Issei socialist labor organizers of the '30s. We don't need scrapbooks. But we somehow need to institutionalize the lessons we learn. Allow for an expanding of consciousness instead of the diminution of consciousness which comes every political generation every eight months or so. I don't know what the mechanism will look like. I don't even know whether it's bound within our will or our karma. That such humble prerequisites seem like such lofty goals shows how far away is our political horizon. But without a sense of past how can we have a set of plans? And without plans how will we determine if that horizon heralds the New Day, or more neon?
The advances in political theory, as in other fields, belong to a long historical process whose links are connecting, adding up, molding and constantly perfecting themselves. We, therefore, need to interpret history, understand its dynamics, predict the future. Then the world must not only be analyzed, it must be transformed. In that light, Gidra becomes not only the chroniclers of events, but the makers of history as well.
During the last five years-a long time, yet really so short-we have learned slowly, and sometimes painfully, to do things that had been totally alien to us before, to become aware of ourselves and others, and to look at the conditions around us in ways very different from the traditional view. Often, we were called upon to do things that made us feel uncomfortable at first: participating in marches and demonstrations, speaking before large audiences, appearing on radio and television programs, selling the paper, and sharing with each other some of our deepest feelings and most private thoughts.
As we continue to struggle, what needs remembering now is the richness and vitality of this total experience called Gidra, which is much more than just a newspaper. It has been an experience in sharing-in giving and receiving-in a sisterly- and brotherly atmosphere. It has meant a chance to actively work for something we really believe in. It has meant a chance to express ourselves in a variety of ways. It has been a lesson in humility and perseverance. It has meant working with people who care about people, and genuinely feeling the strength that can only come out of collective experience.
But, what a struggle!