Friday, August 13, 2010

Let’s Go Camping

Ah, the sweet memories of camp: the moonlight gleaming off the barbed wire, pitching horseshoes in the shadow of the delousing hut, forging passports in the craft shop, digging escape tunnels under the latrine, the tasty food served out of a kettle into wooden bowls. Good times, and Marg Baker, who’s running for a state house seat in Florida remembers what it was like.

“I was just a little girl in Miami, and they built camps for the people that snuck into the country because they were illegal,” Baker said. “They put them in the camps and they shipped them back. We can do that.”

Presumably she’s talking about the internment camps we built in the United States during World War II to house Japanese citizens and those of Japanese ancestry. We didn’t call them “concentration camps” — some other government had a claim on the term — but that’s exactly what they were. And they weren’t built for people who “snuck into the country illegally;” most of them were either born here — making them United States citizens — or had immigrated legally, and they weren’t “shipped back,” seeing as how we were at war with Japan and it’s unlikely we could have done that.

Internment was a shameful time in American history when we caved to the hysteria of xenophobia and hatred against people who looked differently than the majority of the people. It was a bad enough stain on our nation that in 1988, President Ronald Reagan issued a formal apology and signed a bill authorizing reparations to the victims. Funny that Ms. Baker sort of remembers the camp but doesn’t remember Mr. Reagan’s apology.