The State surrenders the Alamo; Run for cover

Things seemed to be going pretty well since the State of Texas exercised its authority over the Alamo and its grounds in 2011, wresting the fiefdom away from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The State was behaving so responsibly a recent Express-News editorial dared to broach recommending the City of San Antonio consider ceding its control of Alamo Plaza to the management of the state.

Those words should be retracted now.

Saturday, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is inviting an armed invasion of the grounds. Not only inviting it, but giving those bearing arms a warm welcome.

gun-poster

Sponsor DontComply.com regards taxation as “stealing,” so hold onto your wallet Commissioner Patterson. As you are paid by the state, your wallet is filled with stolen money.

Sponsor OpenCarryTexas.org actively takes a passive-aggressive approach to fulfill its purposes. One of those it proudly proclaims is to:

foster a cooperative relationship with local law enforcement in the furtherance of these goals with an eye towards preventing negative encounters.

One of the ways followers accomplish this is to set up traps for the police. One recent example was at a Starbucks in San Antonio. Three perfectly innocent gun-toting men order their coffee and park themselves at a table outside. Some customers evacuate. Several frightened patrons, much to the “surprise” of the men who just happened to be filming themselves while sipping their coffee, called police. So begins the “harassment” that has fired up the gun rights advocates:

We will all meet in San Antonio to stand up in one of the most important challenges we have had to face. This event will be a strong message to Chief McManus that we have a right to bear arms and …it will NOT be infringed. We are drawing a line in the sand on the historic land of the Alamo.

Their heroes, according to posts on DontComply’s facebook page, appear to be those who are burning police barricades in Washington. Among those joining Commissioner Patterson will be Mike Vanderboegh, who nicely blogged in advance about the plans of the San Antonio Police Department, offering advice to film everything going on for opportunities for lawsuits against not only the SAPD but “against individual officers and the entire chain of command individually as well as the city who failed to properly train, supervise, etc….”

Way to go, boys. You really know how to make the police feel all warm and fuzzy about you and your cause.

Another object of sponsor Open Carry Texas is:

to condition Texans to feel safe around law-abiding citizens that choose to carry them (rifles and shotguns).

Hint, placing a powder keg in front of the Alamo is not a way to forward that goal.

Oh, I know what the organizers are going to say: “Don’t worry, the matches are in the other pocket.”

But the attendees will all have matches, and, from the tweets chirping on twitter, it sounds as though some of the attendees might not mind provoking police.

While it might be a Texan’s right to carry a rifle, won’t the demonstrators be breaking Texas law by amassing an army of armed civilians in the middle of a cosmopolitan area? What are they hunting, pigeons?

Organizers can plead they are not “calculating to alarm,” but I beg to differ. Ask the spouse of a San Antonio police officer heading to work on Saturday morning if he or she is alarmed. Ask me. I am totally frightened of those who would gather armed in a public park, at a state monument frequented by families with children. I wouldn’t set foot within two blocks of Alamo Plaza on Saturday with a bullet-proof vest.

As for the Land Commissioner opening the grounds of the Alamo to welcome the armed demonstration, I am appalled. He is essentially shutting down the Alamo and its grounds to anyone worried about people slinging guns around their children.

And what kind of precedent does it set for future gatherings? Seems as though most any group might as well apply to gather in front of the Alamo now.

I don’t think I’m ready to say bring back the Daughters, but Commissioner Patterson’s participation in baiting the San Antonio Police Department is dangerously irresponsible.

Update on October 17, 2013:

Commissioner Patterson does not seem to comprehend how alarming the scenario he is endorsing is to anyone who follows current events. He is living in a fantasy Leave-It-To-Beaver world leftover from his childhood when he could put on a coonskin cap and carry a gun to school for show-and-tell. What would he think if one of his children were watching a Disney movie at the local theatre and a man carrying a shotgun came in and sat down beside her or him?

Anyway, I’ll leave it to him to make his case. These are his own misguided thoughts as published in The Bay Area Citizen:

Patterson: Standing up for liberty at the Alamo is Texas tradition

By Jerry Patterson Texas Land Commissioner

AUSTIN — The last time hundreds of Texans showed up at the Alamo with rifles, they were hailed as heroes in their stand against a tyrannical government.

Texas — and Texans — have changed a lot since then. But the fundamental, Constitutional right to keep and bear arms has not.

The main goal of today’s rally at the Alamo is simple: The peaceful exercise of a right we fear losing. It is legal, after all, to carry a long gun in Texas. Despite that fact, there are those who would claim otherwise under color of law. Today’s demonstration is expression of that right, plain and simple.

It should be noted, San Antonio’s city council has declared they will not enforce the city’s unconstitutional ordinance prohibiting any person other than police or security officers from carrying a firearm within the city limits at a public event. They know they would lose any challenge to an arrest made under such city ordinance in a court of law. So in that respect, today’s Second Amendment exercise has already been successful.

