September 29, 2022

Cow 1 is Not Cow 2

By Frances H Kakugawa

Under the rising sun

The enemy came

Wearing my face.

After Pearl Harbor, I became the enemy

After 9/11, the enemy was Islam.

After Covid-19, it was China.

Now the enemy wears Putin’s face.


Putin brutalizes Ukraine

Your Russian neighbor looks like Putin,

Speaks Putin’s language, but he is not Putin.

 Cow 1 is not Cow 2.


My ancestors bombed Pearl Harbor,

I look like my ancestors.

Careful, careful, Cow 1 is not Cow 2.

Such a simple, uncomplicated rule.

Semanticist Dr. S.I. Hayakawa wrote “Cow 1 is not Cow 2” on the blackboard when I was a young college student in Hawaii. The class topic was on how language and our perceptions often lead to racism. He explained: “You are driving along the country road and you see a cow. Further down the road, you see another cow. That cow is not the first cow you saw. A black man robs you at gun point. The next black man you see is not the man who robbed you. An Asian rudely cuts in front of you at the cashier. All Asians are not that Asian who cut in front of you. Cow 1 is not Cow 2.”

On another day he passed out his publication titled ETC, on general Semantics.

“One evening,” he began, “I was in a pretty pricey restaurant as a guest of friends. I watched a well-dressed man at a near-by table order a bottle of wine, steaks and finally dessert. Lucky waiter is getting a big tip tonight. After his leisurely dinner, he left a paper bill on the table for a tip and went to the cashier to pay his tab, which I saw ring out to over $90. I assumed that tip probably was a one-hundred-dollar bill. Curious, I took a look. Son-of-a-gun, I thought. What a miser. He had left a dollar tip.”

“ETC: Our assumptions based on what we see may not be what it is. We don’t know, do we? Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera.”

He was a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii Summer Session when I took his six week course. I knew of his reputation as a semanticist and ingested every word he uttered. His words became my truth. The day he described the difference between a Democrat and a Republican, I became a life-long Democrat. Yet later, he would change parties and become the first and only Republican Japanese-American Senator in Congress, representing California. His outspokenness and habit of dozing off in meetings and sessions that bored him drew criticism. He came to be known as Sleeping Sam. Even the most adored idol’s halo can tarnish.

I was an avid reader of the Reader’s Digest in the outhouse in Kapoho, the village on the Big Island where I grew up, now covered under lava. So my hair stood on end when Dr. Hayakawa commented that no intelligent student would cite the Reader’s Digest in a research paper. “He’s an intellectual snob” passed through my mind. My defiant Kapoho child awakened and I purposely used the Reader’s Digest as one of my resources on my research paper on semantics. He acknowledged my defiance by circling Reader’s Digest, then gave me an A anyway.

It was a summer of dichotomy, a summer of yin and yang, a summer of War and Peace, a summer of Hayakawa and Edward Teller. Edward Teller, Father of the hydrogen bomb, another visiting professor for the summer session, lectured that a nation can be best prepared for peace by having the world’s most powerful weapons. By contrast, Hayakawa’s passionate belief in language and dialog as the way to Peace led me to wish he would run for President or be a delegate to the United Nations.

Long after his retirement from education and politics, at Hilo Airport one Christmas Eve, I saw Dr. Hayakawa walking toward the baggage claim area. He looked older and walked with a slight stoop, but I recognized him.

“That’s Hayakawa! That’s Hayakawa!” ran through my mind.

He looked around, scanning the crowd of hurrying travelers, searching, I thought, for his host. But no, he was looking for me! His semantic sense must have read my thoughts. He walked directly to me, and I jabbered like a school girl: “Mr. Hayakawa, I was in your class in the 60’s at UH Summer School. You were so wonderful.” He took my hand and thanked me, asked for my name and wished me well.

Walking toward his cab with his one suitcase, he turned, searched the crowd once more and told the cab driver to wait. He came back to me, nodded and said, “Have a happy holiday. Merry Christmas, Frances.” I was in a state of sadness, having had a doomed relationship end a few weeks earlier. This kind man, who would be detested for his role in student-faculty strikes at San Francisco State University in 1968, lifted my spirits that evening.

Dr. Hayakawa was the interim President of San Francisco State University for less than a week when student radicals and faculty protested the Vietnam War and demanded the inclusion of Ethnic Studies to the curriculum. On live television, he was seen ripping wires off the microphone, earning him the name “Samurai Sam.” He broke the strike and restored normal classes, adding African studies to the curriculum. I followed his career from across the Pacific and my personal contact with him in that summer class and at the airport overrode all negative and sensational media press that followed him to Congress. A Canadian who became an American citizen, he angered the Japanese-Americans by remaining cosmopolitan in his view about internment camps. Hero or villain, Dr. Hayakawa was always hero, because this man taught me, ETC. and Cow 1 is not Cow 2 and he wished me a Merry Christmas on a sad Christmas Eve.