Trump takes his slice to America’s lands

Bears Ears
Bears Ears

I hope you took my advice back in October when I recommended 10 places you should visit before they died. If you wanted to see Bears Ears and Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monuments without oil rigs, you should have left for Utah last night.

A man who thinks wilderness is the long grass beside a golf fairway on Monday signed orders to slice these two areas into five separate areas and reduce their size by 85 and 46 percent respectively.

Lawsuits have already been filed to challenge this largest ever reversal on protecting national lands, and it is in the courts that the best – or the worst – outcome will be determined from today’s assault on the Antiquities Act of 1906, which brought our country’s national monuments into existence.

If the slicer gets his way, then you better make plans to get to the other national monuments that were on the original gift list for the oil, gas and mining industries.

Head to Arizona and stay awhile in the Grand Canyon-Parshant National Monument. Words on its website are calling you: “solitude, isolate, expansive landscape, natural and cultural history, undeveloped landscape, journey into the wild.”

Then head south to the Ironwood Forest National Monument. Named for a tree that can live 800 years, the Monument includes the Los Robles Archeological District, the Mission of Santa Ana del Chiquiburitac and the Cocoraque Butte Archeological District, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Also in Arizona: the Sonoran Desert National Monument, offering a forest of the saguaro cacti. Every one of these signature succulents deserves protection.

Then head north into Colorado where the Canyons of the Ancients awaits. Ten thousand years of human habitation here, and a stop to see exhibits and films about the Ancestral Puebloan culture seems a must.

In Nevada, there’s the Basin and Range National Monument, where we might catch a glimpse of the wild horse herd, which ought to be given plenty of room to roam.

On to California, perhaps on the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of storied Route 66, which is in the Mojave Trails National Monument along with Native American trading routes and World War II training camps.

Six of the monuments on the original slice list were in California, so plan on a long visit there. The Pacific Crest Trail Association is fighting to make sure two of these monuments remain intact since the 2,650-mile path from Canada to Mexico passes through them. Better grab your pack and make the 30-mile trek on the trail through the desert, forest and mountains of the Sand to Snow National Monument.

You’ll need more time for the 87 miles of the PCT through the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, and you’ll probably see more people because it serves as an escape valve for nearby Los Angeles County – reason enough to protect as much as possible to give these city folks room for healthful outdoor activities.

Urban and agriculture growth has taken over most of the grassland that once covered California’s Central Valley. The Carrizo Plain National Monument protects what’s left and should remain untouched to continue doing so.

Same with the Giant Sequoia National Monument, which guards the only conifer forest where the world’s largest tree grows naturally.

Yuki, Nomlaki, Patwin, Pomo, Huchnom, Wappo, Lake Miwok and Wintum. Those are the peoples who thrived for 11,000 years in what is now California. The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument website says the 330,780 acres under protection are “dense with cultural sites.” If Secretary of the Interior Zinke and his boss get to continue their giveway this monument would inevitably leave some of these sites vulnerable.

Stinkee Zinke (that had to be his schoolyard name) said he saw no need to destroy the following national monuments, but there is one good thing you can say about the former Navy SEAL: He follows orders. Gut the national lands other have preserved, orders the slicer-in-chief, and Stinkee guts them. If the Big Cheeto gets his way on Bears Ears and Escalante, nothing is safe.

So add this to your itinerary: Plan a paddle in Washington state in the Hanford Reach National Monument – 33 miles on the last undammed stretch of the Columbia River. It’s home to migratory birds, spring wildflowers, butterflies and elk. The Monument is across the river from the off-limits Hanford Site, which produced the plutonium for the atomic bombs dropped in WWII. Let’s hope this quote on the Monument website holds true: “Born of fire and ice and flood over millions of years, preserved through the war and conflict of half a century, now protected forever.”

Heading east to Idaho for hikes in the Craters of the Moon National Monument, anywhere from a half hour to multiple days through a moonscape on Earth.

Dark Butte
Dark Butte, Upper Missouri Rivers Breaks National Monument

Last stop is in Montana at the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, which, the website says, has “remained largely unchanged in the nearly 200 years since Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled through it on their epic journey.” Future generations of paddlers and wanderers should have the chance to see the White Cliffs and surrounding lands these early Americans wrote about.

The emphasis in the Trump order and Zinke’s comments has been on local control, allowing state and local officials more say on land owned by all Americans. The lands will be opened to private extraction industries such as timber or oil and gas interests, which is most obvious in the “review” for five marine National Monuments — Marianas Trench, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Pacific Remote Islands, Papahanaumokuakea and Rose Atoll. Trump’s order entitled this section “Implementing An America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” and gives the rubber stamp to the Department of Commerce (in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior).