But a more subtle goal of today’s gathering is one largely been lost in the media hype surrounding it, and that is the effect such a rally might have to help normalize the sight of an armed citizen.

The fact that many Texans only feel comfortable with police carrying guns isn’t normal, historically speaking. Armed citizens shouldn’t be alarming in a free society.

It wasn’t always so. I can remember bringing an old, Civil War-era muzzle-loader I had gotten for Christmas to Hartman Junior High School in Houston for show and tell. Instead of causing a lock-down and a S.W.A.T. response, it elicited the ohhs and ahhs of other kids who got an impromptu lesson in gun safety and history. Nothing, in my opinion, could be more normal than that.

By agreeing to speak to this rally at the Alamo today, I am doing what I think is best to ease the fear that has gripped our state and our nation when it comes to guns. Texans — and Americans in general — shouldn’t be defined by our fears but by our freedoms. We are stronger than that.

He’s looking for a campaign photo op, but here’s hoping this line in the sand proves to be Jerry Patterson’s quicksand.

Sporting a San Anto medal just in case

Blessed be the eternal God; for the fishes of the sea honour him more than men without faith, and animals without reason listen to his word with greater attention than sinful heretics.

St. Anthony on the river

St. Anthony on the river

It is said that on that day, June 13, 2013, the fish gathered around him.

With great expectations, they gazed upward.

So many fish bobbed in the waters of the San Antonio River, barge traffic was halted.

The fish waited and waited to hear words of tribute. They waited for sounds of great celebration.

You probably think I am referring to the honkers, the ones who exuberantly circle the streets of downtown just above St. Anthony’s head whenever the Spurs are victorious.

Which they were not doing on June 13, the Feast Day of San Antonio de Padua, the patron saint of San Antonio.

Yes, the Spurs seemed lost. And, he, the patron saint of lost things, was all but ignored. Save by the fish.

St. Anthony, St. Anthony
Turn around.
I’ve lost something
That can’t be found.

Not everyone ignores St. Anthony.

What’s wrong with this video? It’s from Boston.

"Mission San Antonio de Valero Missing," digital collage by Gayle Brennan Spencer

“Mission San Antonio de Valero Missing,” digital collage by Gayle Brennan Spencer. Visit http://postscardssanantonio.com.

This festival does not take place here. In this city. In front of his mission.

St. Anthony is not vengeful. Surely the Spurs’ loss was mere coincidence. If saints interceded in sports, would St. Anthony have looked down more kindly on the team of his namesake city or the Celtics?

After all, here, in the heart of his city, we are in danger of losing even his mission. Mission San Antonio de Valero. But it’s rarely called by its proper name. You probably know it as the Alamo.

For a while, there was a spark of hope for an emerging celebration of our patron saint. An artist, Rolando Briseno, sought attention for the overlooked day on the calendar.

Flippin' San Antonio Fiesta 2011

Flippin’ San Antonio Fiesta 2011

He brought us a Flippin’ San Alamo Fiesta and a Flippin’ San Antonio Fiesta on June 13 a while back. An emerging grand Fiesta Patronal seemed on the horizon for future years.

But, alas, this year on the Feast Day of St. Anthony, the artist instead submitted a commentary to the San Antonio Express-News.

In this published piece, Briseno explains the rationale behind his earlier fiestas:

Tejanos, the first European/mestizo settlers of Texas and builders of the Alamo, and Latinos in general do not feel welcome at the Alamo today because the narrative has been spun into one of Anglo hegemony….

Little by little, over time, the Tejano role has been written out of the history books. Now that the Daughters of the Republic of Texas are no longer in control of the narrative at the Alamo, I’m among many who hope the Tejano contributions will be given just representation.

But Briseno has faith in the great state of Texas to rectify this, so there was no grand Fiesta Patronal:

I am not performing “Spinning San Antonio Fiesta” this year because Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, the new caretaker, has stated that he would like to change the Alamo’s narrative to be more inclusive.

This could make the Alamo a place where all people can go to leave behind discord and contemplate the convergence of cultures, and this, in turn, will make for a more harmonious future. That’s an ideal worth making a shrine for.

He’s right about the ideal. But I fear he is overly optimistic in his expectations of the commissioner.

There is much pressure building among the Alamobsessive to make Alamo Plaza a shrine to one day in history. And that day is not June 13.

Unlike Briseno, I fear that moment in 1836 will conquer the layers upon layers of history of great importance to our city that the plaza represents, both before and after the battle.

I’m not debating the historical importance of March 6, 1836, the Battle of the Alamo.

I’m not demeaning the sacrifices of those who perished in the battle, whether Mexicans or Texians. My dreams of Davy Crockett go way back.

And I do think millions who head to the plaza annually would benefit from better interpretation of that event on site.

But, I wonder whether the heroes of the day would want that moment in time frozen, the moment they were shot or impaled upon a bayonet.

If you were killed in a war, would you want those left behind to focus on the exact second the last drop of blood gushed from your body? Would you want them to visit that spot over and over and over, reliving your dramatic departure?

Or would you want them to remember what went on before, while you were alive?

And would you want to feel your sacrifice was worthwhile? Instead of being a static war memorial, would you want the plaza where you died returned to a place of life in the heart of a city filled with exuberant celebrations?

Briseno might be breathing easier, but I think it’s premature.

san-antoAs there is yet a Fiesta Patronal, I think some of us better don a St. Anthony medal if we want the story of Mission San Antonio de Valero to be found.

And, maybe, just maybe, it’s a good idea to go buy one before the play-off game tonight.

That way, at least the fish will hear honkers celebrating above St. Anthony’s head.

Go Spurs, Go!candle

Post-Game Update on June 19, 2013:

Maybe medals alone are not potent enough.

Time to ignite the power of a St. Anthony candle for Thursday night.

And, if we are not going to have a festival in his honor in San Antonio, I sure wish I could spend his feast day in his birthplace, Lisbon.

Pre-Game Update on June 20, 2013:

From “Nuns calling on the fan upstairs: For the naysayers who think Spurs don’t have a prayers” by Abe Levy in this morning’s San Antonio Express-News:

Would you deny the prayer of Sister Rosalba Garcia, 85?

A Spurs flag flutters from her walker next to a Spurs Coyote doll. On her closet door are team photos and a poster of her all-time favorite player, Manu Ginobili, next to a portrait of Sister Mary Mazzarello, the Salesians’ cofounder.

The photos accompanying this story are priceless.

Bob Owen photograph in San Antonio Express-News, June 20, 2013

Bob Owen photograph in San Antonio Express-News, June 20, 2013

How would you feel about the Alamo with a crewcut?

The treatment of the Alamo on the frontispiece of San Antonio, a 1913 “Descriptive View Book in Colors” – a birthday present from a friend – caught my eye with its unusually frank acknowledgement of the major alteration of the facade of the former Mission San Antonio de Valero.

The frontispiece of this booklet showed the Alamo with the added architectural frontispiece removed.

The distinguished curving outline of the facade has become a symbol not only of the battle that took place there in 1836, but of the city itself. The widely replicated outline, commercialized into many a business logo, is recognized worldwide. 

But the distinctive parapet was not part of the original church built nearly 300 years ago; nor was it there during the famous battle in 1836.

According to the Handbook of Texas Online, the curvilinear addition is thought to have been the brainchild of an architect and builder by the name of John M. Friese, who designed the Menger Hotel next door to the Alamo a few years later. Friese’s client was the United States Army, which was renting the former mission from the Catholic Church. The project fell under the supervision of Major Edwin Burr Babbitt, assistant quartermaster for the post. According to the Handbook, Major Babbitt actually wanted to tear the Alamo down and erect a completely new building. General Thomas S. Jesup vetoed that idea, fortunately for today’s tourism industry, and the parapet was added in 1850 as part of the adaptation of the building for the Army’s needs.

Through the years, many changes have taken place on the plaza in front of the Alamo, the plaza that was enclosed by crumbling mission walls at the time of the battle.

A group has emerged with plans to recapture those grounds from the city that has encroached upon them. The Texas History Center at Alamo Plaza, Inc., has developed elaborate presentations for what it calls the Alamo Restoration Project.

The stated goal of this proposed project is:

to enhance the visitor’s pilgrimage to the “Cradle of Texas Liberty” by providing a historic atmosphere for personal reflection, inspiration, and learning. We encourage people to seek out their heritage, explore the rich and diverse history of the region, and immerse themselves with the texture of the past.

While this sounds noble on the surface, there are some who think the part of this site’s “heritage” and “diverse history” that is more important than a lost battle might be its much earlier role as a mission outpost.

Another major issue is the problem of a historic landmark built atop of the original western wall of the mission compound. The handsome Crockett Block, designed by architect Alfred Giles, was built only 30 years after the Army added the parapet to the Alamo. The project’s plan is to simply move the massive building, as The Fairmount was relocated in 1985.

What would be left would be a huge open footprint of the grounds at the time of the 1836 battle, but what I see is hot. There are just not many days of the year where people are going to want to stand in the middle of a treeless, shadeless plaza contemplating the battle. Five minutes in the middle of the plaza on a day like today would be more than enough to make one pray for the return of the raspa vendors.

To accomplish this restoration project would mean major battles with not just the Daughters of the Republic of Texas but also with the yellow-hatted ladies of the Battle of Flowers Association, whose parade has a strong historical connection to Alamo Plaza.

While there are pictures on the group’s website showing the Alamo without the added parapet, there is nothing written online that I see calling for its removal. But, to be true to the group’s goals, it obviously should be.

Calling attention to the need for better treatment and interpretation of our most famous tourist site is worthwhile, but stripping the area back to the battle era seems extreme.

And, would San Antonians ever be willing to let go of that distinctive frontispiece for an Alamo with a crewcut? If nothing else above were, those seem like fighting words to me.