Faith shouldn't be under attack as the Chanukah candles are lit and people trim their Christmas trees. But in this hard year of 2020 faith --faith in our systems, faith in our laws, faith in fairness, faith in a fair media-- are all under attack.
Back in October, which now seems so long ago the old mission church in San Rafael was literally under attack. Well... to be exact, the statue in front of the church was under attack. A howling, cursing dancing mob of about forty "woke" protestors attacked the statue of Junipero Serra. They painted the bronze statue red. Wrapped straps and ropes around the statue's neck, tore it off its pedestal and broke it in at least three pieces. (You can watch the video here. It happened in broad daylight. Less than two blocks from the police station.)
There are a lot of lies that have been told about the events that occurred in October. The media massaged the story within hours of the attack. The media apparently forgot there are still people of faith, people who believe in the First Amendment and people who believe in private property in Marin. So... the media backpedaled a bit. (You can read about that here.) Then the Op Ed writers got to work.
Surprisingly few people in Marin bother to read our local paper. (I assume people just buy it for the coupons and the sudoku.) I do read our local paper. On October 25th there was an Op Ed in the Marin IJ by a man named Frank Lindh. I won't bother saying anything about him, he's rather irrelevant. But his Op Ed piece was typical of the snide snark a lot of people have used to hide some basic facts. Even the title was misleading, “Catholic church needs to continue apology to Indigenous people.” If you just read the words in the title you would assume that it was about "indigenous people" and that Mr. Lindh was speaking on behalf of the Miwok. However, although the newspaper apparently decided to give Mr. Lindh a platform, they didn't bother to fact check him. Plus the actual facts don't fit the narrative being pushed.
One enduring lie that the media --as far as I can tell, never bothered to retract or apologize for-- involves the Miwok. Or, as the purple haired woman screaming "mother-fucker" (just watch the video) at the statue toppling called "indigenous peoples."
In case you don't live in Marin I should probably tell you that the local tribe are the Miwok. I mainly grew up in Marin so I don't really remember a time when I didn't know about the Miwok. The Miwok have lived in coastal California for at least five thousand years. Despite the ravages of European diseases which decimated most of the California tribes roughly two hundred years ago the Miwok are still here. If you grew up in the East you probably just felt confused for a moment regarding the "contact" timeline. The Spanish didn't make their way into alta California until the second half of the 18th century. Which means that European diseases didn't hit most of the Miwok until the late 18th century. And European diseases were deadly. I'm not a medical historian but the rule of thumb for a disease like Smallpox --now blessedly eradicated-- was that in the 18th century a major Smallpox epidemic could potentially kill or maim 30 percent of the Euro-American population, it would almost definitely kill 70 percent or more of the tribal population. People of European decent had at least partial inherited resistance to the endemic diseases of Europe. The native populations of the Americas had NO resistance to European diseases. These are simple, if heartbreaking facts today, but in the 18th century no one understood what Smallpox really was or how it impacted some populations more than others.
I suspect very few of the woke protestors who tore down the statue of Junipero Serra --a Spanish Mission padre who died over two hundred years ago and was sainted within the last few years-- knows much about Smallpox, tuberculosis or any of the other diseases which tragically claimed so many lives. I know a lot of the protestors were liars. You see they lied to the media. They said they were protesting on behalf of the Miwok and "Indigenous People's Day." I know they lied because apparently they never bothered to ask the local Miwok how the Miwok felt about Junipero Serra. The media, because fact checking is apparently very hard, never bothered to ask the Miwok either.
Guess what? Apparently the Miwok didn't like having their name taken in vain by a bunch of violent foul mouthed privileged protestors who are collectively about as native as Elizabeth Warren. (I know this because a representative of the Miwok complained to the Marin IJ and the letter was published --in a much less prominent place than Mr. Lindh's Op Ed.) As far as I know the vandals haven't bothered apologizing to either the Catholic Church --the statue was church property and the church felt it was such an offense that it had been damaged that the Archbishop held a Latin exorcism on the sidewalk to combat the evil-- or the Miwok whose good name was sullied by a random mob. In fact the mob has been busy gathering five thousand plus signatures in a petition to request the District Attorney NOT to prosecute the five individuals who were directly involved in damaging church property.
This is Marin. This is 2020. Mob rule, not the rule of law, is popular. Privileged life-style choice protestors claim to be Miwok and the media doesn't call them out and barely bothers to offer lip service when the Miwok complain. When the Archbishop and the Church insist that people who destroyed and desecrated church property --and are on film doing so-- be prosecuted the woke population complains. Laws you see, are for other people.
But that is the thing that gets lost too often.... laws are WORTHLESS if they are erratically applied. We can not simply choose NOT to prosecute hipsters with Fedoras or purple hair because, although they are technically adults, the Marin mob thinks they deserve a pass because they are, to their parents, "children." If you are twenty-six you are not a child. You are an adult and should be held responsible for your own actions. (In fact, if you are eighteen years old you are an adult.) If you destroy private property you should be held responsible. And... if you are a media figure and you refuse to cover a story accurately you shouldn't be trusted. Because you aren't a journalist, you are just another person spinning a narrative.
These are all hard truths to talk about in this holiday season. If you write about faith during the season of lights you should be writing something heartfelt and inspirational, not something sad and gut churning.
Faith has been assaulted this year. Church property has been destroyed. People have lied. Mobs have run loose in the street. People who should know better want to appease the mob. And the media has concentrated on spinning narratives rather than reporting facts.
It is enough to shake a person's faith in our institutions. Or inspire real faith. Because even if the media doesn't deserve respect, the First Amendment does. And the law does. And that means private property should be respected. It means church property should be respected. It means the law should be applied equally --even if the woke mob is upset-- and it means our rights have value. Our First Amendment rights have value beyond measure, because they can not be sold and should not be traded away. Ever.
So... this is the candle I offer for Hanukkah. Our rights will not be dimmed or darkened. Ever. And we will always speak freely. Because we can not sleep in peace in a world ruled by lies. And the First Amendment can outlast a week's worth of oil.
[This is the third in a series of posts about Freedom of Religion in America in 2020. The Second post, Prayers and Lies was published on October 14th, 2020 and can be read here: Prayers and Lies: The Mob and the Media Reframe the Attack. The first post, Faith Under Attack, was published on October 13th, 2020 and can be read here: Faith Under Attack: Day of Rage Comes to a Place of Peace. If you are interested in First Amendment Issues I strongly recommend reading this post about Freedom of Speech.]