All along the watchtower, neo-Gothic angels keep the view…
An inscription beneath reads: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
But few people look up and notice. Fewer still know that before this magnificent edifice was the Park Plaza Hotel it was the Los Angeles headquarters of the Fraternal Order of Elks. The Elks are one of those old school American organizations which require membership based on ‘good moral character’, belief in God and explicit rejection of the Communist Party. The landmark Lodge 99 was designed in 1925 by Claud Beelman and hosted Olympic indoor swimming events.
The Elks sold the building due to shrinking attendance. It’s now a hotel in name only that rents out for swanky weddings and film shoots.
Across the street, in Macarthur Park, is a monument to the Hungarian Uprising. Few people know (and the plaque at the base of the memorial makes no mention of it) the Uprising was against a Communist regime, backed by Soviet Union. Much of the resistance was undertaken by Christians and they were crushed without mercy. The crackdown was supported here in America by the Worker’s World Party, which later supported the Chinese government suppression of democracy in Tiananmen Square. The WWP is known today as the ANSWER Coalition, organizer of many anti-War and Occupy Wall Street rallies and marches.
Some of which have been held in….Macarthur Park.
Few today remember Douglas Macarthur was the Commander in Chief of the Pacific and would-be savior of North Korea. Sixty years after he was relieved of command by President Truman, North Koreans are still living in darkness, literally. They’re three inches shorter than their brethren to the south, and possession of a Bible is punishable by hard labor. Life in a prison camp north of the 38th Parallel is….abridged, and that’s a mixed blessing.
After the war many Korean refugees came to Los Angeles and settled near Macarthur Park, namesake of their liberation.
This isn’t intended to be a political blog…but it’s remarkable how much history one can absorb in a single walk if you take pictures and read inscriptions. In fact as I was doing so, a van promoting a North Korean rescue organization rolled past and I was reminded of my friend Henny. Specifically her father, who as a young boy was placed into an execution line by the Communists. He took a bullet to the chest, woke an hour later, gravely wounded but alive, and staggered back to his village and found his mother in the church where she had been praying continuously since he was taken. He went on to have three daughters and own several convenience stores in Downey.
Not far off, I encountered three street preachers, busking beneath the shade trees to a small audience of derelicts. They were undeterred, and I felt regret for missing mass this morning.
The only edifice which matters at the end, the one which lasts, is the Word we carry in our hearts. Even the magnificat of Notre Dame will slowly empty of the faithful and become a way station for tourists. The Word endures, even when the material world is reduced to a prisoner and a guard standing together in a labor camp scratching a cross in the dust with a stick. Time and tide will sweep the labor camp away, but as long as we continue to gather in his name, if only under a tree, the Word will reach the grandchildren.