The following originally ran on October 18 and became one of the year’s most talked about and responded to Guest Editorials.
I moved to the charming ocean-side community of Pacific Palisades in 1990 following Palisadian native David Boyle, my law school sweetheart. I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and two years ago, we bought a house there where I spend time helping out my family there. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to travel between my hometown and family in the South, and my husband and home in this wonderful community.
As an environmental attorney focused on protecting the ocean, the Palisades is really special to me, as it is to everyone who calls this magical place home.
I arrived back here after about six weeks in Nashville—just after the grand opening of Caruso’s Palisades Village. On the first weekend after the opening, I wandered about, stunned like Dorothy when she wakes up in OZ.
Palisades Village is truly like a beach town version of The Emerald City. As a person who really walks to the village everyday, likes to shop and dine locally, and appreciates community, I could not be more pleased.
But my delight took a downturn when I encountered “Steadfast” man, the giant statue of a man with hand on heart saluting the flag across the street. The plate at the feet of “Steadfast” man provides an interpretation for the viewer of the sculpture telling us how we should feel about the statue and about our country.
“This imposing nine-foot, 800-pound bronze statue by sculptor Jim Rennart has been named ‘Steadfast’ and represents immovable and constant love for our country. It is a feeling that defines us as Americans. It is American Patriotism and it is put forth in the Declaration of Independence.”
The plate continues with a misquoting of The Declaration of Independence’s famous words about “all men are created equal,” which merges into these words: “We must always be steadfast in our love for the law, liberty, the common good and our country.” Finally, the statue is described again: “A citizen patriot saluting the dream and promise that is still America.”
I love America, and as most people whose ancestors came here to escape oppression and hunger and certain death, I am grateful that my children were able to grow up safely and with the rights not only enumerated when we declared our independence from Britain, but as set forth in our Constitution and the amendments to that document. My children had an idyllic childhood here in Pacific Palisades while their ancestors had to escape from starvation and executions based on religion.
But as a Southerner born during the Civil Rights Movement in which my parents were active, I know the power that statues have. Most of the Confederate statues in the South were put up during the Jim Crow years to remind the formerly enslaved African Americans that they were not considered equal. Some of those statues are now coming down.
In a time when America is undergoing powerful cultural and political upheaval at home with sexual and racial equality and immigration as flashpoints for defining who we are as a nation, I believe “Steadfast” man is poorly chosen.
“Steadfast” implies the kind of loyalty that does not admit wrongs, that does not change and grow. Blind patriotism is not healthy. America is not a fascist state, but a democracy in progress. When “all men are created equal” was drafted by Thomas Jefferson, people with dark skin and women were not included in that sentiment.
Today, when even Nike realizes that taking a knee during the National Anthem is a valid form of protest for America’s current wrongs—or at least Nike chose to capitalize on the heartfelt protest of so many—I wonder why a commercial center like Palisades Village would force the other opinion, that steadfastly saluting the flag is the ideal way to be American.
And the emphasis on this statue as a “citizen patriot” makes it feel like the anti-Statue of Liberty. Instead of a woman welcoming those coming for a better life, here we have a giant American citizen stating that we are defined here by “immovable and constant love for our country.”
What if our country is doing something wrong? Like keeping thousands of children warehoused away from their parents who are trying to bring their families to safety?
But Palisades Village is more than a commercial center. It is part of our home here and should represent us all in this community and be welcoming. Many of us are working hard to make sure that America lives up to its promise, and steadfast flag saluting is not getting us there.
A real love of the ideals expressed at our founding includes questioning and demanding that our representatives in government don’t abandon our ideals. A better choice for welcoming both Palisadians and people from around the world who visit us would have been a message of peace from the founders of our town as the naming of “Via De La Paz” was meant to invoke.
Or the statue could reference the earlier historical significance of this area, like a tribute to the original owner of this tract of land from the Marquez family or the Chumash who once lived here.
It’s hard to think of one statue that would be best, but many would agree that what the world needs now is peace, love and understanding, not more steadfast saluting of the flag.
Lisa Kaas Boyle, Esq
Editor’s note: The statue’s plaque was removed by Caruso a few days before this originally ran and has since returned with slight changes to the text.
On February 8, Bob Benton exclusively revealed to the Palisadian-Post that BENTONS would not reopen as part of Palisades Village. He now is serving as president of the Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce.
After almost 35 years in the Palisades, I have decided that BENTONS will not reopen and will not be a part of Caruso’s Palisades Village. This has been a very difficult decision, one that I have agonized over for more than two years. I love this town, and I loved being part of the Palisades retail community and owning one of the last family-owned sporting goods stores on the planet.
That said, “every dog has his day” and mine has come and gone. This is a very emotional letter for me because I know it’s over, it’s in print.
It has been so hard to say no for two reasons:
1. Caruso and his staff have been so accommodating to me. For two years they gave me total respect and have been more than fair in all the lease negotiations. They really wanted me back, and I’m thankful for that, but I’m more appreciative of the fact that in the long run, they only wanted what was good for my family and me. I am a huge supporter of the Palisades Village, and I wish them well and will be shopping and eating there like most of the Palisades.
2. And the most important: I will miss being in the sporting goods business and the everyday interaction with all the Palisades, especially the boys and girls who we helped with their sports and summer needs. For the past two years this community, on so many occasions I can’t count, has been so positive about BENTONS coming back. Thank you, thank you. I am sorry.
I have never written a letter to the editor, but after 35 years, I’m due. I really hope that everyone understands that this very tough decision was mine alone.
I again want to thank all my customers, my past employees and most of all, I want to thank my manager, Dottie Henkle, who was my sidekick for more than 30 years in this wild ride. Thanks, Dottie.
Thanks again Palisades, see you in town or at the Field of Dreams.