Dr. Bill Atwood

Rule of Law

Last week I had the opportunity to join with several hundred students and a couple of dozen federal and state jurists in the celebration of Law Day in Yosemite National Park under the leadership of the Federal District Court Magistrate, Michael Seng, who has a great team that provides a superb program for students.

This annual event serves to inspire the students with the importance of the Rule of Law and the direct impact of the Constitution in their lives. Speakers over the years have inspired students with discussions of the Miranda vs. Arizona decision as well as Gideon vs. Wainwright and other well-known, precedent-setting rulings. Miranda dealt with the ruling that police must inform people of their rights upon arrest. The Gideon decision ensured the right of the accused to have legal counsel.

This past week the students learned about the internment of citizens of the United States 75 years ago under Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin Roosevelt. The order meant that all people of Japanese decent were forced into camps because they were deemed a threat to the security of the United States as we were at war with the Japanese Empire at that time.

This order pertained to people living in the states of Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona. Interestingly it did not pertain to the Territory of Hawaii. I guess the racism within Democrat Roosevelt stopped at the Pacific Ocean.

The students heard about the case of Korematsu vs. The U.S. of 1944 and the refusal of Korematsu to surrender to the internment camp as directed by Executive Order 9066.

Korematsu argued that the order was signed and designed purely on racism against Japanese people and not a national security issue as claimed by the government. His leading argument was that people of German and Italian decent were not being rounded up as potential Nazis or fascists. The Supreme Court ruled that Executive Order 9066 was lawful and Korematsu was found to be guilty of violating that order. I believe he was sentenced to three years in prison by a lower court and the Supreme Court upheld his conviction.

Let’s look at what Democrat Franklin Roosevelt inflicted upon these folks. First and foremost FDR ordered all people of Japanese ancestry into the camps. It did not matter to him that he was incarcerating American citizens who happened to be Japanese only in their DNA.

These fellow Americans were forced to leave their homes, farms, businesses, investments and head to camps. Locally the people in the Fresno area were directed to the Fresno Fairgrounds and found themselves behind barb wire fences and guarded by soldiers with machine guns.

The speakers at Law Day talked about being sent to Manzanar or to the camp outside of Parker, Arizona. Again, Roosevelt had armed guards there to treat them as prisoners and not as American citizens.

Our guest speakers told of attending school while incarcerated in the camps. Each day the students would start the school day by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Some of the young men in the camps volunteered to join the military to defend the United States during the war.

Spend some time looking at the history of the 442nd Infantry during WWII, which was finally recognized in 2010 for their gallantry. That unit had to be replaced 2.5 times because of their high casualty rate. There were 14,000 who served in that unit during the war and 9,486 earned Purple Hearts. Bravery is shown by the fact that 21 of their unit were recipients of the Medal of Honor.

Sadly, while those men were serving this great country, the fact remained that when they came home on leave they had to be taken into the prisons Roosevelt called Internment Camps.

Propaganda films showed how nice conditions were in the camps. Our speaker told of molestations and rape. One bright spot they shared were the number of books sent by many churches to the camps. It was one of few ways to feel human.

Yet, the Supreme Court got it wrong. The Supreme Court ruled that Americans could be taken prisoner because of the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes.

Three guest speakers, in a quiet dignified manner shared their stories with the students that beautiful Friday morning in the valley of Yosemite in the shadow of Glacier Point with Half Dome. Those three proud Americans told of the love they have, and have always had, for America.

They stated there were never rebellions within the camps because the Japanese culture teaches the adherence to the Rule of Law. Those three made such an impact that the children in attendance will not soon forget.

The Rule of Law is important and the courts can get it wrong.