“The 20-year legal fight over the cross on Mount Soledad took another turn Tuesday when a federal appeals court ruled the towering landmark [is] unconstitutional....” —San Diego Union-Tribune, Jan. 5
I love this ruling. I do believe that a giant, Latin cross on the city-owned peak of the tallest mountain in the area is an example of government “establishing” a religion. I also believe this issue is complex and nuanced. I believe it's reasonable, for those who want the cross to stay, to pose such questions as:
1. Is the seemingly endless legal battle worth our time and money?
2. At what point does the historic and the religious become inseparable?
3. What does the word “establishment” mean in the context of the Constitution?
On these questions, reasonable minds can disagree. However, it's difficult to find reasonable minds in a group that interprets literally the words of a 3,500-year-old testament— written by a bunch of toga-wearing winos—as if it were, you know, a Bible or something.
For true believers, “reason” has nothing to do with it. Their arguments tend toward the ridiculous and reactionary—such as the opinion (articulated in the U-T article cited above) that the Soledad cross “is a secular landmark amid a larger [war] memorial and has no explicit religious meaning.”
Secular landmark? No explicit religious meaning? OK, sure, the cross may have had a couple of now-obsolete meanings that predate Christ by a few hundred years. But in this country, in this century, saying the cross is a symbol of something other than Christianity is like saying the song “My Dick” is a nostalgic tribute to the Nixon administration.
The cross is the central symbol of Christianity. Every believer worth his weight in Frankincense owns and displays one somewhere, whether in the home, adorning the body or dangling from the rearview mirrors. The only Christian who doesn't have a cross in his possession is Christ himself (crosses make Jesus squeamish), so let's please not entertain this “secular landmark” notion any further.
Another example of an unreasonable reasoning by the religious reactionaries is the recurring, false analogy between the Mount Soledad cross and the Ground Zero mosque.
“I think it sucks,” wrote one of my god-fearing Facebook friends. “We can build mosques near ground zero, [yet] tear down crosses, all in the name of a First Amendment?”
Now, this friend is usually a smart fellow. I was astonished that he hadn't divined the obvious difference between the two situations: The cross is on public land while the socalled Ground Zero mosque was to be built on private property. Even more astonishing, after the difference was pointed out, he didn't seem to understand why it mattered, which tells me that he's hysterically blinded to matters regarding faith.
Finally, another utterly unreasonable reaction to the ruling was from the American Center for Law and Justice, which described it is “a judicial slap in the face of veterans.”
Now, if the good folks at the American Center for Pandering and Tearmongering had done some research, they'd have learned that there are plenty of vets who applaud the court's decision. Indeed, it was a veterans' group that nudged it forward, via The Jewish War Veterans of the United States v. Rumsfeld.
Jewish vets love crosses the way Marie Antoinette loved guillotines, so it's unlikely any were offended by this court ruling. Nor will Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu soldiers feel dissed.
OK, sure, maybe the Christian soldiers might be all butt-hurt about it, but it's not the solider part of them that cares, it's the Christian part.
That's the thing about this, It's-Just-a-War- Memorial-and-Has-No-Explicit-Religious- Meaning bullshit. If it's really about commemorating American soldiers, then put a symbol up there that represents all of them, like the U.S. flag, because, when you think about it, there's only one thing American soldiers have in common, and that's America. I ask you, then, what vet would be offended by Old Glory? What American, for that matter? It's a no-brainer!
What's that now? Not a fan of the flag idea? “Been there and done that,” you say? That's alright, I have three more:
• Erect a 100-foot statue of Jimi Hendrix playing guitar beside an enormous, functioning stack of Marshall amplifiers. Every day at noon, pipe Hendrix's live, Woodstock version of “The Star Spangled Banner” through the amps. Set volume knobs at 11 and blast it across the land.
• Keep the cross where it is, but also include, of equal size, the religious symbols of every soldier who ever fought in any U.S. war. Those would include Hinduism, Islam, Rastafari, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shamanism, Zoroastrianism, Druidism, Wicca, Vodun, Baha'i, Mormonism, Buddhism, O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal, Estonian mythology, Klingon, Eskimo, Scientolo—ah, to Hell with this idea, just ditch the damn cross!
• Forego symbols altogether and honor past and present soldiers with something actual—something that matters—like immediate troop withdrawal, and a kibosh on the insane, perma-war mentality of the military-industrial complex.