Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Peace (Sign) Prevails

Brooklyn Attic Bedroom, 1970s
This is an old Polaroid I took of the attic bedroom that was my sanctuary when I was growing up in Brooklyn. That purple peace sign hanging from the ceiling light fixture kept company with posters of Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe, Mr. Spock, Frankenstein, and other assorted luminaries. The 1971 poster/circular calendar at lower right dates the shot.

First, the initial news and resulting rant:

I filed this item in my What?! Department:

"DENVER -- In a town in scenic southwestern Colorado homeowners are battling over whether a Christmas wreath that includes a peace sign is an anti-Iraq war protest or even a promotion of Satan...." More detail is in "HOA Bans Christmas Wreath With Peace Sign" at

The story was condensed into a paragraph in Tuesday's St. Petersburg Times and sent me scrambling on the Web....

Okay, I thought -- Maybe there's just an overall ban on signs or decorations or whatnot. The deed restrictions where I live, for example, prohibit the erecting on lawns of the real-estate signs I see popping up like mushrooms all around me. (I said there were restrictions. I didn't say they were enforced.)

So, I thought, maybe there's a legal precedent for the peace sign ban. Something that might make some non-idiotic sense.

Nope. It's idiotic.

"The subdivision's covenants said no signs, billboards or advertising are permitted without the consent of the architectural control committee," says the DenverChannel article (no author name, but the Associated Press contributed to the report). "When [Loma Lynda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs president Bob] Kearns ordered the association's architectural control committee to require Jensen to remove the wreath, they refused. Jack Lilly, chairman of the group, said it decided it was merely a seasonal symbol that didn't say anything. Lilly also said he had received no complaints from homeowners. Kearns fired all five members of the architectural control committee."

Which only goes to show that Richard Nixon Is Not Dead.

Homeowner Lisa Jensen is fighting the attack against her peace sign, which includes a fine of $25 per day for every day the wreath remains up. "I honestly wasn't thinking of the Iraq war," she said. "Peace is way bigger than not being at war. This is a spiritual thing. I am not going to take it down until after Christmas. Now that it has come to this, I feel I can't get bullied. What if they don't like my Santa Claus?"

Jensen, by the way, is past president of the homeowners association. Leaving her peace wreath up through Christmas would cost her an estimated $1,000 if the HOA enforced the fine. Fortunately, she's getting a lot of support from People Of Goodwill And Good Sense, including a war veteran.

HOA president Kearns also insisted that the peace sign was an anti-Christ sign.

When I Googled "peace sign wreath," came up right at the top. Oh good, I thought, Target must sell these "Satanic" things. When I clicked on the link and then searched for "peace wreath" on the Target site, the one match I got was to an audio CD of "Battle Pieces" by Warren M. Swenson.

A search for a peace wreath yields battle music. Where's George Orwell when you need him? sells wreaths, but a search of the site yields nothing having to do with peace signs. Or, for that matter, with peace at all.

Jesus, Prince of ... Prince of ... lemme see, what was that word again?

Mr. Light offers this solar powered peace wreath with white LEDs for anyone who wants to shell out $79.99. I tell ya, given the nonsense happening in Colorado it's tempting. Not to mention environmentally friendly.

God/dess bless you, Mr. Light.

From the DenverChannel article: "Kearns, meanwhile, also said he was concerned about the pagan symbolism of the peace sign."

You hoo, Mr. Kearns! Christmas started out as a pagan holiday.

"Roman churchmen tended to favor the Mithraic winter-solstice festival called Dies Natalis Solis Invictus, Birthday of the Unconquered Sun," writes Barbara G. Walker in her compendium, The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (Harper & Row, 1983). "Blended with the Greek sun-festival of the Helia by the emperor Aurelian, this December 25 nativity also honored such gods as Attis, Dionysus, Osiris, Syrian Baal, and other versions of the solar Son of Man who bore such titles as Light of the World, Sun of Righteousness, and Savior. Most pagan Mysteries celebrated the birth of the Divine Child at the winter solstice."

Walker goes on to say, "Trappings such as Yule logs, gifts, lights, mistletoe, holly, carols, feasts, and processions were altogether pagan. They were drawn from worship of the Goddess as mother of the Divine Child. Christmas trees evolved from the pinea silva, pine groves attached to temples of the Great Mother."

Walker doesn't have a listing for the peace sign, which, according to Thomas Munro's article "Peace sign creates stir" in the Durango Herald Online, was created by Lord Bertrand Russell when he campaigned for nuclear disarmament during Easter of 1958.

You remember Easter. Rebirth. Resurrection. Springtime plantings. All those good things. Easter began as a pagan holiday, too.

I remember the first time I ever saw a peace sign. It was around 1965. My family and I were vacationing in the Catskills when the Catskills still meant Borscht Belt. We were in the dining area of some hotel, and I saw a woman in a black A-line minidress printed all over with white peace signs. I thought the dress was very pretty and hadn't a clue about what it meant.

Once I got a clue, I embraced the symbol, during those difficult days of the Vietnam War.

As I write this I'm still looking to see who sells peace sign wreaths. For $20 the Peaceful Company ("fashioning peace one person at a time") sells this 3-inch diameter window ornament made with recycled glass. "Feel the peace rays illuminating your home and softening your heart," says the website.

Mr. Kearns? Is your heart softening yet?


During my online sleuthing Mary walked in and asked me to take a detour over to Pub Med, to see what its articles say about xylitol and plaque. Seems some toothpastes that used to contain xylitol, shown to reduce plaque, are dropping that ingredient. So far, what we've found is that chewing xylitol has been shown to reduce plaque versus, say, chewing sucrose tablets -- but we haven't found anything yet on whether brushing with xylitol reduces more plaque than brushing without it. Mary's already been special-ordering tooth gel containing stannous fluoride, which off-the-shelf toothpastes used to contain until they switched to the less-effective sodium fluoride.

All we are say-ing ... is give teeth a chance....

Now, the update:

Fortunately, the fine has been withdrawn, and -- after dozens of e-mails offering Jensen support, including financial assistance -- Mr. Kearns has decided an apology from the homeowners association might be in order. This from the USA Today blog "On Deadline", following up on an update from The Durango Herald (Thomas Munro writing again, "Support rolls in for peace sign").

Does this mollify me? Not really.

Kearns has changed his mind because of public pressure. (The phrase "bullies are really cowards" comes to mind.) Whether or not he still believes peace signs are a tool of the Devil is another issue.

And whatever he believes, I'm sure he's not alone.

Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

One might say the same about the price of peace.


Blogger Brenda Clews said...

Who'd ever think peace would be given such a run-around? Glad it's all worked out peacefully.

4:11 PM  

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