Bears Ears Monument — at least for now

Bears Ears
The Bears Ears National Monument takes its name from these buttes.

“They just want to tear it up with their ATVs” was the quick response I got from two people when I asked them why locals in Southeastern Utah opposed the declaration of a national monument there.

But both went on to discuss more complicated opposition to the Bears Ears National Monument, declared into being by President Obama at the end of his term – and now threatened by the new president.

Lizard

“Mostly people there just want to be left alone,” said Jason, who is married to my niece and has lived in Utah most of his life. “The lure of increased tourism won’t entice them to be favorable to the monument. They don’t want more people, more traffic – even if it means more business and more money for their community.”

Being left alone could mean being left to practice the Mormon religion as it used to be, which would include polygamy – or maybe just to run all-terrain vehicles through the pinon and juniper trees.

It’s also true, Jason pointed out, that Utah has a long history of conflict with the federal government, which once sent troops to invade the territory.

Steve, who was manning the tourist-information booth when I stopped in Blanding, Utah, added to that observation.

“Utah was one of the first in the West to apply for statehood, but the last of those to be admitted to the Union,” he said. “Utah probably had more population than California, which got in way before Utah.”

Land was taken from the Utah territory and added to other states being admitted while Utah waited.

The federal government also demanded legal changes before Utah could come in, namely the outlawing of polygamy by the Mormon church.

“And I can say that because I’m one of them,” Steve said without clarifying just exactly what he was one of.

Steve said he thought Bears Ears should remain a monument but be reduced in size.

“Locals think it a huge federal overreach – it’s bigger than Delaware!”

He said most of it was protected already, either in National Forest, by the Bureau of Land Management or as one-mile squares of state ownership. On a map, he circled what area he thought should have been given additional protection.

Later he drew around even smaller areas that he thought would have been enough. He also pointed to the three chunks of land that encompass the Bears Ears National Monument.

“They left out the uranium area there, which separated a piece of the monument off to the west. And the northern part of the monument could just have easily been protected by expanding Canyonlands National Park, which is already as big as 12 states.”

Steve said he thinks the Congress should restrict the amount of acreage a president could put into a monument.

Efforts to restrict the federal government is nothing new in this part of the world. An obituary that ran at the top of page one of the April 13-19, 2017, edition of the Moab Sun News made that clear:

“In Utah and other Western states, (Ray Tibbetts) was known as a leading figure of the Sagebrush Rebellion, a movement that sought state control over public lands and land management decisions in the late 1970s and early 1980s.”

Tibbetts, who died April 4, 2017, at age 84, was a local businessman and Grand County commissioner. Rudy Herndon wrote in the obituary that Tibbetts testified before congressional committees, opposing what he saw as federal encroachment on the sovereign rights of state and local governments to manage roads and public lands within their jurisdiction.

(But in what seems a contradiction to his general philosophy, Tibbetts helped identify places he thought should be included in Canyonlands when it was created in 1964.)

Ron Steele, a former Grand County commissioner quoted in the obituary, said Tibbetts remained active in land-use issues after his retirement – and that included giving a federal official this advice on Bears Ears: If you really want to protect the land, don’t advertise it as wilderness.

There’s an echo of that sentiment in “The Lost World of the Old Ones” by David Roberts. He explored the Bears Ears area in 1993 and stumbled on two magnificent Ancestral Puebloan ruins now known as Moon House and the Citadel.

But in the 1990s, the “secrets of Cedar Mesa were still closely guarded by a small number of cognoscenti.” You had to know someone to find them – or stumble upon them as Roberts did Moon House, which he wrote about in his earlier book, “In Search of the Old Ones: Exploring the Anasazi World of the Southwest.”

Roberts says he bears some responsibility for bringing these gems to the attention of hundreds of people today, and he bemoans the abuse some of the visitors wreak upon the fragile buildings, crawling through crumbling openings, sitting on deteriorating surfaces.

But Roberts points out that very few secrets, even in the wilds, are safe in the age of the Internet. Google a site, find a trail to it. Unless the BLM limits the number of permits issued to the site, as the agency does for Moon House now (20 a day).

Are there wilderness areas that would have been more wild if never designated as such? We’ll never know.

