Honoring Frank Tanabe
A recent news report tells of a 93-year-old World War II veteran named Frank Tanabe who was diagnosed with an inoperable liver cancer. During World War II, he was interned in California and Idaho as part of the government’s decision to detain and isolate Japanese Americans who were suspected of having divided loyalties.
He said once in an interview, “I wanted to do my part to prove that I was not an enemy alien, or that none of us were — that we were true Americans. And if we ever got the chance, we would do our best to serve our country. And we did,” He was honored with a Congressional Gold Medal for his wartime service to his country.
Just as he had always done, Mr. Tanabe exemplified his life-long commitment to America on October 17th when he cast his absentee ballot from his hospice bed. His grandson posted a photo of him doing so and the photo inspired and captured the hearts of all those who saw it. Mr. Tanabe died a week later.
Under the law of Hawaii, an absentee ballot cast by a citizen who dies prior to the election is not counted. What a tragedy that would be. Here was a man who was fully aware, alert, of sound mind, and carrying out an act that was legal at the time he performed it. In fact, the photo taken attests that no one stole his identity to vote!
The purpose of an absentee vote is to allow people to exercise their right when they must take a trip or is unavailable to go to the polls on election day. This humble and patriotic man has indeed taken a trip and we wish him Godspeed. We also would do well to copy his patriotism.
If that man, dying, could be so conscientious to vote for the welfare of his country, what excuses can we offer for not voting?
Our right to vote was paid for by the blood of people who fought for the right. Throughout the world, people can only dream of the privilege we have to cast a vote and peacefully express our will to our elected officials. It is not only a privilege and right. It is a duty we hold, to appoint the people who will serve us in the legislature, courts, and offices high and low and to direct the policies of this nation.
Even a losing vote tells the winners of the election something important they need to hear and bear in mind when they carry out their duties. It reminds them that they represent all people, all points of views, and yes, even the people who didn’t vote for them. It lets them know what our will is for the governance of this great country.
So often we hear people complain about the leaders who lead, the public servants who serve, about the state of our government. That is understandable but misguided. We as a people have a precious right to vote. We as an entire nation regrettably fail to exercise often enough. If we fail to vote, we have no right to blame those who enter office without the benefit of our vote.
Every vote counts. Please yours to state your views. Then you can justifiably feel glad that you have stood up to be counted. Use this precious right granted to you by God and your government.
At Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, we serve 1,700 people a day, among them veterans of our military forces and homeless people who lack a residence. They are all citizens and entitled to vote. We don’t tell them how to vote but we do encourage them to vote.
We also encourage you to do your part to honor Mr. Tanabe for casting his vote from his death bed. And may the State of Hawaii perhaps not be successful in issuing his death certificate and matching it to his absentee ballot that represents his last great patriotic act. May his last vote count.