The Santa Monica Daily Press got it wrong when it reported that City Hall was successful in ousting religious displays in Palisades Park (“City Hall declares nativity scene ouster a success,” April 8). The [nearly] 60-year-old tradition continued throughout the season and remains unbroken.
There was a three-dimensional Christmas nativity scene in the park every day, unattended and overnight from Dec. 8, 2012 to Jan. 6, 2013.
I know this because I placed the nativity scene there myself, in the traditional area along the pathway north of Santa Monica Boulevard, near the veterans’ memorial honoring the soldiers who fought for and died for our country’s freedom of religion.
My first nativity scene cost $17.50 and was set on a box illuminated by a mini-flashlight. A tall glass candle was in front. A framed card read “In honor of all the Nuns and Priests of St. Monica’s, St. Anne’s and St. Clement’s who gave their lives to Santa Monica.”
I checked on the spot every day. If the nativity scene had been removed, I simply replaced it with another hand-crafted nativity scene. I made the [scenes] out of tinfoil, shoe boxes, old Christmas cards, color (copies) of old church bulletins, ribbons, bows, tissue paper, wrapping paper, candy canes, straw. There was not a single day in the park without a nativity scene there.
I wasn’t the only one who did this. There were other homages placed in the area. And of course, Chabad House was there, celebrating the miracle of Chanukah with a large menorah, for eight days. I was thankful for the warmth and light of their presence.
I once asked a Native American what he thought was most responsible for the near-destruction of his people and culture. He said at the heart of everything was that the Native Americans weren’t taken seriously because they were nomadic.
Despite their sophisticated cosmology and despite their ecological wisdom of moving with the seasons, the Native Americans were seen as itinerant, transient, fly-by-night, a nation on the run, undeserving of respect.
Oppression begins with contempt. The contempt gives others permission to mistreat you, to harry you. And once they get you on the run, it almost never stops.
It is important for a nation, for a religion, not to allow themselves to be put on the run. Do not make excuses and say it’s just a control thing. Do not agree to rules designed to heap indignity upon you, to create unreasonable hardships and to keep you shifting.
There has to be something about which you stand firm and say (as director Michael Cimino put it so eloquently in “The Deer Hunter”) “This is this.” This isn’t that. This isn’t the other. This is my country. This is my faith. This is a rock upon a rock.
Colleen D. Byrnes
Parishioner, St. Monica Church