By Jan Siegel
When Hitler came to power in Germany, a Lutheran minister said, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist . . .Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew . . .Then they came for me, and there was no one to speak out.”
That is what we are living through today. I love history. I love the story behind the history. I love San Juan Capistrano because of its stories and its history.
Protests are one thing. A protest can be a march, a sit-in, a rally of speeches. All good. All positive. All are what this country stands for and what is specifically stated in the Constitution of the United States as a right.
But when protesters tear down and deface statues and businesses, they are rioters. And rioting is not tolerated. When they tore down statues of Confederate generals, I did nothing because I was not from the South. When they tore down and defamed our Founding Fathers, I did nothing because I did not want to get involved. But when they tear down statues of Saint Junipero Serra or not allow school field trips to the Mission, I will not stand by. I am not Catholic, but I do care about the history of San Juan Capistrano, and I will not stand by and see that history trashed by people who care nothing about the history of this country or this community. They simply want to rewrite history to fit their narrative in 2020 as to how someone in 1619, 1776, or 1865 should have behaved.
St. Serra was not a perfect man, but he never said he was. He literally beat himself every day, because he thought he was not worthy enough to serve God. But he had great foresight. He knew that Western civilization was going to take over local Native American tribes whether they were ready or not, and he wanted to make sure that they were ready for what was to come. In 1773, he drafted a list of 32 regulations to present before the Viceroy of Spain in Mexico City. These regulations guaranteed, among other items, the fair treatment of Indians by the missionaries by taking them away from control of the military. He wanted them to learn a trade so that they would be ready for the new civilization. His regulations covered the military, trades people, missionaries, Indians, administrators and doctors. It was passed by the King and became law in 1767, 16 years before the Bill of Rights was ratified in the United States.
In 2001, the Taliban tore down Buddhist statues, and the world community and the United Nations were upset. The very people that today are supporting the rioters were upset. Where is the condemnation for tearing down our statues, our history? We have become the Taliban. That is why I am speaking out.
In Lincoln’s second inaugural address, he stated, “With malice toward none and charity for all . . . let us bind up the nation’s wounds . . .” Toleration and compromise were behind the reason for many of the Confederate statues. History teaches us that.
Spend a “Moment in Time” and think about the good of history, how we have changed in our history, how we have learned from our history. Let us not allow our history to be forgotten, trashed or altered to suit any one group. I will stand up for you.
Jan Siegel was a 33-year resident of San Juan Capistrano and now resides in the neighboring town of Rancho Mission Viejo. She served on the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission for 13 years, has been a volunteer guide for the San Juan Capistrano Friends of the Library’s architectural walking tour for 26 years and is currently the museum curator for the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society. She was named Woman of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 2005, Volunteer of the Year in 2011 and was inducted into the city’s Wall of Recognition in 2007.
Editor’s note: Serra statues have been toppled by protesters throughout California, and Serra’s legacy has come under question during recent anti-racism protests due to his interactions with Native Americans. The Serra statue at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano has been moved, the statue at Mission San Juan Capistrano is still on display indoors and the statue at JSerra Catholic High School is still up on the school grounds.