Those marine areas are faraway places, but Civil Beat in Honolulu has a remarkable series of stories told in words, photos and videos that can take you to one of them. Check it out at http://www.civilbeat.org/projects/the-last-wild-place/

And get traveling.

Now we’re all flying Con Air

Used to be that unless you had a condom full of hashish stuffed up your ass, you could move about this world without much stress or worry. Now anyone who tries to board a plane knows what it feels like to be a would-be drug smuggler.

The stuff might be in their shoes. Take them off. In your belt. Take it off. Your jacket, everything in your bag, your cell phone, tablet, laptop. Into the tray for X-ray. Put your feet on the footprints, hold your hands over your head for the full body scan. Might as well spread your cheeks.

Maybe making everyone feel like a criminal or an inmate at ADX is the price Americans pay to fly the non-so-friendly skies these days. It’s nice to be safe, especially at a time when everyone in the world has reason to strike out against lunatic-led countries such as North Korea, Iran and the United States. Who knows when some sane grandmother from Lichtenstein or Canada might strike out against this Axis of Weasels’?

Maybe the designated culprit will be disguised as a four-year-old, like our grandson who was pulled out of the boarding line for a second go-round with the Transportation Security Administration. The explosive might be disguised as raspberry jam, like the jar I tried to bring to a friend back home in Ohio. Or shoe polish, like that taken from Officer John, who had to wear scuffed shoes to a wedding. Or maybe in an inky jar of vanilla extract, like the one that beleaguered us as we tried to return from Mexico recently.

We cleared security as we left Oaxaca, Mexico, and again when we changed flights at the Mexico City airport. From Oaxaca to Seattle 12 hours later, we never went outside a secure area. None of that made any difference when we went through security for a third time at Salt Lake City’s airport. The TSA checkers found the three jars of vanilla extract we had purchased in the duty-free store during the stopover in Mexico City. The goods were put in a bag marked duty free and sealed with a plastic zip tie.

Not good enough, said the duty-bound rule enforcer. It has to have a tag on the zip tie that says, “Cross our hearts and hope to die, there’s no terrorist beyond this tie” or some such language.

The agent said he was sorry but he had to follow the rules.

Two choices: Surrender the vanilla extract or check another bag with it inside.

Door number three: Kathy, tired and grumpy, clobbers the agent with her handbag, sends him through the X-ray machine and starts hollering “Vanilla extract matters!” We spend the rest of our lives at ADX.

Time to step in before that door gets opened. I take the three bottles down to the Delta desk, rearrange my shoulder bag to fit them inside and check it through to Seattle despite being told it’s not regulation size. Then it was back through security for the fourth time that day.

IMG_3735.JPGYou could smell my shoulder bag before it arrived on the baggage carousel in Seattle. One of the three bottles had broken but fortunately had not brought down the plane in flight. It did turn my faithful notebook into the “Vanilla Diaries,” now has a nice aged appearance.

We’ve been reacting to the “Liquid Bomb Plot” since August 2006 when three bottle-heads in London were mercifully stopped from carrying through on plans to concoct a bomb from chemicals carried aboard separately. All three are resting uncomfortably, we can hope, in British prisons for the next 30 or so years.

But can we please make some room for common sense? Give the TSA people a little leeway to make decisions on their own? Allow passengers to taste their raspberry jam, vanilla extract or shoe polish (?!) to prove it’s the real stuff as mothers carrying breast milk have been asked to do?

Besides, in the overall scheme of things, taking my shoes off at the airport has not made the world a safer place for many people. Showing off the holes in my socks did not save the 58 people killed and the 500 wounded during a country music concert in Las Vegas. It didn’t save the 26 people killed in a shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherlin Springs, Texas, or the nine shot to death at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Or the 49 dead at the Pulse night club in Orlando, Fla., or the 14 dead at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. Or on and on and on . . .

We seem unwilling to do much to stop the terror within our borders while keeping everyone on high alert to keep out the imported variety. I’m not big on terrorism from any quarter and would cast a plague on all its sources: Akbar on your Ali-babi-ding-dong and same to our Iraqi-tacki bush wars.

Dump the fear-mongering and leave the pre-boarding jitters to those with their heads up their asses.

What I did last summer

I drove 4,974 miles across America, 1,392 kilometers around Italy, pedaled my bicycle 384 miles across Iowa, 391 miles across Nevada and paddled 85 miles on the Willamette River in Oregon – and never wrote a word about any of it.

Forum
Kathy and grandson Cole at the Foro Romanum.

Until now.

 

The time of darkness has arrived in the Pacific Northwest and I’m trying to make time to reminisce about the Madcap Schemes of 2017. Let’s start with Italy:

 

Actually, let’s start at the Heathrow Airport in London with me bitching about what I hate about flying these days. Yeah, I want to be safe, but I feel captive to sixth-century fanatics who think blowing up people advances their fantasy/religion somehow.

