Saturday, March 18, 2006

Portland Oregonian joining in the slimefest...

The Portland Oregonian has about as much credibility as the Seattle P.I. these days so it's natural to take their editorials with a grain of salt....

From my understanding the evidence for all this is past issues of the Portland Oregonian? Oh yes, and don't forget the "anecdotal evidence".

Gresham blunders in proposing honor for racist mayor

Dr. Herbert H. Hughes appears to have reflected the worst anti-Japanese prejudices of his time
Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A botched attempt to honor Gresham's longest-serving mayor, while ignoring his malevolence toward a minority group, has reopened an excruciating chapter in Gresham's history. Make that: Oregon's history.

And the simplest way to handle it is to forget it ever happened.

Forget how Gresham city officials glossed over some disturbing evidence in Mayor Herbert H. Hughes' career, dismissing it as "rumors."

Forget, as fast as we can, Hughes himself. Scrap, as well, of course, all further misguided attempts to memorialize him. Or maybe there's a better way. We'll get back to that in a second.

A country doctor who lived with his mother and sisters most of his life, Hughes served as Gresham's mayor from 1941 to 1956. He grew roses and chysanthemums, freely dispensed medical advice, delivered 5,000 babies and, in his time, was a beloved civic leader.

He was also, apparently, a bigot.

As we all know from our own experience, those things are not mutually exclusive. Babies -- roses -- beloved -- bigoted. Still, the virulence of Hughes' hatred towards Japanese Americans stands out even by the standards of his own time. As The Oregonian's Robin Franzen and Eric Mortenson reported Sunday, Hughes helped ignite a hate-mongering campaign that flared briefly in late 1944, aimed at stripping Japanese Americans of everything they had left, which in many cases wasn't much.

When 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced to relocate to internment camps during World War II, some lost everything they owned. But then-Mayor Hughes and a dozen other men formed Oregon Anti-Japanese Inc., apparently to ensure they would never get it back. Some in Hughes' group favored expulsion of Japanese Americans, or a constitutional amendment to revoke their citizenship. Thanks to some courageous leaders, including the Rev. John L. Magoon, Gresham came to its senses.

Did Hughes come to regret his involvement in this group? Some believe he did, but no one has substantiated that claim. "We certainly would love to see evidence that he had a change of heart," says Chip Larouche, with the Portland chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League.

In 1993, President Clinton apologized to Japanese Americans for their internment. The nation's actions, he wrote, were rooted in "racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and a lack of political leadership." While Hughes accomplished some good things, he failed a key test of his time and led his community in the wrong direction.

Maybe Gresham should research Hughes' career, unblinkingly, and create an unorthodox memorial, with the full participation of the Japanese American community. While acknowledging Hughes' dark side, it could also pay tribute to those courageous Oregonians who argued on the right side of history.

This is beyond the scope of what Gresham had in mind, of course. But it would help us all to remember exactly what happened. Remembering a beloved bigot might be better for Oregon than just agreeing to forget him.

(BainbridgeHistorians note: See if you can pick out the list of historical inaccuracies in this editorial...)


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