Caught in Enemy Camps—Committed to a Life of Peace
REMEMBERING MOTOKO—The opening sentences in the brief memoir she wrote for Friendship and Faith are as gripping as any lines we’ve ever published: “When the sirens went off again, we all went and sat in the air raid shelter expecting to die there. There was no stopping the atomic bombs if they hit.” As a result of living through World War II as a Japanese-American—living both in the U.S. and Japan during the war—Motoko developed a deep commitment to peacemaking that spanned the rest of her life.
Always an inspiring and encouraging friend to all of us who knew her, Motoko lived such a unique life that The New York Times devoted an extensive obituary, saluting her life as an “Art Preserver.” That’s because Motoko served, after the war, in the now-famous corps of Monuments Men and Monuments Women, specializing in recovering and restoring looted cultural treasures. She worked in the Pacific theater with the team and eventually was the last surviving member of the Monuments Women, who had numbered 27. There had been 318 Monuments Men. In 2015, Motoko traveled to Washington to receive the Congressional Gold Medal for the Monuments team. At that time, she was one of six surviving members of the entire WWII team. Only one survivor remains, now: Richard M. Barancik.
As amazing as that sounds, the Monuments work was only one small chapter of her life! Motoko earned a doctorate in education and devoted a long career to teaching from elementary to university students. Given her wartime concern for children, Motoko was best known through much of her career as an expert in teaching children’s literature to college students preparing to become educators themselves.
Later in life, she became part of the “Raging Grannies,” a community of older peacemakers whose signature strategy was staging colorful, song-filled demonstrations often draping themselves in big shawls to emphasize their elder status. Motoko wrote some of the protest songs herself, including this verse set to the tune of America the Beautiful:
O beautiful for wise ones’ dreams
For Sanger, Tubman, King
Who saw a vision through the years
Of great awakening
America, America, oh how we hope for thee
Restore the sense of siblinghood
Across both land and sea.
Motoko was a dear friend who never failed to encourage those around her to do more on behalf of peacemaking than they thought was possible.
- READ HER SHORT MEMOIR of life during World War II from our book Friendship and Faith. (That link takes you to her complete chapter from the book, posted for easy reading right here for you in ReadTheSpirit.)
- HER OBITUARY appeared in The New York Times May 9 edition.
- HER PROFILE at the Monuments Men Foundation, which includes a rare photo of Motoko during that period of her service, adds even more details about her amazing life.
HELP FOR CAREGIVERS AND THOSE WHO GRIEVE
FRONT EDGE PUBLISHING offers a variety of books to help families coping with the burdens and the grief of the COVID-19 pandemic. Susan Stitt recommends and describes four books, including our Guide for Grief, Never Long Enough and Dying Well—plus the valuable Guide for Caregivers.
IN THESE SEASONS OF LIFE AND DEATH
BENJAMIN PRATT—the author of Guide for Caregivers that Susan Stitt is recommending this week—brings us a true story of his own community’s compassionate care for—a mother duck. They named her Patience. Yet, as Ben writes, these seasons of life and death are teaching us many lessons about caring, community and remembrance of our friends, even those who live on life’s wild side. Ben is also a master storyteller and invites us to travel with him through several stories, within stories, in the course of this column. Please, share this story with friends, this week.
HELP US TO CONGRATULATE VICTOR BEGG. Victor Begg’s memoir Our Muslim Neighbors has now circled the globe welcoming readers to experience the life of a family with deep roots in the history of Islam—sometimes funny, sometimes somber, sometimes suspenseful. Recently, Victor was honored as a finalist for the annual Eric Hoffer Awards Montaigne Medal. Eric Hoffer (1898-1993) is the famous American laborer and migrant who emerged as one of our greatest writers about American social movements. The Montaigne medal honors the Renaissance writer and statesman Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592). Order a copy of Victor’s book for yourself and a friend. Simply reading this book carries us a step further to reaching out in a compassionate way to our Muslim friends, neighbors and co-workers. The book is available from Amazon—as well as Barnes & Noble and other online retailers.
Care to see all of our Holidays & Festivals columns? It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just remember the address InterfaithHolidays.com
Lincoln’s wisdom for us …
Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, we all respect Lincoln’s wisdom—and his articulation of American values. That’s why Lincoln scholar Duncan Newcomer writes: “Abraham Lincoln is the soul of America, calling us to our best as Americans.”
- THIS WEEK’s episode 6: Duncan Newcomer’s Abraham Lincoln Quiet Fire 6: Lincoln’s Courage to Judge and to Lament
- And, if you missed it, last week’s episode 5: When will we be good? God knows!
- ENJOY MORE LINCOLN RIGHT NOW—Get a copy of Duncan’s 30 Days with Abraham Lincoln—Quiet Fire. Each of the 30 stories in this book includes a link to listen to the original radio broadcasts. The book is available from Amazon in hardcover, paperback and Kindle. ALSO, you can order hardcover and paperback from Barnes & Noble.
FAITH & FILM
INSPIRING AND SIMPLY GOOD FUN—What did Jesus look like? Sacred images of Jesus grace churches worldwide, but millions of moviegoers picture Jesus from classic films. In his book Jesus Christ, Movie Star, Ed McNulty invites readers on an inspiring journey, meeting Jesus again through a dozen big-screen stories of Christianity’s founder. His book is available from Amazon, from Barnes & Noble—and also from our own bookstore.
LIFT YOUR SPIRITS WITH STREAMING
ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.
Among Ed’s free reviews and columns are these 10 recommending movies that are available for streaming right now via Amazon and/or Netflix.
- In honor of Motoko Huthwaite’s passing: MONUMENTS MEN—Ed writes, “I love it when an old genre, such as the war film is revisited from a fresh perspective–such as this George Clooney WW 2 film.” NOTE: The Clooney production, based on a best-selling book, helped to make this remarkable team world famous—but the movie focuses only on the European theater. Motoko worked in the Pacific theater. (4 out of 5 stars; rents for streaming from Amazon for as low as $2.99; also available from Netflix’s DVD service.)
- COME SEE THE PARADISE—Want to learn more about the wartime treatment of Japanese-Americans? Ed gave 5 stars to this 1990 feature. “Alan Parker’s film puts human faces on the dark, tragic era of American history when an entire people were uprooted and moved inland into concentration camps. (Streaming on Amazon)
- A HIDDEN LIFE—Want to learn more about courageous peacemakers? “Terrence Malick raises important questions about faith and loyalty to one’s country versus loyalty to one’s conscience. And how do you know that you are right when most everyone else is of the opposite view? These are universal questions, applicable here today as well as in 1940s Europe.” (The Franz Jagerstatter story is streaming from Amazon; also from Netflix’s DVD service.)
- TIGERTAIL—Ed writes, “The past is not something we leave behind, but, as long as we have memory, is always with us, inside our heads and hearts. Or so writer-director Alan Yang seems to be saying in the title of his remarkably acted story centering on a failed father-daughter relationship.” (4.5 out of 5 stars)
- REEL REDEMPTION—”Writer/director Tyler Smith’s well balanced survey of the sometimes troubled relationship between Christians and Hollywood should be of interest to every VP reader.” (5 stars)
- DADS—”This is a light-hearted yet thought-provoking film montage of fathers speaking about fatherhood.” The Dads interviewed in the film include: include Judd Apatow, Jimmy Fallon, Neil Patrick Harris, Ken Jeong, Conan O’Brien and Kenan Thompson.
- SELAH AND THE SPADES—”Selah is more like a teenage crime don than a college student—more than one reviewer has compared her story to The Godfather.” (3.5 stars)
- FINDING GRACE—”Writer/director Warren Fast’s first feature film provides inspiring entertainment for a family looking for non-violent fare.” (3 stars)
- AMERICAN FACTORY—”In their Oscar-winning documentary directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert return to the same Moraine, Ohio plant where they filmed their acclaimed short film The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant back in 2008.” (5 stars)
- ALONE IN BERLIN—”Most WW 2 era films about resistance to Nazi tyranny are set in France, Poland, or some other occupied country, so Vincent Perez’s story of a middle-aged German couple becoming disillusioned with Hitler is most welcome. Based on Hans Fallada’s novel Jeder stirbt für sich allein (Every Man Dies Alone), it is a fictionalized version of what happened to the real-life Otto and Elise Hampel.” (4.5 stars)