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Friday, May 25, 2018

All Men Are Created Equal, Well That's the Theory Anyway

Thomas Jefferson once penned the following,

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Of course, Thomas Jefferson wasn't referring to the slaves he owned at the time he penned the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence and you can also bet that the King of England disagreed with that premise. This "lording over" of other people has gone on since time began. It is what separates the haves from the have nots.

About 30 miles NE of my current home lies an area called "Hunt, Idaho" I guess. There is no town there. It is just an area- truly in the middle of nowhere.

So last Sunday in the rain, my wife and I ventured there. It's hard to find. This was where the United States stockpiled about 13,000 Japanese Americans in what they are now calling the Minidoka National Historic Site.

In early 1942, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that enabled the United States to round up 130,000 or so Americans of Japanese ancestry and imprison them in ten "relocation camps" throughout the west.

These citizens lost their homes, businesses, and their lives because America was afraid that some of them were more loyal to Japan than to the United States. It has always puzzled me that despite our three branches of government with checks and balances, a Congress full of lawyers, and documents such as the Declaration of Independence- that one man, a President, can simply issue an order and eliminate all of the civil rights of an entire demographic group of citizens- and nobody apparently utters a peep about it.

It is one of the reasons that I detest executive orders. They allow Presidents to circumvent all of the discussion and sanity that may come about as a result of introducing a bill- subjecting it to scrutiny and group think- into a legislative branch comprised of hundreds of lawyers. Would FDR's executive order pass as legislation in the 1942 Congress? It's difficult to predict. But at least the act would have been offered up and perhaps just one courageous soul might have taken the floor of the House or Senate and mentioned that we had this document called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights which protects citizens from unlawful search and seizure and entitles them to due process. Nowhere in that document will you find an exception to that rule.

But that didn't happen.

When you get to Hunt, you'll find the relocation camp is mostly gone. There are a couple of rock structures still standing near the main gate. The camp once had 8 gun towers which were all removed- although they have recently constructed one to give visitors an idea of what they looked like.

The barracks and fences are long gone. All you will find now is a few signs here and there pointing out where things once were.

I have always thought it interesting that when men want something- such as freedom from a King- that they can pen a few words such as "all men are created equal" while owning slaves who were not entitled to all of the freedoms and civil rights nor were they equal. Slaves may have been created equal- but the haves interfere with that process.

In a nation of laws and a Republic- the rights of a minority are supposed to be protected from the oppression of the majority. It is an interesting theory but in reality that's all it really is. A theory. It is clear to see that throughout history if men want something bad enough they will simply exert control over it and take it, ignoring existing law in the process. They'll use terms such as "all men are created equal" or "manifest destiny" or "taxes." It has always been that way.

Each year, I have a friend named Jim Azumano who travels to Hunt to speak at a gathering at the place his father was imprisoned. He carries a rock with him, a souvenir of his father's time spent there. Oddly, the family has never been bitter over the ordeal- choosing instead to adapt, overcome, and move on with their lives in constructive fashion. I have always held Azumano in the highest regard.

I thought about all of this as I wandered around, reading signs in the rain last Sunday. You can learn a lot about people from a place like Hunt.