With Memorial Day weekend approaching here in the U.S., it seemed a good time to go back to Mount Soledad. Mount Soledad, as you might recall, was one of the first places TPG took me when we met up during my last trip to San Diego. I showed you some of the spectacular views from it in this post.
There is a 29-foot (43 feet tall when you include the base) cross dominating the top of Mt. Soledad, a cross that has caused some controversy. The history of the cross is pretty interesting. There have been three crosses on this site since 1913. The first was a wooden cross erected by citizens of La Jolla and Pacific Beach. Ten years later it was stolen, recovered, and more firmly affixed to the ground only to be burned down by the Ku Klux Klan. The second cross, made of stucco-over-wood, was put up in 1934 (again by private citizens). Blustery winds took it down in 1952. The third cross went up in 1954. It had to be repaired in 1955 after a windstorm damaged it.
Maybe it’s me, but it seems like the crosses on Mt. Soledad haven’t had much luck.
(Cross at Mt. Soledad. April 2008. © Robin)
In 1989 the ACLU filed a suit based on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as a clause in the California constitution, basically stating that it is illegal to display a religious symbol on public property. The cross has been the subject of much litigation ever since. Supporters of the cross have tried numerous options to keep it there. In 2006 the federal government applied the powers of eminent domain to transfer the cross and the land underneath it from the city of San Diego to the federal government. President George W. Bush strongly supported the bill and this transfer was an effort to avoid court-ordered removal of the cross. The transfer involved listing it as a National Veterans Memorial and turning it over to the Department of Defense
The problem with that, of course, is that not all veterans are or were Christian.
Somewhere in all this mess (in 1994) some of the land at the base of the cross was purchased by a private group (the Mount Soledad Memorial Association). This, too, has been the subject of much litigation. Sometime after the purchase of the land (2002-2003) the Memorial Association had six concentric granite walls built to hold plaques memorializing service men and women.
As far as I can determine, there is still litigation going on, now at the federal level since it is no longer the City of San Diego property.
The wall on Mt. Soledad reminds me somewhat of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. although Mt. Soledad’s wall is not as stark. There are pictures, symbols, and sometimes little stories about the people being remembered and memorialized.
(TPG at the wall. Mt. Soledad. April 2008. © Robin)
A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.
~ Joseph Campbell
I hope the final resolution is one that will honor the veterans as well as their various beliefs.
Disclaimer: I used a variety of sources for the information on the cross, one of which was Wikipedia (yeah, I know, I know…but they had a good time line of the litigation events). Any mistakes are mine which I will gladly correct if you would kindly let me know about them.