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Challenging a California legacy

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Melissa Betsy Lau, Editorial Director

Melissa Betsy Lau, Editorial Director

For the past 21 years, I have lived by a morbid human graveyard where hundreds were tortured and shamelessly slaughtered.

Busloads of students and tourists visit the site with smiles on their faces, excitement in their eyes and cameras in their hands.

And for the past 21 years, I have received my ashes there, symbolic of the start of Lent. This year, however, I refused to walk reverently into a disrespected cemetery disguised as a sanctuary.

How can people praise God in a structure oozing the history of inhumane torture, enslavement and slaughter?

Having attended private, Catholic school, product of a California Mission, from kindergarten through high school, I have heard countless attempts to explain the worthiness and virtuousness of the church.

In the fourth grade, I studied the legacy of the California Missions. I was told how beautiful the structures were and how significant they were.

Students should be encouraged to study the entire truth, the fact that Native Americans had a choice: the choice of becoming slaves to build a shrine for a God with no existence to them or to be murdered while defending their freedom as human beings and individuals.

Why is it that fourth graders are never directed to study how missionaries threw Native American infants into cactus plants until their parents confessed the location of those who escaped.

If you saw a work of art, but knew that the process of its construction required the genocide of innocent people, would you still consider it a work of art?

Not to dwell on the past and the mistakes made by our senseless, ignorant forefathers, but the tainted blood from those mistakes has obviously trickled down to our generation.

Post September 11th paranoia lingered with myths of Islamic practices rooted in violence, in convenient forgetfulness that our own, although Christian-founded, country was established through a neatly-packaged concept called Manifest Destiny.

And to think that the church, considered canonizing Junipero Serra, the one who allowed the torture of these Natives?

Over time, I wonder how some Catholics can walk into a church, specifically a Mission, to practice a religion with such a violent past.

Melissa Betsy Lau, a senior journalism major, is editorial director and copy chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at lachicanachinita@yahoo.com.

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