Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Prisoner of Conscience

Today I drove my Dad up Mount Lemmon. There was an Octoberfest at Ski Valley at the top, but when Dad saw the $5 parking fee he declined to attend at all. So we made a brief detour to Marshall Gulch beyond Summerhaven, and then drove back down.

On the way down, we turned in at the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Area, but the gate was closed perhaps a hundred yards in. There was a fire in the area in July, and apparently it is not yet safe for visitors to return. The prison camp ruins are still accessible, but we didn't stop for that. I have previously taken pictures, though.

As we turned toward Tucson, I tried to tell my dad about Gordon Hirabayashi, a college student who committed civil disobedience in response to racist policies (curfews, interment camps and a required loyalty oath) applied to Japanese Americans during World War II. From what I've read, he actually asked to have his sentence for breaking curfew extended so that he could serve his sentence at the Federal Honor Camp on Mount Lemmon, where conscientious objectors, deserters, and illegal immigrants were put to work building Mount Lemmon Highway. The government refused to pay Hirabayashi's way to Tucson, so he hitchhiked here and showed up at the camp. Even then, they didn;t have the proper paperwork to incarcerate him. They sent him back down the mountain, where he took in dinner and a movie before returning when they were ready for him. Hirabayashi later argued his case before the Supreme Court and lost. It wasn't until the Reagan era that the government finally admitted wrongdoing in the wartime anti-Japanese hysteria and apologized. Hirabayashi became a sociology professor, and attended the renaming of the prison camp ruins in his honor in 1999. He died in early 2012.

Great story, but my dad wasn't listening, partly because he has a cold and his ears are stopped up, so he was extra-deaf today. But after I dropped him off at his place and drove away, I was pleased to hear Gordon's story retold on the local radio show Arizona Spotlight late this afternoon. They were supposed to post something about it online, but they haven't yet done so.


No comments: