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Tim Myers: On missing menorahs and upside-down flags

Myers' Musings

Posted: December 20, 2008 4:40 p.m.
Updated: December 21, 2008 4:55 a.m.
Chris Dickerson changed my outlook. The unapologetic liberal and Baltimore transplant who served in the capacity of Signal city editor during the late 1990s, at one of our several lunches at the Way Station, opened my eyes to an epiphany.

The topic of the day related to a column Dickerson had penned concerning inherent racism in the Santa Clarita Valley.

With my self-satisfied suburban white male smugness, I related how my oldest son's best friends in grade school numbered themselves among the Asian American minority. (Ironically, over the last two years at university he continued as the only Anglo-Saxon in his university housing.)

My point? His friends, despite their ethnicity, experienced a suburban upbringing, enjoying most of the benefits of American society, proving the tolerance and integration of the nation.

Dickerson told me I could not understand their feelings of isolation and discrimination unless I looked carefully at the magazines at the supermarket check-out stands that purport to represent the American ideal of beauty and celebrity.

I checked, as everyone should. I saw a plethora of white faces staring back at me from the magazine covers.

Even the token "celebrities of color" like Halle Berry tended to exhibit phenotypic Caucasian features, the result of their biracial heritage.

It harkened back to a shortly lived personal experience when I visited the Caribbean for business in the early 1990s and found myself the only white face on a small, island-jumping propeller plane.

How does this relate to now? In recent weeks, despite the ascension of a phenotypical black man to the presidency and the turning of a tremendous corner in American history, two local incidents still illustrate the propensity of certain elements of the majority population to not consider the feelings and sensibilities of our non-Caucasian and non-Christian brethren.

First, a contemporary of mine in Canyon Country spots an upside-down lighted flag in the Christmas display of a patriotic Hispanic family and immediately accelerates his mind at 80 miles per hour to conspiratorial thoughts of treason.

And if folks on the erudite and sophisticated West Side of the SCV believe themselves immune, within a few days the functionaries of the Stevenson Ranch HOA basically "blew off" the installation of a Hanukkah menorah traditionally installed beside the community Christmas tree.

When called on it, the president of the HOA basically set up a strange "separation of church and HOA" argument, converting the traditional Christmas tree - which according to some legends dates its relationship with the Christian holiday back to the days of the reformer Martin Luther - into a "holiday" tree somehow secularly authorized against the sectarian menorah.

Why does this matter? The majority, secure in its majority status, can never possess full empathy for the minority, overtly discriminated against or not, with the exception of the white relatives of biracial people (a la Barack Obama).

Comedian Adam Sandler made light of this true pain of isolation in his now-famous "Hanukkah Songs," recounting the true story of his childhood as one of the few Jewish families in lily-white, Protestant Manchester, N.H., and the only Jewish child in his grade school until the (ironic) arrival of the family of comedian Sarah Silverman.

The songs recount a list of Jewish celebrities to comfort the isolated.

The president of the Stevenson Ranch HOA proclaims he did not bother to install the menorah because "I don't feel it's my place to put up the menorah because I am not Jewish."

Two days later, people installed the menorah in Stevenson Ranch, but unfortunately the family in Canyon Country removed their lighted flag.

Many will accuse me of political correctness, and 10 years ago I might have agreed. Blame Chris Dickerson for my enlightenment at that back table in the Way Station.

Because it is not political correctness that dictates a sensitivity and inclusiveness in these matters, it is just good manners.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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