Are there unadvertised wild areas that remain truly wild and mostly unvisited? If so, let me know. I’d like to visit and I can keep a secret.

Given that we do live in an age where wild can’t be kept secret, these areas need all the protection we can give them.

Steve said the Bears Ears area had little potential for oil and gas, that it was mostly used for grazing cattle. If Bears Ears should end up in Utah’s control, the state would be more likely to sell it, Steve mentioned in passing,

That’s the real danger: That the land passes from federal protection to state control to private ownership that might like to test the notion that there is little potential for oil, gas and mineral development.

Would an old pile of mud bricks and clay mortar stand in the way of a Koch brothers’ oil field? Would they welcome the public to enjoy the desert and explore the past?

Give me a little federal overreach any day.

Cactus flower

Not your Sean Spicer Holocaust Center

Holocaust

(Correction: The Center has 5,000 artifacts. An earlier version had an incorrect number.)

Given that “Holocaust centers” were recently in the news, it seemed fortuitous that we already had plans to visit one.

Sean “I Slept through History Class” Spicer used the term last week to describe those places where Adolf Hitler gathered Jews for slave labor, starvation and death in gas chambers. This just after he said, “Hitler didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

He tried to explain that away by seeming to say Hitler’s use was limited to “Holocaust centers,” which brought up the bizarre image in my mind of the “Arbeit Macht Frei” iron letters at the entrance of Nazi death camps being reforged to spell out “Welcome to Dachau Center” instead.

The Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle makes it plain that not any part of the Holocaust should be forgotten, that remembering this horror might help prevent a repeat. The center has more than 5,000 artifacts (corrected from earlier version) from this slaughter of innocents by the Nazi regime in the 1930s and ‘40s. It only has enough room to display a fraction of them, but they are enough to bring home the extent of this evil.

We joined the tail end of a tour being taken by Seattle police officers, part of a diversity course being undertaken by the entire force. The tour leader of that group and then of our small party was Dee Simon, the Baral Family Executive Director.

The center has 30 Holocaust survivors who serve as speakers, telling what they suffered and witnessed, remembering the family members they lost and recounting how fortunate they were to be among the few who escaped.

Dee Simon said the center reaches 40,000 students a year in Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Montana and Idaho, states where the teaching of the Holocaust is not mandated. For 28 years, the center has been sending schools trunks filled with books, curricula and other teaching materials. Schools can keep the trunks for three weeks before returning them to be refilled and sent on. Teacher training is also provided.

While I did not know about the Seattle Holocaust Center before the invitation to visit, my interest in history has led me to enough information about the Holocaust that I hope I would never make the blunder Spicer did last week. But a couple of Simon’s comments made me aware of how little I know about the complicity of corporations and German society in the Holocaust. Simon pointed out artifacts from the death camps with the insignias of BMW and other corporations. Which makes me want to read more about this and makes me uneasy about what we Americans either don’t know or choose not to know about what is being done around the world in our names.

The Holocaust ended with the close of World War II in 1945 and many of the Holocaust survivors are passing away. Some of their speaking roles are being taken over by their children and grand children. Simon is an example of that. Her mother was the only member of her school class to survive the Holocaust.

Thanks to Dee for the excellent tour. And to Carol, who invited us and, I suspect, provided the salads for lunch. We’ll try to even things up at your Voices for Humanity Luncheons in October.

‘Vexed I am of late with passions’

Experience art – see a play, for instance – and you can see why someone who sits uneasy on the throne would like to see the National Endowment for the Arts go away. The audience might hear a line in the play and think how it applies to that someone.

“Th’ abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins remorse from power.”

Or,

“Alas, my lord, your wisdom is consumed in confidence.”

Marc
Jordan Barbour, a forceful Marc Anthony. (Photo from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival website)

And in case anyone misses the connection, the play’s director can write something in the program that might further discomfort that someone:

“A democracy in the midst of a controversial leadership transition that puts at risk society as we know it. Warring egos, where the difference between a desire to lead and a desire for power has become indistinguishable. A political divide that feels so cavernous and beyond healing that the conversation turns to violence. The world of Julius Caesar or America today? For so many of us, Brutus’ struggle about how best to protect and unite his own divided republic hits all too close to home”

Shana Cooper, the director of William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, then points out the inevitable outcome of the choice Brutus makes:

“Tragically, even Brutus, a man with integrity and a deep conscience, allows his civic love to be contorted by the conclusion that the only way to oppose a world of tyranny is with the world’s weapons. And his choice to continue the cycle of violence makes inevitable the destructive outcome of the story: a brutal civil war.“

It may be 500 years old, but this is revolutionary stuff being presented here in Ashland, Oregon, before a Tuesday afternoon theater filled mostly with high-school students on field trips. And it’s helped along by the National Endowment for the Arts, an independent federal agency that funds and promotes the arts across America.

Trump’s budget would eliminate the NEA.

For the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), that would mean losing from $100,000 to $125,000 a year, according to an email from Bill Rauch and Cynthia Rider, artistic director and executive director respectively. They say the money is used to make “our Shakespeare productions accessible for hundreds of Oregon middle and high school students.” Students receive discounted or free tickets to the plays.

“For the majority of the students, this is their first encounter with Shakespeare on stage,” Rauch and Rider write, “and the time spent at OSF is often the spark for creating a lifelong passion for theatre or even the drive to become a theatre artist.”

For the students at the Tuesday afternoon “Julius Caesar,” they saw a bold staging of Shakespeare’s drama from ancient Rome. Rodney Gardiner in a sleeveless, black T-shirt was a muscled “lean and hungry” Cassius, conniving a sports-coated Danforth Comins as Brutus to join the plot against Caesar.

Cooper stages the “brutal civil war” as a haka of knife stabbings, slashes and parries with all combatants on the stage at once, facing the audience as they pound out a seemingly never-ending, inevitable cycle of violence.

For Cooper, this depiction is not a promotion of violent civic disruption but a reminder of a better way forward.

“In Brutus, I see a reflection of our own psychological war, waged daily between the ancestral call to violence for the protection of our country and ideals, and the voice of our souls, which quietly remind us that there could be a different, more peaceful solution.”

A more peaceful solution would be more comforting for both that certain someone and for all of us. Drama demonstrates the choices – good and bad — individuals and society face. Despite the discomfort they may raise, the arts can inform those choices. Art – and the NEA — are worth keeping alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for BBQ: Big Brother Quotient

1984The sales of George Orwell’s novel “1984” are skyrocketing since Trumpf came to power, and I’m loving it. It’s one of my favorite books. He’s one of my favorite authors, and I have sentenced every college  student I have taught to hours of reading his “Politics and the English Language.”

While under the lash of my wife to clear the crap out of our house before we end up on the “Hoarders” TV show, I came across this clip of something I put together back in the real 1984. That was when I claimed that “more editors had jumped on this story idea that rats on Winston Smith’s face,” which was actually an alternative fact. The threat of having a caged rat gnaw through his face was the torture that broke Smith. So no rat jumped on Smith’s face or used it as a means of escape from the cage strapped to Smith’s face.

Why torture Smith? As the article pictured here says: “There was only one motive, illustrated by a statement by Smith’s torturer: ‘Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.'”

Smith and his lover Julia both worked for the Ministry of Truth, which was in charge of lies. They got in trouble when they tried to join a group fighting against the principles of Big Brother:

War is Peace — “It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous, war has ceased to exist.”

Freedom is Slavery — “. . .men in the mass were frail, cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves.”

Ignorance is Strength — “The masses never revolt of their own accord, and they never revolt merely because they are oppressed. Indeed, so long as they are not permitted to have standards of comparison they never even become aware that they are oppressed.”

Related to that last one is this: “Stupidity is as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.” Which may sound like double speak to you but that’s probably because you are not adept at “Doublethink . . .the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

Or maybe you have not yet become fluent in Newspeak, the official language, the purpose of which was to make unorthodox thought impossible. The attention to language may have been the most important aspect of the book for Orwell given what he says in his politics and language essay: “Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Thanks for reading my pure wind. I try to keep politics to a minimum here and you can be thankful that I have not yet read “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, or “The Plot against America” by Phillip Roth, two other books whose increased sales Trumpf will undoubtedly take credit for (“They’re YUGE!”).

