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From the Inside by Dale Rosenfeldt
I read Jan Siegel’s article “Malice Toward None” published in the July 10 issue of The Capistrano Dispatch with admiration. Jan does her homework, and her passion for history and San Juan Capistrano are palpable, even contagious. Whether or not you agree with every word she wrote, you must agree she chooses her words well. Full disclosure, I consider Jan a friend, but friends do not always agree. In this case, I do believe Jan got it right, but my point is about messaging in today’s social climate.
If we disagree with an opinion, do we shoot the messenger? Shall we silence The Capistrano Dispatch: Our Community, Our Voice? Bronwyn Seward believes we should. Seward chose to condemn The Capistrano Dispatch for publishing “Malice Toward None,” which is censorship: the weapon of choice for the new cancel-culture movement. Seward did not engage in dialogue. Instead, she attacked the publisher, shaming them for printing Jan’s perspective, demanding a retraction and apology. She claims that Jan’s article is “NOT opinion,” but that is just her opinion.
Tearing down historic figures in the form of statues is egregious, as is demanding that an article such as Jan’s not be printed. These actions silence us all. There is no discussion, no dialogue, when the statue is gone. No discussion, no dialogue, when the “opinion” piece is never printed.
As much as I envy Jan for her writing skills and encourage healthy dialogue, I also applaud Laurie Allen for her beautifully written comments on the same opinion piece. Allen states, “What bothers me most about what is happening today is that there seems to be only a very specific set of perspectives and even words that are allowed to be used, and anyone who feels differently and would like to engage in a reasonable dialogue or debate (as Ms. Siegel does), may be vilified.” Allen also succinctly states, “If we were to hold our world ancestors to today’s values, we would have to take down nearly every statue of every king and queen in Europe.”
That goes for the entire world. I recently watched a documentary on The Silk Road, in which the narrator, a French war correspondent, frequently points to statues discussing the influences of the diverse people who traded silk and spices on The Road. One depicts a Chinese man and a Roman soldier greeting each other. This monument helps to tell the story of civilizations that forged relationships in Western China and helps to explain the unique Western features of the people of this region. Neither the Romans nor the Mongols were saints, but they had influence, as did Junipero Serra and the Spaniards in our region of the world.
Printed words are ephemeral, yet powerful. Statues and sculptures were meant to withstand the test of time and are also powerful, but only if we allow them to stimulate dialogue in the 21st century.
Dale Rosenfeldt is a consultant and trainer who travels often but is happiest at home in her art studio and with her husband, their dog and tabby cat. Her husband operates a business in town and is a commissioner and influencer.