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Hate symbol or Buddhist emblem? Hidden Villa cancels summer camps for 1,000 kids after staffers resign over swastika tiles

Original post made on Jun 14, 2022

Hidden Villa canceled all of its summer camp sessions due to the “abrupt departure” of camp staff members upset over the nonprofit's handling of complaints about decorative tiles with Buddhist swastikas on the historic Duveneck House.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, June 13, 2022, 5:53 PM

Comments (23)

Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 14, 2022 at 10:31 am

Joseph E. Davis is a registered user.

Does nobody understand that these symbols have meanings in different cultures that have nothing to do with Nazism? This whole thing is absurd. Any upset staffers should have been told firmly to stop complaining, and if they didn't listen, to take their services elsewhere.

Posted by Jonathan Leblang
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 14, 2022 at 12:30 pm

Jonathan Leblang is a registered user.

Context and education are key. A cross, set ablaze, is a symbol of hate. A cross, on a church, is a symbol of peace. In the same way, a swastika, in the position depicted (mirror image of the Nazi symbol) is a religious symbol. A swastika, spray-painted on a house, school, or temple, or on a red flag, is a symbol of hate.

Posted by JohnLKoenig
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2022 at 12:40 pm

JohnLKoenig is a registered user.

It's so sad that 1,000 kids lose a chance at summer camp due to ignorance and self-centered feelings that something is directed at you. The Hindu swastika is different than the nazi swastika - they go in different directions. How do you think the Hindus feel about the way you react to their symbol?

Posted by John R. Ellis
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jun 14, 2022 at 12:43 pm

John R. Ellis is a registered user.

Note that the swastika in the photos above points in the opposite direction from the Nazi swastika. I encourage everyone to read this article on swastikas:
Web Link

"The swastika symbol, 卐 or 卍, is an ancient religious symbol, predominantly in various Eurasian, as well as some African and American cultures, now also widely recognized for its appropriation by the Nazi Party and by neo-Nazis.[1][2] It continues to be used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.[3][4][5][6][1] It generally takes the form of a cross,[A] the arms of which are of equal length and perpendicular to the adjacent arms, each bent midway at a right angle.[8][9] ... the swastika remains a symbol of good luck and prosperity in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain countries such as Nepal, India, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, China and Japan, and by some peoples, such as the Navajo people of the Southwest United States. It is also commonly used in Hindu marriage ceremonies and Diwali celebrations."

So much for tolerance and diversity...

Posted by Jon Castor
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Jun 14, 2022 at 12:57 pm

Jon Castor is a registered user.

It’s really too bad that this wasn’t the outcome: “educational signage to contextualize the tiles”. Now everyone loses.

Posted by menlo parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 14, 2022 at 12:58 pm

menlo parent is a registered user.

Willful ignorance on the part of the staff members. Shameful.

Posted by Frozen
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 14, 2022 at 2:04 pm

Frozen is a registered user.

I am sad to see so many of you bashing the staff for taking a principled stand.

The tiles should have come down as soon as they were noticed. The origin of the symbol and the orientation of the arms are both irrelevant: for most of us, the swastika represents horrific acts of genocide that occurred within the memory of millions still alive today.

To say "it was nothing, get over it" reeks of white privilege. It is also disrespectful to the tens of millions of Jews, Roma, Catholics, and Polish political prisoners whose lives were lost or forever damaged by the regime represented by the swastika. And to the children and grandchildren of the survivors, who still bear the scars.

Thanks to the "mostly white kids" whose voices were finally heard by management. I'm sorry that management was so focused on the reputation of the Duvenecks that it scoffed at the very real concerns raised.

Posted by D. B. Carlson
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Jun 14, 2022 at 3:11 pm

D. B. Carlson is a registered user.

One might hope that administration's 1st reaction would have been to gather staff & discuss. A reasonable course might have been to cover rather than remove the tiles while a script was developed to explain their origin, meaning in pre-Nazi cultures, & the Duveneks' reasons for using them as decoration. Such a script might then have been used to discuss with children, early in the camp session, this symbol and others: cross, flag, "scales" of justice, scouting insignia - used in different parts of the world. Words matter; so do symbols. Understanding their history, use and context broadens our perspective and our understanding. This was an opportunity lost, a teachable moment missed.

