Rest in Peace-Camp Dearborn
Yesterday, July 24, 2011, I attended a picnic at Camp Dearborn for the first
time in a number of decades. Our Armenian Christian Church sponsored this particular
picnic. We reserved a camp sight across the pond from trailer village. The threatening stormy weather affected the turnout but 40-50 years ago, this would not have made one bit
of difference for the rest of the camp.
What I witnessed was saddening and disgusting.
This was a hot summer day. In
the 1950s and 1960s, the camp would have been overflowing with visitors. Yesterday
the camp looked like an episode from the National Geographic Channel’s series on “Life after People.” You could count the number of people in the park without hitting four digits.
Of course, the Mystic Creek Golf Course took up a large portion of the original
camp but what remained, took the heart right out of you.
Grass and weeds were sprouting thought the cracks in the roads and all the
parking lots. A number of areas of grass were un-mowed. Even the old outhouses looked even more disgusting than usual. Some
were half falling down with shingles falling off the roof.
I drove through all the areas of camp that I was allowed. I was not allowed to drive into tent or trailer village. A
number of times I passed a car load of young boys sitting in the trunk of a car with their feet dangling out the back of the
Other than two Asian and one European looking group, every picnic group was
muslim as characterized by the black sheets the women wore. I find this to be
very offensive. In this country, we are allowed to have religious freedom,
but we are not supposed to impose our religious views on other people. We pay
taxes to support our public institutions but do not expect our public institutions to grant us special privileges because
of our religion. Whether right or wrong, when I look at a woman in her black
sheet, the message I receive is that she is telling me her religious beliefs prevent her from being an American and she does
not want to be assimilated into the American society.
As a person of Armenian decent, I have been around middle-eastern people my
whole life. Most Armenian people came to this country around 1915-1918 because of the genocide of 1,500,000 Armenian men,
women and children, perpetrated by the ottoman turks. Every family I know, tried
to assimilate into American society. Even though we sometime ate traditional
food at home and spoke our native language among our people, we wanted to be Americans.
Every ethnic group that has come to America has embraced the American way of
life while still keeping traditions within their own kind. They did not ask for
special favors. They did not ask for special schools. They did not ask for exemptions from public school activities because of religious beliefs.
Most of the people of my parents’ generation could not even speak English
before they started attending public schools, but they learned. Southwest Detroit,
Clark Park, Delray, Highland Park and others had high concentrations of ethnic people from many European countries and those
kids went through the same process.
Every ethnic group that came to Detroit tended to gather in a concentrated
area but they all had one thing in common. They all assimilated into the American
way of life: The Germans, the Polish, the Ukrainians, the Slavs, the Jewish, the Irish, the Scottish, the French, the Brits
the Asians, the Hungarians, and on and on.
Being from Dearborn and growing up when we did, we are especially conscious
of the plight of the Blacks during our time. We had race riots. Much of the city of Detroit was burned to the ground. For
hundreds of years Blacks were treated as slaves. The only thing Blacks wanted
was to be treated as equals. Nothing more and nothing less. As a country, we now have a black president but there are still racial tensions.
Although I never served in the military and was not drafted during the Vietnam
War, we all have friends who did and some of them never returned. I tried to
enlist on a number of occasions but could never pass the physical because of medical problems as a child.
My suggestion is that
once every child in America (male and female) reaches the age of eighteen, they should serve at least two years in the military. I think then and only then, will we ever know if you have a commitment to living and
working and being in this country.