Re­mem­ber­ing the legacy of for­mer Gov. Ralph Carr, who stands on right side of his­tory

The Denver Post - - NEWS -

War brings out all kinds of chaos in the hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence, and the dread­ful sur­prise at­tack on Pearl Har­bor 75 years ago re­minds us that even the best of peo­ple fall vic­tim to evil and pet­ti­ness.

And yet, hon­or­able ac­tions can punch through. When they do so, they have a way of shoring up good will in places never ex­pected.

We wish to mark this bit­ter an­niver­sary by re­mem­ber­ing the legacy of for­mer Gov. Ralph Carr, whose story Den­ver Post re­porter Jesse Paul re­told for read­ers this week. Carr’s ac­tions dur­ing a time of height­ened tur­moil re­mind us of the good in peo­ple and the good a prin­ci­pled stand can lead to.

In tak­ing up arms against Ja­pan, Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt de­clared that Ja­panese-Amer­i­cans on the West Coast were to be rounded up and sent to camps in the West, lest they serve as spies against us. Carr, a se­cond-term Repub­li­can with a big po­lit­i­cal fu­ture, agreed to house them on the East­ern Plains. He did so not to ap­peal to xeno­pho­bic fears, but to make sure the Ja­panese would be treated fairly.

Carr’s de­ci­sion can be tricky to ap­pre­ci­ate, as it sug­gested an ac­cep­tance of the fed­eral vi­o­la­tion of due process rights. But he trav­eled the state to ex­plain that while agree­ing with the pres­i­dent was his duty, he could make sure it was ad­min­is­tered with re­spect for those housed there.

“Amer­ica is made up of men and women from the four cor­ners of the earth, of ev­ery racial ori­gin and na­tion­al­ity,” Carr wrote at the time. “There is no place here for the man who thinks that his peo­ple or his lan­guage are in turn en­ti­tled to pref­er­ence over any oth­ers.”

When there were threats of vi­o­lence directed against those in the camp, Carr warned: “If you harm them, you must first harm me.”

Carr’s story no doubt has in­spired count­less Coloradans, Amer­i­cans, Ja­panese and oth­ers. Among them, as Paul notes in his story, is Demo­cratic Gov. John Hick­en­looper.

We bring it up to re­mind read­ers how times of war and in­sta­bil­ity still threaten to make petty tyrants of us all.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s de­ci­sion to al­low 10,000 Syr­ian refugees into the coun­try last Novem­ber in­flamed crit­ics, who wor­ried about acts of ji­hadist ter­ror.

Like­wise, Hick­en­looper’s de­ci­sion to ac­cept some of the refugees from that blood-soaked land drew enor­mous crit­i­cism. Many Repub­li­can gov­er­nors balked and swore not to take part in the re­lo­ca­tion.

Hick­en­looper de­fended U.S. screen­ing pro­ce­dures and re­sponded to crit­i­cism, say­ing: “We can pro­tect our se­cu­rity and pro­vide a place where the world’s most vul­ner­a­ble can re­build their lives.”

His­to­ri­ans credit Carr as be­ing on the right side of the ar­gu­ment, but his stance ended his promis­ing po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

Ja­pan’s Em­peror Ak­i­hito hon­ored Carr in a visit to Colorado in 1994.

And what of the brave men and women who fought and died for Amer­ica dur­ing and af­ter that vi­cious at­tack 75 years ago?

As we thank them for their ser­vice, we hope those still with us, and their de­scen­dants, too, join us in ac­knowl­edg­ing the good that can rise out of even the worst of times.

Amer­ica has never been sim­ply about its mil­i­tary might, but about us­ing its in­flu­ence for the ideas and ideals we cher­ish, like those that guided Ralph Carr.

We hope Amer­i­cans re­mem­ber them.

Colorado Gov. Ralph Carr in 1939 af­ter be­ing sworn in.

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