One person can make a difference, even if it takes forty years.
– Fred Korematsu
Today would have been Fred Korematsu’s 98th birthday. In 1942, when he was 23 years old, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. This order lead to the eventual internment of over 100,000 Japanese-American men, women, and children, the majority of whom were American citizens. Fred Korematsu challenged the order and became known as a civil rights activist.
I discovered his story through today’s Google Doodle. As I read through his Wikipedia page, I was struck by an awful sense of dread. What is the difference between the removal of American citizens from their property and the prevention of the travel of legal persons when both orders are based on nationality? What happened to our federal laws against such discrimination?
And most dreadful of all: How could we the people have let this happen?
A few days ago, I went to see an exhibition of the early years of Claude Monet, a French artist, at the Kimbell Art Museum.
A classmate of mine had managed to procure free tickets for a small group tour and invited me along. I was on call that day, but could not pass up the opportunity. After explaining to my residents and attending, they graciously allowed me to leave the hospital an hour early to attend.
I saw over fifty paintings, from his first studies of landscaping to his eventual move towards Impressionism. It was an awe-inspiring journey of color and expression and story of a young, struggling artist.
The average man takes over six hundred million breaths in his lifetime, most of them without conscious thought.
Like the sweaty, unwashed scent of a body shaking with fever; and the sick, stomach-churning rot of a foot gangrene. Like the nose-pinching smell of oozing diarrhea. Like the last breath exhaled from a mouth full of rotten teeth.
I approach the bedside of the dying man and watch his chest rise and fall as he sucks in through his nose and blows out through his mouth. It seems to take extraordinary effort. With every heave, there is a rattle in his throat. I touch his arm.
It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone in ten minutes of casual conversation.
The doors swing open. I bustle through, the tails of my short white coat fluttering behind me. It is my first day in the hospital on my internal medicine rotation and I’ve been sent to see Mrs. W. I hope that I’ve finally found the right floor. The nurse sitting at the desk looks up. Her eyes are very large and very blue.
“Welcome to the floor!” she says, with amazing cheer for seven o’clock in the morning.