I write as a retired professional person who chose to live in Santa Clarita a decade ago because our daughter and grandchildren resided here and were happy with this community. Although I have been disgruntled at times by the editorial policies of The Signal, I write today because I was moved to tears by both the column and letter to the editor in today’s paper (July 29, “When Things are Ready to Go, They Go,” by Jennifer Danny; “Seeking a Response from City,” by Lisa M. McDougald). Ms. Danny takes us into her garden and shares with us the thrill of being a human being, not just a human doing. Ms. McDougald, in her remarks directed toward a public servant, Bob Kellar, exemplifies for us the meaning of being a citizen, that is, to be a responsible member of a community. I want to express my gratitude to the editors for selected these two beautiful statements, which side by side, express the two sides of what it means to be alive as a human being.
When Ms. Danny takes us into her garden she wants us to see nature that is all around us, and we are part of. The metaphor she uses to get us to see is a persimmon tree that her neighbor took great pride in, even wrapping each piece of fruit in plastic to protect it from the squirrels. After that neighbor died, his wife was concerned about what to do with the persimmons. “Leave them alone,” her other neighbor advised, “when they are ready to fall, they will.”
Maybe we human beings get so caught up in doing and making things happen, that we miss out on the pure joy of just leaving things alone, letting nature take its course, as Ms. Danny demonstrates by leaving the caterpillars alone in her garden, which eventually transform into magnificent monarch butterflies. I think it was Thoreau who said something to the effect that human beings are rich in the number of things they can leave alone.
Juxtaposed to this beautiful statement about letting go, just being quiet in nature, seeing, observing, opening our eyes to nature’s beauty, is the poignant letter of Ms. MacDougald to Mr. Kellar and the City Council, which I believe exemplifies the meaning of being a citizen in the best possible meaning of that word “citizen.” The writer of that letter, a human being, is writing to another human being — who happens to be a public “servant,” which derives from the French, server, to “serve” the public, the people. She is taking issue with Mr. Kellar and his disrespectful remarks toward the demonstrators on behalf of Black Lives Matter, and while she disagrees vehemently with him, she addresses the human being Bob Kellar with empathy and respect, hiding nothing and expressing her own truth. What an inspiring example of responsible citizenship, acknowledging her God-given (and constitutionally supported) right to speak her mind to a public official, who she happens to believe should do the right thing and resign from the City Council for not taking a stand against racism, as well as making disrespectful remarks about the demonstrators who have “organized themselves” to protest systemic racism that is killing this country. But not only does the letter-writer express empathy for Mr. Kellar, but she also demonstrates respect for the human being, at the same time repudiating his opinions, his viewpoints, his shameful attacks, his “intellectual dishonesty,” and his fellow council members for their “severe lack of communication and understanding,” for being “so out of touch with the community in their charge.”
Juxtaposed with Jennifer Danny’s gorgeous assertion that we human beings, we homo sapiens sapiens — the double “sapiens,” implying not only that we are the wise and knowing animals, but we are aware, conscious of our knowing and wisdom — are born with a beautiful nature, if we could only settle down, relax, breathe in both nature and our own; in other words, know ourselves, as Socrates said, we can become much better citizens. Which Ms. McDougald illustrates in acting on behalf of her fellow members of her community, not isolating herself in her garden with her family; by being honest and trustworthy in addressing her public officials; by advocating for those less fortunate than herself; by being respectful and empathic toward those she disagrees with; by being compassionate even toward a politician whose views are anathema to her; and, finally, by demonstrating for the rest of us what taking responsibility (being able to respond), for her own self, which enables her to respond to her fellow human beings.
David R. McCann