Posted by Soccer mom
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 14, 2022 at 4:08 pm

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Totally agree with all who say this is a lost opportunity for education. Without education, context is lost and these "triggered events" will continue to occur throughout time -- wiping away history and opportunities to learn from context. A vicious circle.

I am growing weary of the current tendency to seek outrage. The camp staff may think they are taking a principled stand but really they are showing their lack of education, inflexibility, and intolerance, which is summarized in this piece from the letter: “We are not comfortable educating children in proximity to this symbol of hate.” People, THIS IS when you want to educate. Teach the history of the symbol, teach the differences in its portrayal, teach that one can encounter this symbol in different contexts, teach tolerance, teach debate.

Posted by CyberVoter
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 14, 2022 at 4:26 pm

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This is all very sad! All sides appear to have handled the situation poorly! Management appears to have taken the rational & educational approach - but they moved too slowly & timidly.

Mr. James should have "moved on" quickly if he didn't accept the outcome. Instead, he waited until his departure would have the most negative impact on the institution. He destroyed the opportunities for children to learn this summer due to his personal goals!

Posted by John R. Ellis
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jun 14, 2022 at 5:18 pm

John R. Ellis is a registered user.

How is it “white privilege” to observe that the swastika continues to have significant meaning to hundreds of millions of non-white people across the world? And that meaning predates and survives the Nazi appropriation of the symbol. I’m sure many of the kids scheduled to attend the camp are from families sharing such cultural heritage.

No one here is saying this episode “was nothing” – to the contrary, many of us think that there was a lost opportunity to educate the kids and staff about true cultural diversity.

Posted by John R. Ellis
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jun 14, 2022 at 5:19 pm

John R. Ellis is a registered user.

Posted by Frozen
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 14, 2022 at 5:32 pm

Frozen is a registered user.

Anti-Semitism runs deep in this community.

By the logic expressed by most of you, the Confederate statues and monuments should never have been taken down but rather, augmented by placards explaining their provenance. We can overlook any heinous act if it can be reframed as a teachable moment.

Posted by Menlo resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 14, 2022 at 5:40 pm

Menlo resident is a registered user.

My wife and I are Jewish: she is the child of Holocaust survivors, and many of our relatives were murdered in the Holocaust. Nevertheless, Buddhist symbols that have no relation to Nazism are not at all disturbing. People can readily learn of an object's context and view it accordingly. It is the intended use of something that matters: as philosopher Gilles Deleuze said, "A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window."

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 14, 2022 at 6:04 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

I don't understand the problem. The symbols are Buddhist not Nazi. The article makes this clear. The Nazi swastika goes in the opposite direction of the Buddhist symbol. How then, when the symbol is Buddhist and not Nazi, can it be considered "hateful". Context is everything. It's a shame that time wasn't taken to educate the uneducated about the symbol they were looking at and misidentifying.

Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 14, 2022 at 7:15 pm

Alan is a registered user.

"A cross, set ablaze, is a symbol of hate. A cross, on a church, is a symbol of peace." That's actually a more interesting example. A cross is not merely a symbol, but literally a torture instrument. It became a profound symbol of peace in Christian belief, because Jesus, faced with death on the cross, responded with forgiveness and grace. A non-Christian, faced with an over-zealous believer wearing a cross, may have a very negative reaction to it, because they just associate it with overbearing people - nothing to do with physical torture or grace. Furthermore, the use of cross has become so common as jewelry in popular culture, people wear it because it is perceived as stylish, with no context as a religious symbol, a torture instrument, or a warning signal of unsolicited religious advocacy.

Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 14, 2022 at 8:11 pm

Enough is a registered user.

"Anti-Semitism runs deep in this community."

I would argue that it is more ignorance than anti-semitism at the root of this issue. Sure the Nazi's appropriated an ancient symbol, actually more than one, to be a symbol for their cause. Should that wipe out thousands of years of meaning for a cultural group that used it long before Facist Germany? I don't believe so. You mention the confederate flag in comparison, can you tell us what group used this flag, or a very close derivative, prior to the confederacy? What other meaning did it have prior to the md 1800's.

People who are not willing to understand that symbols and beliefs have history and meaning beyond their limited understand are doing everyone an injustice. This would have made a great opportunity to educate people on the historic meaning of the symbol long before the Nazi's took it and twisted it. It is always better to open peoples minds than to shutter them. Pulling the symbol and the understanding of the history of it is like burning a book because you find the contents offensive.

Posted by John R. Ellis
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jun 14, 2022 at 9:27 pm

John R. Ellis is a registered user.

So instead of tainted by white privilege, this discussion is now antisemitic? If anything, giving Nazis exclusive cultural ownership of the swastika is anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist, anti-Jainism, anti-Navajo, etc.

Posted by JS
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 14, 2022 at 11:54 pm

JS is a registered user.

My daughter's summer camp was ruined because of three tiny tiles that had never bothered anyone for almost a century? .It would be hilarious if it wasn't also so sad.

Posted by matt from the block
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jun 17, 2022 at 7:40 am

matt from the block is a registered user.

This entire “controversy” is a perfect example of why so many people - not just Trumpers - are fed up. We literally canceled summer camp for 1000(!) kids bc a few hysterical, uneducated people couldn’t or wouldn’t bother to learn the history and true meaning of these symbols.

And their “principled stand” to remove the scourge of 3 tiles that predate Hitler by decades … well that ends up offending millions and millions of people of color who actually revere those symbols.

Like previous posters said, it would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad.

Posted by Menlo Park Mom
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jun 17, 2022 at 5:58 pm

Menlo Park Mom is a registered user.

Former teacher, raising inter-faith kids. I think if the Duveneks were alive today, they may have held an informative talk from a local expert (Stanford or the Asian Art Museum) for board and staff. After some further thought and discussion, I imagine they would have wanted a board and staff joint (or whole community) vote. I could imagine Josephine teaching the kids about it, too, and allowing them to vote. The conclusion to remove it may have been the same, but I think the decision would have been more informed and less emotional. The fact that the leadership was in transition during this time, added to the challenges of resolving the issue in a timely manner, and the unfortunate fall-out. It is too bad that the children and families will miss the summer programming, but I am confident that Hidden Villa will recover and move forward.

Posted by GK
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2022 at 8:08 am

GK is a registered user.

There is more to this story. Hitler wrote Mein Kampf (My Struggle) while he was in a German prison. In the entire book, there is not a single instance where Hitler used the word Swastika. He always used the word Hakenkruez. No where in Nazi literature was there any reference to the word Swastika. Jewish organizations, scholars, publications and the mainstream media in the English speaking world as well the rest of the world used words like Hakenkreuz or Hooked Cross to identify the origin of the appropriated Nazi symbol. Swastika was never in the picture.

2 billion followers of Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain and Indigenous traditions have used the Swastika for more than 11,000 years of recorded history. Today, just like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the Dharmic traditions are not localized in Asia. We are everywhere. There is a need to differentiate the Swastika from the Hooked Cross (Hakenkreuz), a uniquely German symbol inspired by its Christian ethos. There is a need to set the record straight, heal the wounds of the past and combat hatred everywhere it raises its ugly head. But an innocent and auspicisious symbol, loved by the entire world for millenia, should not be the casualty of poor scholarship, irresponsible journalism and blind belief. I urge my fellow Americans to rise up against hate, while being firmly rooted in TRUTH.

Posted by Robin
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 9, 2022 at 11:00 am

Robin is a registered user.

What an provocative conversation! I can see merit on both sides: intention to protect children on the part of the staff, common sense from the Board (3 small tiles1!) and great patience on Mr. James' part. I am sorry to hear that the staff reacted so strongly to a tiny part of the facility, that the Board did not act sooner and more decisively and very sorry that Mr. James felt that his voice was dismissed. We are still a community that values children, individual principle and Hidden Villa. Can we move on from here in mutual respect? FYI, the symbol was also used in Greek architecture reversed from the Nazi usage, as a "meander", but I wouldn't expect anyone but an Art History major to know that.

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