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Several Angelenos are questioning why Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made the move to scrub the name of Junipero Serra, the Roman Catholic saint and missionary, from a local park.
One of them is Professor Robert Kaufman of Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy, who said the removal of anything related to Serra is part of “a national movement to delegitimize, not only the founding of the United States (the 1619 movement), but literally the discovery of the United States.”
At the press conference where Garcetti announced that Father Serra Park would be renamed La Plaza Park, he said “Los Angeles is a city of belonging that takes responsibility for the mistakes we’ve made in the past. Our indigenous brothers and sisters deserve justice and today we take a step toward delivering both greater cultural sensitivity and spaces for Angelenos to gather and perform their traditional ceremonies.”
But Kaufman believes that the targeting of Serra went beyond reasonableness in order to serve the woke mob as Garcetti did.
“[Serra is] being vilified, because what we’re doing is projecting anachronistic standards onto the past,” he said.
The problem with these standards is that they erase the complexity of past heroes.
“If you’re not perfect, you’re not good, “Kaufman said. “And this standard is going to devour everything, including the woke people who are imposing it. Think of the French Revolution.”
Kaufman argues that the full history of Serra cannot be ignored or buried.
“He was really a heroic figure responsible for initiating and overseeing the 21 missions of California that contributed significantly to the spread of Christianity,” Kaufman said. “He lived in a cruel time.”
“He wasn’t perfect, but, overall, he was a better man than the people he was often dealing with in trying to protect Native American rights, women’s rights and treating the indigenous population with dignity,” the professor continued.
Kaufman recalled the famous journey that Serra made when refused the comfort of riding a horse despite being 60 years old and ill.
“He marched all the way to Mexico City – a 2,000 mile trip – to present the Spanish governor with a bill of rights for indigenous people,” Kaufman said. “This was way ahead of his time.”
In 1773, 20 American Indians were sentenced to death after they killed a friar during their attack on Mission San Diego. Serra intervened, reminding the Spanish powers that the “Bill of Rights” stipulated that “Indians, whether pagans or Christians, would kill me (or other friars), they should be pardoned.”
The Native Americans were freed.
However, today’s woke movement has shown no interest in acknowledging the virtues of Serra. For Kaufman, this is immensely dangerous.
“Every single totalitarian movement in history starts with rewriting it,” he said. “Ronald Reagan warned us that you can lose your freedom in one generation if you don’t remember your heroes and how we achieve freedom in the first place.”
“Remember heroes are people, flesh and blood. They’re not perfect,” Kaufman continued. “But life is a balance sheet and we can’t cancel anybody for a single sin or even multiple sins without the pathway to redemption because then there’s no hope for any of us. And, by that standard, King David, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and virtually any great leader that deserves our veneration can’t pass the woke test. We can’t have this and operate as a free country with rights inherent in individuals, not identities.”