Friday, June 21, 2013

Camp Topaz

Not far outside Delta, Utah, lies a large, desert land that was home to a little piece of American history that never should have happened:  the Topaz War Relocation Center.

Good luck trying to reconcile the facts that the same man, President Franklin D. Roosevelt: (1) famously demanded that "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself;" and (2) signed Executive Order 9066, and thereby forced more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans out of their homes (and lives) to live for years under armed guard in a system of internment camps, including Camp Topaz.

Camp Topaz during World War II. 

Camp Topaz now is just a pile of bricks and construction rubble, protected with official National Historic Landmark status.

 One of the Japanese-American internees, Dave Tatsuno, smuggled his home camcorder into Camp Topaz, filmed life at the camp, and later made a documentary called "Topaz," which you can watch here.  Camp Topaz was also home to Fred Koramatsu, whose plea for enforcement of his constitutional rights as a U.S. citizen fell on deaf ears in one of the worst Supreme Court cases of all time, Korematsu v. United States.
I had heard about Camp Topaz and the other internment camps most of my life and studied the Koramatsu decision in law school, but I had never really felt a connection or thought of it as anything other than something that happened a long time ago.  But there was something about standing among the rubble--especially with my kids--that sparked my outrage for what we did to those families.  I just can't stop thinking about it.
Don't get me wrong:  I love my country.  But with Camp Topaz, we really blew it.

No comments: