I have always believed in looking to the past to find ways of dealing with the present. That is why I have been impressed by the way in which Winter Park’s anti-preservationist (AP) forces have employed the tactics of fear to cope with the issue of historic preservation.
This method has been employed successfully throughout American history by groups who discover that some evil force is threatening the American-way-of-life-as-we-know-it. Such groups regard the tactics of fear as the only course of action in the face of apocalypse.
Historically the tactics of fear have followed a well-established pattern. First the prime movers discover a conspiracy that poses imminent danger to the structure of society. They publicize it as a threat to the American-way-of-life-as-we-know-it. They marshal opposition to stamp out the evil force.
Given the gravity of the threat, no method is unacceptable. Misstatement, fabrication, even character assassination are all permitted. No compromise is allowed, because that would be to placate a demonic force.
The tactics of fear were effectively employed by early Puritans when they discovered the Devil had materialized in Salem, Massachusetts, in the guise of witches. We all know how the Puritans dealt with that fearful danger.
The tactics of fear were used throughout the 19th century to crush demonic forces that threatened the American-way-of-life-as-we-know-it. In the 20th century, patriotic groups (with a little help from the government) twice saved the American-way-of-life-as-we-know-it. In the 1920s, and again in the 1950s, the tactics of fear prevented a Communist takeover of our government.
Present day APs have discovered demons lurking right here in Winter Park. The demons have possessed the bodies of Historic Preservationists. These preservationist demons are campaigning for a stronger historic preservation ordinance which, say the APs, would destroy our very birthright of freedom and property rights, transforming Winter Park into an authoritarian village.
The apocalypse could begin right here in Winter Park. If historic preservation happens here, it can happen anywhere, signaling the demise of the American-way-of-life-as-we-know-it.
But we may be saved from the apocalypse by a couple of local APs who have awakened our normally somnolent populace to the possible destruction of the American-way-of-life-as-we-know-it.
They have wrested control of the Historic Preservation Board and are ready to move on to the City Commission. If we judge by their recent performance, they will reveal to the Commissioners how the Historic Preservation demons will deprive us of our sacred property rights and other freedoms—unmentioned—and ultimately end the American-way-of-life-as-we-know-it.
I might suggest that, to be consistent, the APs employ one of Senator McCarthy’s most effective techniques–wave a sheet of paper in front of the Commissioners and threaten to name names.
“I have here in my hand the names of 250 card-carrying Historic Preservationists who are still practicing their sorcery throughout our fair city. They are threatening to destroy the American-way-of-life-as-we-know-it.”
[Note to APs: Don’t forget to destroy the paper afterwards.]
That could be a winner with some of our Commissioners.
Editor’s Note: Jack C. Lane, a 50-year resident of Winter Park, is Professor Emeritus of Rollins College where he once headed the History Department. He lives in Virginia Heights which, he remarked, has gone from being a potentially designated historic district to being a fully certified McMansion magnet. “Now that’s proving to be the American-way-of-life-as-we-know-it in Winter Park,” said Lane, “a city that describes itself as possessing ‘. . . a unique character due to its historic architecture as reflected in its vibrant downtown, gracious neighborhoods and landmark buildings.’ ”