Remembering Ralph Carr

Next Sunday, February 19, 2017, will mark the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, FDR’s directive to establish “military zones” throughout the United States for the internment of Japanese-Americans, Italian-Americans, and German-Americans.

Ralph L. Carr, governor of Colorado 1938-1942

Colorado governor Ralph L. Carr vocally opposed this measure. He was the only Western governor to welcome Japanese-Americans who were forcibly evacuated from the West Coast, and he worked tirelessly to ensure that internees were treated fairly.

Sign placed in the window of a store in Oakland, CA on December 8, the day after Pearl Harbor. The store was closed following orders to evacuate Japanese-Americans from the West Coast. The owner, a University of California graduate, was housed in an internment camp for the duration of the war. (Library of Congress)

Japanese-Americans believed they had a friend in Colorado, and about 7,000 were resettled here, in a camp at Amache near Granada.

Amache Internment Camp, Granada, Colorado

Carr traveled around the state advocating for Japanese-Americans and explaining why it was wrong to imprison them without due process. “An American citizen of Japanese descent has the same rights as any other citizen,” he famously said. “If you harm them, you must first harm me.”

“If you harm them,
you must first harm me.”
– Ralph Carr

For his courage, Carr received hate mail and death threats. Ultimately his unpopular stance cost him his political career. In late 1942, a year when Republicans swept the political ticket across Colorado, Carr narrowly lost a Senate race to Democrat “Big” Ed Johnson, who criticized Carr’s compassion toward Japanese-Americans. Hopes that Carr might one day be a Republican candidate for vice president were dashed. He died in 1950.

Today Carr is remembered as a hero to Japanese-Americans. In 1994, Japan’s Emperor Akihito honored Carr during a visit to Colorado, and in 1999, Carr was named Colorado’s “Person of the Century” by The Denver Post. The state’s judicial center is named after him.

Bust of Ralph Carr in Denver’s Sakura Square

Carr is buried in Fairmount Cemetery in Denver. In 1976, a bust of Carr was placed in Denver’s Sakura Square to commemorate his efforts. Its inscription reads:

In the hysteria of World War II, when others in authority forgot the noble principles that make the United States unique, Colorado’s governor Ralph L. Carr had the wisdom and courage to speak out in behalf of the persecuted Japanese American minority. “They are loyal Americans,” he said, “sharing only race with the enemy.” He welcomed them to Colorado to take part in the state’s war effort and such were the times that his forthright act may have doomed his political future. Thousands came, seeking refuge from the West Coast’s hostility, made new homes and remained to contribute much to Colorado’s civic, cultural and economic life. Those who benefited from Governor Carr’s humanity have built this monument in grateful memory of his unflinching Americanism, and as a lasting reminder that the precious democratic ideals he espoused must forever be defended against prejudice and neglect.

A plaque dedicated to Carr in the Colorado state capitol reads:

A wise, humane man, not influenced by the hysteria and bigotry directed against the Japanese-Americans during World War II. By his humanitarian efforts no Colorado resident of Japanese ancestry was deprived of his basic freedoms, and when no others would accept the evacuated West Coast Japanese, except for confinement in internment camps, Governor Carr opened the doors and welcomed them to Colorado. The spirit of his deeds will live in the hearts of all true Americans.

Here’s a superb 10-minute documentary on Carr (created by 8th graders!):

Check out these other resources on Ralph Carr and the World War II internments:

  • webpage of Camp Amache in Granada, Colorado, maintained by the Amache Preservation Society
  • organization dedicated to preserving the testimonies of Japanese-Americans unjustly incarcerated during World War II, offering firsthand accounts, historical images, and teacher resources

Christians in the Middle East: What Trump Can Do

On January 6, I published an essay in Providence Magazine: “How the Trump Administration Can Support Christians in the Middle East.” After reciting the litany of foreign policy challenges that President Obama leaves behind, I describe the dire situation Christians are facing in the Middle East:

The Middle East is the cradle of Christianity, and the Christian presence there stretches back two millennia. The Coptic and Syriac Churches in Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq are the oldest Christian communities on earth. Indeed, Syriac Christians continue to speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

Today, these ancient peoples face the very real threat of elimination from the lands that gave them birth and nurtured their faith. . . .

If Christianity is to survive in the Middle East—and it must survive—Christian communities must be restored to their homes and lands. Their churches and property must be rebuilt. They must be guaranteed physical security, economic opportunity, and political equality. But they live in a region where all of these are in short supply.

