Editor’s Note: Last week’s story about Hidden Villa’s decision to cancel its summer camps due to key staff resigning sparked a swift reaction from former Hidden Villa campers and others, mainly criticizing staff offended by swastikas at Duveneck House. A sample of letters follows.
Hidden Villa misses a teaching moment
As a Hidden Villa alumnus, both as an African American camper and summer camp counselor in the 1960s and 1970s, I think it’s sad that we’ve reached the point where we don’t cannot distinguish between the ancient meaning of a symbol and the modern meaning. use of the symbol by racists and tyrants.
I remember the support for social justice the Duvenecks showed in the 1960s and 1970s. Camp staff were always racially integrated with the campers who frequented the camp. We sang folk songs together, rode horses, played capture the flag and hiked the many trails.
I am so sorry for the children who will miss this experience because the adults were unable to use the ancient Hindu swastika as a teaching moment to disarm fears and build trust between staff, campers and parents.
Return swastikas to rightful owners
I remember Joséphine Duveneck, I read her book and once had lunch with Frank. I often camped on their property. They were the most generous, broad-minded people imaginable, sponsoring the West Coast’s first hostel.
Like the swastika, Old Glory represents both good and evil. Seeing the evildoers surround it with arms sales and military and economic aggression, we might agitate to ban it from classrooms. But instead of handing it over to bad actors, we should take it back, ensuring that it primarily represents the forces of good. We should return swastikas to their rightful owners.
Apparently, the current generation of Hidden Villa camp counsellors, despite good intentions, are currently unqualified to lead young people into being thoughtful, engaging, and effective citizens.
Hidden Villa Swastikas: Meaning, Important Use
For the hundreds of millions of followers of Dharma religions like myself, this controversy is yet another painful reminder of the false association of the swastika.
I am horrified when I think of the Nazi Hakenkreuz and the unspeakable acts committed against the Jewish people and other minority communities across Europe in the 1940s. But the swastika is not the Hakenkreuz. It has a history of over 4,000 years as a symbol of peace and prosperity for Dharmic religions before being mistakenly associated with the Nazi emblem.
In fact, on May 26, the California State Assembly unanimously passed Assembly Bill 2282 to amend California Penal Code Section 11411 by decriminalizing “the placement or displaying the ancient swastika symbols associated with Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism and are symbols of peace.”
Hidden Villa’s statement after the resignations said, “We are committed to creating an environment where everyone feels seen, welcome and heard.” However, the “everything” in the statement is not necessarily inclusive. What about the many followers of Dharma religions in California?
I don’t think removing the swastikas was the right thing to do. As a religious symbol, there is a distinct difference between the Dharmic Swastika and the Nazi Hakenkreuz in both meaning and usage. The Duvenecks, committed to the principles of social justice, knew this difference and chose to keep these tiles on their home even after World War II.
By stepping down despite being told the story of the tiles and the meaning of the swastika throughout Asia and the Dharmic Diaspora, the staffers missed an opportunity to show what it is to be open-mindedness and engage in meaningful and inclusive discussion – a lesson the hundreds of children today deprived of summer camp would have benefited immensely.
Decision to remove ‘shameful’ tiles
The Hidden Villa board should be ashamed of their decision to remove the beautiful Asian tiles lovingly installed in Hidden Villa by Josephine and Frank Duveneck, the people who made Hidden Villa possible. Among the most progressive of their time, the Duvenecks did nothing to deserve this affront; rather the opposite. Their history of pacifism, racial progressivism, and social action is available online from the Los Altos Hills Historical Society.
Board members should familiarize themselves with the history of the Duvenecks and the history of Asian art, and immediately reverse their shameful desecration by replacing the tiles. Josephine and Frank deserve nothing less.
The media profit from mass violence
Mass violence is a copycat crime. Crazy perpetrators are inspired to shoot children, put razor blades in Halloween candy, blow up planes and buildings, or add poison to over-the-counter drugs by the publicity these crimes receive.
Newspapers and television make money reporting these atrocities. Does press freedom mean the media can profit by putting lives at risk?
The media is not responsible for the actions of insane people. They are fully responsible for the profit from the advertising they do to these people.