So, I was about halfway done with a post about drama and its origins, etc. when I found out tonight that my whole city had erupted in to drama on steroids. I live in Riverside, CA. I was born here and have lived the majority of my life here with the exception of a few small periods of time. My grandparents moved to this city in August of 1962 and proceeded to raise their family here. My oldest son attended the same high school that my mother and her siblings did. It is a block away from my home and I am amazed each time I drive or walk by because it contains so much history, not only to my family but to this city as well. I like to think that I know a lot about Riverside and I find it fascinating while others are happy that they have “escaped”. I could ramble on with what I know HOWEVER; tonight we are going to focus on one thing, Mount Rubidoux.
Mount Rubidoux is situated downtown overlooking the century plus old cemetery and some wonderful old homes. I would love to live down there but I don’t. I do however enjoy going that way on occasion to marvel in our history. It is after all OUR history, personal and public.
In 1905, Frank Miller, keeper of the Mission Inn, also in downtown Riverside, purchased 117 acres of land on Mount Rubidoux. In February 1907 the road leading up one side and down the other, was completed. Two months later in April, Bishop Conatay, dedicated the Serra Cross, located at the mountains top. The original cross was made of wooden logs stained dark brown and the replacement which was placed in 1963 due to vandalism of the original, is made of wire and concrete. The original cross can be found in the atrium in front of the St. Francis Chapel at the Mission Inn. Every year they hold Easter sunrise services at the cross. The very first was held in 1909. I have never been but I hear it is beautiful at that time of day with the sun peeking out from the east. There are many plaques along the road commemorating different things, giving everyone small glimpses of the events that have occurred there. The majority of the plaques were put up before Frank Millers death in 1935.
In 1955, Frank Miller Hutchings, grandson of Frank Miller, met with the city of Riverside in order to deed the mountain to the city for public use. Apparently there was a contractual stipulation with the city that stated if the cross was ever removed then the city was to return the mountain to any living members of the Miller family. Sounds somewhat foolproof right? Guess again. Apparently these sorts of contracts automatically expire 30 years after inception and an attempt to renew said contract needs to be made. Well, I don’t know the whole story but it looks like the city took no steps to do that so in 1985 the contract was no longer valid.
There are rumors of tunnels leading from the mountain down to the Mission Inn and a couple of other places, supposedly for the purpose of smuggling liquor to the Inn and Victoria Country Club during prohibition. There are caves hidden by boulders, various monuments and at one time even goats living on the mountain. There is also quite a variety of plant life around as you walk the mountain. There was a time, years ago, that you could drive your car up to the top. That is no longer allowed so it must be walked which is difficult for many as it is a steep road in many places. Many have sought solace here when depressed and just plain tired of life’s ups and downs. Most have said how much better they have felt after speaking with someone along the way or just taking in the natural beauty above the city. Several have not felt relief and have taken their lives with the mountain as their instrument of help in doing so.
Here is where the drama steps in. I learned yesterday evening that there was a city council meeting being held to discuss the removal and sale of the Serra Cross from the top of Mount Rubidoux. The starting bid would be $10,000.00. It seems that the Inland Empire Atheists decided that since they don’t want it and are offended by it, they would raise hell and make lawsuit threats in order to have it removed citing separation of church and state. Okay yea great, I get that but what about the historical factor here? What about the feeling that it gives Riverside natives to see that familiar site at the mountains top? I personally am a non-believer, sorry if you don’t agree with that or like it but it is who I am. I am not offended by that cross, I am awe struck by it. I think that it is amazing, that generations before us placed things upon this mountain that meant something to them. I think openly when it comes to the beliefs of others and I know and support that one day my children may believe in a manner that I don’t. That to me means that this cross may have an even greater importance to them. How dare you try and deny them their history and potential religious convictions. I don’t understand how one small group of obviously selfish people can have the power to make this happen. It is morally wrong for those individuals to try to take this away when it does NOT belong to only them. If I worshipped the sun and you weren’t allowed to go out in to the sunlight, would that offend you? Would you find a way to squelch my joy to satisfy your own selfish wants? It is wrong and I am pissed off. I don’t recall receiving a call from the Atheists asking my non-believing opinion on the matter. Do you think it’s because they knew I would tell them to go anywhere they believe is bad, possibly Wal-Mart? I didn’t receive a voting card. Have these people lived their entire lives here? Is their history here, like mine? Why do they have more of a say than I? Don’t answer, I get the whole church and state thing but that was supposedly originally created to keep state out of church, not vice versa. There were several suggestions made at the meeting such as handing over care to the Friends of Mount Rubidoux organization or commissioning statues to be placed alongside the cross to represent other faiths, etc. I pose this question…what statue would the Atheists have there? Based on some of the things I have read being slung back and forth between the two teams, I would have to guess they would have something made and placed that would offend everyone as much as that cross seems to offend some of them.
All sorts of crap is flying about religion and the rights of those that don’t partake. The word “offend” is being used quite a bit. Funny thing is that I have NEVER been offended by that cross and of all the times I have been up there next to it, it has never once tried to convert me. Neither has anyone else that has stood by it, taking in the sight. I know things change over time; I see it every day when I drive through the city. Some I like, some I don’t and some just make me shake my head in disbelief. If they take this cross away from where it belongs, I think it would be like removing a small piece of everyone that belongs to this city.
I am officially passionately pissed, so much so that I even created a twitter account yesterday so that I could get tweets from the meeting. I swore that I would never twitter.
City council decided to hold off any voting until January in order to give residents time to gather information, form ideas and ask legal questions. My intention is to be at that next meeting and to try and keep up to date on anything happening with it. Seriously though, if the cross offends you then don’t go there. You live in southern California, there are at least, oh I don’t know, 10,000 other places you could go that might make you happier.