I then offer three recommendations for the Trump administration.

  • First, appoint a Special Adviser for International Religious Freedom to the National Security Council. This would elevate international religious freedom issues to the highest levels of the American foreign policy apparatus. And they belong there. As I note, “countries that respect freedom of conscience also tend to value human dignity, equality, and the rule of law.” The converse is also true. Indeed, religious persecution is often a bellwether for broader human rights abuses.
  • Second, urge Congress to pass the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act. This bill directs the State Department to financially support organizations conducting criminal investigations on genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Iraq and Syria. It would also set the stage for U.S. aid to NGOs on the ground who are supporting beleaguered Christians.
  • Finally, demand that the UN include Christians in any international genocide declaration. There are indications the UN may recognize that ISIS has committed genocide, but not against Christians. This would mean that Christians, particularly in Iraq, will be passed over for international aid and reconstruction assistance. As documented in the “Genocide Against Christians in the Middle East” report I helped author, the ISIS genocide against Christians is undeniable. The incoming U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, must demand the UN acknowledge this.

Open Doors recently published its 2017 World Watch List on Christian persecution. Read about the “major trends” here.


The geography of home: restoring Iraq’s Christians

I recently spoke with Professor Stewart Harris of the Your Weekly Constitutional podcast on the topic of Christian genocide, which you can listen to here.

Among other things, I speak about the long-term goal for Christians, Yezidis, and other minorities in Iraq: restoration to their ancient homelands. The vitality, solidarity, and long-term survival of these groups, as groups, is inseparably connected to their geography, to the places where they historically have lived, worked, and worshiped.

Restoration is also in the long-term interests of the United States and the international community. A minority presence  in Iraq contributes to a healthy regional pluralism. Middle Eastern Christians in particular tend to be supporters of democracy, the rule of law, and respect for minority rights.

Like it or not, geography still matters. Territorial security is necessary to order, and order is necessary to freedom and self-determination. The great ideas that advanced human civilization – democracy, liberty, and the rule of law – are possible only when territorial integrity and stability are assured.

As I write this, the battle to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, has begun. So, too, have the calls for Yezidi and Assyrian Christian homelands, semi-autonomous safe havens on Iraq’s Nineveh Plain, self-governing provinces in a greater federated Iraq. As Robert Nicholson writes:

The U.S. has spent more than a decade calling for democracy in the Middle East, but what we really want is stability and liberty for the people who live there. More liberty is better than less liberty, and imperfect liberty is better than instability and chaos. Democracy is a process; liberty is the desired outcome. A stronger emphasis on liberty will prompt a more organic transition to free societies, and the best place to start is with the liberty of peoples who have suffered, collectively, under the boot of rival peoples.

Legislative resolutions on genocide

The U.S. House and legislative bodies in Colorado, Georgia, and South Dakota have passed resolutions recognizing genocide against religious minorities in the Middle East. Similar resolutions are pending in the U.S. Senate and five other states.

In the persecution section, I’ve complied the recent legislative resolutions, in the United States and around the world, recognizing genocide against religious minorities in the Middle East.genocide resolutions map

  • The U.S. House of Representatives and legislative bodies in three states — Colorado, Georgia, and South Dakota — have passed or adopted resolutions recognizing genocide.
  • Similar resolutions have been introduced but not yet passed in the U.S. Senate and the legislative bodies of five states (Arizona, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio).
  • Legislative bodies in four states — Minnesota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee — have introduced or passed resolution related to persecution (though not genocide) of religious minorities in the Middle East.
  • Four foreign legislative bodies — the Council of Europe, European Parliament, Iraqi Parliament, and UK House of Commons — have passed or adopted resolutions recognizing genocide.

My compilation links to the various bills at Open States, where you can read the text and subscribe to updates.

[Updated to include the map, courtesy of Jeff Hinson.]

“Genocide Up Close and Personal”

Nina Shea writes at Christianity Today:

As Christians in Iraq and Syria face what many (including the US State Department) call genocide, world leaders often struggle to summon the right words for the persecution. ….

For clearer insight into this purge of communities from their ancient homelands, we have journalist Mindy Belz to thank. They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East (Tyndale) contains reporting from her many trips to the region, during which she faced threats of being stoned, kidnapped, or murdered.

Read the rest of the article ⇒