Don’t be scared away. Spring is coming and I will be on the road soon. Back to writing about America’s Great Outdoors. About the Bear Ears area recently made a national monument by President Obama. About some of the 3.3 million acres of public lands the Republicans are maneuvering to sell off. About some National Parks and Scenic Rivers checking to make sure they are still a part of the legacy this generation of Americans will leave to the next.

P.S. What happens to Smith and Julia? At the end of the novel, the 40-year-old Smith has lost all his teeth (he was only missing five at the start), his hair and his love for Julia. They had made the ultimate betrayal, against each other (“Do it to Julia, not to me,” Smith yells about the rat eyeing Smith’s eyeball as an exit.) Now they love only Big Brother, which is all part of the plan: “. . . in the future there will be no wives and no friends,” says Smith’s torturer. “Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated . . . There will be no loyalty, except loyalty toward the Party.”

Have a good evening.

 

 

 

Wanna move into a cave for 4 years?

walk-in-cave
Inside Ape Cave.

In my last post, a thinly disguised recounting of 2016 adventures, I missed an important one: the Labor Day visit to Ape Cave on the southern slope of the Mount St. Helens volcano in Southwestern Washington state.

Four of us took the 1.5 mile hike through the lava tube while Kathy walked along the surface trail and met the cave explorers at the upper exit, a tight climb up a ladder to the outside.

bz-in-caveWe might have had the cave more to ourselves on a week day, but I still have friends who insist on having jobs. So we joined dozens of people who had driven up to the cave parking lot, maybe rented a lantern (we brought our own recommended three sources of light) and took either the short route that led to the “Meatball” or the longer route that we took.

It’s a popular spot, easily accessible to the public and an inexpensive way for a family to have an outdoor experience (parking is $5). Which is what I expect from the wonderful lands that have been set aside for the public to enjoy — and what I fear is most threatened by a Trump administration. Donald does not impress me as a man who relishes campfire smoke, sleeping on the ground and pooping in places where you should bury your scat (and your TP, too).

Given the names that are being floated for replacing Sally Jewell at the Department of Interior, it’s surprising that Ammon Bundy‘s name isn’t on the list. The best of the group might be Jan Brewer, former governor of Arizona, who called Hillary Clinton a “lyin’ killer,” one of the more subdued pieces of hyperbole from the GOP side in the recent presidential election.

Trump’s list of Interior Secretary candidates is filled with names of people itching to get their hands on public lands for the benefits of themselves and their ilk:

Robert E. Grady, Gryphon Investors partner;

Harold G. Hamm, Chief executive of Continental Resources, an oil and gas company;

Forrest Lucas, president of Lucas Oil Products, which manufactures automotive lubricants, additives and greases;

Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor.

There is already a movement afoot to give away federal lands, and I can’t see that these Interior Department choices will do anything but further that misguided effort.

Focusing on this one issue extremely important to me may seem selfish, but I look at it as voting my interests, which is what they say Trump supporters were doing: they also insist on having jobs, don’t want to be left behind in the slow economic recovery, don’t want to be regarded as the “fly-over” and forgotten part of our nation. Having driven 6,000 miles back and forth across the United States within the past six weeks, I can understand what it must feel like to live in a hollowed-out town where even the last-thing-to go town coffee shop sits empty among similar storefronts on Main Street (this, in the Starbucks-free Zone, made for some shaky mornings).

I’m lucky that my life in the blue bubble of Seattle is often penetrated by Facebook posts by Trump supporters from my hometown back in Ohio. I know characterizations of those friends as uneducated rural rubes in Dumbfuckistan miss the mark by, well, a country mile.

And Hillary Clinton? There was much to criticize, and the Orange Man never missed a chance to do so. She also made her own mistakes (Call him deplorable? True that. His supporters? How rude). J. Edgar Comey didn’t help.

Even with all of that, I’m having a hard time getting my head around a man who made it up as he went along, spouted whatever he thought would play to the crowd in front of him and insulted so many Americans. I also believe he has no intention of fulfilling the promises he made to his supporters (build a wall, repeal Obamacare, deport 11 million people, ban Muslims from immigrating here), which I guess I should consider a good thing since I disagree with all of it.

But the whole mess tempts me to go live in a cave for the next four years, but there might not be room.

cave-group
At the exit from Ape Cave.