Volcanic Ash David Shapiro: Lesson from WWII: Fix democracy with more democracy By David Shapiro, Special to the Star-Advertiser Jan. 9, 2022 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! COURTESY UH PRESS “Inclusion: How Hawai‘i Protected Japanese Americans from Mass Internment, Transformed Itself, and Changed America.” Hawaii’s 1954 Democratic revolution has been well documented, marking the ouster of the ruling business oligarchy by returned nisei World War II veterans and others seeking a more equal society. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Hawaii’s 1954 Democratic revolution has been well documented, marking the ouster of the ruling business oligarchy by returned nisei World War II veterans and others seeking a more equal society. But this seminal uprising didn’t occur by spontaneous combustion, and relatively little has been written about those who laid the groundwork before and during the war. Tom Coffman, a political journalist and leading historian of modern Hawaii, shines new light on this crucial period in his engaging book from the University of Hawaii Press, “Inclusion: How Hawai‘i Protected Japanese Americans from Mass Internment, Transformed Itself, and Changed America.” Coffman focuses heavily on three men — social activist Hung Wai Ching, schoolteacher Shigeo Yoshida and attorney Charles Hemenway — who saw by the late 1930s that war with Japan was inevitable. They battled to protect Hawaii’s population from the fallout, especially the vulnerable local Japanese, and to use the war as an opportunity to begin transforming Hawaii into a more democratic society. Working through the Council for Interracial Unity, they began meeting a year before Pearl Harbor with a group that included Honolulu FBI chief Robert Shivers and Army intelligence officer Col. M.W. Marston, neither of whom believed false fears of espionage and sabotage among Japanese Americans. Once war broke out, they worked to stabilize the community and maximize the war participation of Hawaii’s people, nisei in particular. Yoshida, a brilliant writer, provided much of the intellectual foundation while Ching, a Republican and gifted speaker who had gained prominence as an athlete and leader of the influential YMCA, spread the word around the islands and on the mainland — gaining audiences as high as first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who questioned her husband’s demands for more internments, and ultimately the president himself. Through their efforts and those of like-minded others, internments here were kept to a small fraction of the mass evacuations of mainland Japanese, and Washington’s resistance to a Japanese American fighting force gave way to the heroic 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The details of this period are so little known that Coffman was able to deftly create suspense in the storytelling even though the outcome is known. Compelling was the idealism of men like Yoshida and Ching, who believed in America more than America believed in them. Yoshida wrote at one point, “How we get along (in Hawaii) during the war will determine how we get along when the war is over.” They urged local Japanese American leaders to avoid self-seeking and instead pursue broad inclusion that meant better schools, health care and economic opportunity for everyone. Above all, they believed in democracy. “All grasped … that global history was taking a frighteningly dark turn,” Coffman writes. “As the military successes of fascism spread, Yoshida became an active voice for the view that democracy must save itself by a more genuine practice of democracy. Democracy needed more democracy.” Which is an excellent prescription for confronting the frighteningly dark turn our country and world are taking today. Reach David Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous Story David Shapiro: Wise quotables to help guide isle notables in the new year Next Story David Shapiro: How did handcuffs become Honolulu’s new jewelry craze?