So at Heathrow we had to go through the whole security humiliation again and the bloke at the X-ray machine scolded me for not having my “lick-quids” properly sorted.

“Anything you can drink, any lick-quid, goes into a plastic bag by itself,” he emphasized. So my lick-quid soap, which I would never drink, got a plastic-bag home of its own away from its deodorant, razor and toothpaste friends.

And then it was on to Rome.

 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017: No one slept past 5:30 a.m. as jet lag had its grip on all of us. So we got an early start on getting Roman passes (worth it) and heading to the Foro Romanum, where we spent four hours in the hot sun and 90-degree temperatures. But well worth it.

What remains of Imperial Rome serves as a reminder of how short-lived our American experience is – 200 plus years seems pretty paltry next to the 1,000 years Rome put up as the most influential people in their part of the world, which eventually spread from northern Europe into Africa, from the British Isles into Asia. They made it roughly 500 years as a republic and then came Julius Caesar, military dictatorships, Christianity and the coming apart of Roman dominance. I could not help but wonder if our current administration will mark such a turning point.

I did not carry my cell phone and its constant barrage of news flashes, message, etc. I read the Telegraph that I bought in London, mostly for the rugby news, and Trump was not mentioned once – what a delight. The trip made obvious the obsession I have with following the course of this administration and how opposed I am to all it is trying to do – and to the disruption that is causing in my being, in my mental and emotional “life course.”

Taking a Trump dump, expelling what had been binding up my mental and political digestive system, was a great relief, although I did take note of a few things: Europeans seeing the GOP health plan as failure of Americans to take care of their own. Then there was Johnny Depp’s comments on assassinating the president. That made me sad, or just SAD!, as the illiterate would tweet. Once someone is given the spark of life and has cleared the womb, I figure no one has the right to snuff it out. Natural forces seem to do just fine in that regard without our help.

Colesium
Outside the Roman Coliseum

After the Forum, it was time for lunch and naps. We were back at it late in the afternoon, heading to the Coliseum. The section of the audio tour (recommended) on the games held at the Coliseum gives an amazing account of carnage as spectator sport. At the opening of the Coliseum (80 A.D.), 5,000 animals were killed in hunts and fights. At one time, Emperor Trajan had 10,000 gladiators fighting and 11,000 beasts hunted, fought and certainly killed. Games started in the morning, lunch included executions as a warm-up to the fight-to-the-death gladiatorial matches later in the day. Gladiators could be slaves, who might win their freedom, or Roman citizens hoping for fame, fortune and possible advancement in society. Gladiators fought twice a year, according to the recording. Military deserters were snacks for wild beasts, and prisoners were normal fare for both animals and gladiators (not implying cannibalism here).

The audio guide said that at one time, the Romans had 170 holidays a year with “games” in the Coliseum on many of them. That might have been the inspiration for author Robert Harris to have Cicero, frustrated at how many days the court would not be in session to hear a case he was presenting, say, “For pity’s sake, does nobody in this wretched town do anything except watch men and animals kill one another?” Highly recommend Harris’ historical fiction, the Cicero trilogy.

Orator
Cole, an orator in the making

 

Horse's ass
Make of this what you will

It all raised the question of how Western society went from being so open about its real life violence to the voyeuristic violence of today where we have a great appetite for depicted violence in TV, movies etc. but would mostly be appalled (I hope) if, say, Trump reintroduced public executions, which would be a sure sign that our pendulum was swinging in the same direction as ancient Rome’s.

 

 

Circus
Overlooking the Circus Maximus

In the evening, we walked past the Circus Maximus, where chariot races were held (think “Ben Hur” where Charlton Heston gets white horses, doesn’t use a whip on them and still wins the day, as we explained to grandson Cole, who had not seen the movie) and on to the Travestre area for gnocchi and bruschetta at an outdoor café. It was a long walk home, but I was happy we found our way without using GPS, relying on good old paper maps and my own perfect sense of direction to get to a point where we turned a corner and there it was, the Hotel Grifo, our hotel, adding only an hour or two to the eight we walked during our first day in Rome.

From now on, Kathy announced, we would take a cab home after 10 o’clock at night.

Tiber
Night time walk along the Tiber

 

 

 

 

 

10 places to visit before they die

Bear Ears
The remains of an ancient culture are scattered over Bears Ears National Monument.

Anyone who thought national monuments had a chance of staying intact under the Trump administration can put that notion to rest.

Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke’s report to Trump finally came out of hiding thanks to the Washington Post. Submitted in late August but kept secret until leaked in mid-September, the memorandum recommends shrinkage or management changes to seven national monuments on land and three at sea. The management changes would reduce restrictions on grazing, logging, coal mining and commercial fishing.

There is only one good outcome from Zinke’s continuing effort to turn the Interior Department into a real-estate agent for special interests: A bucket list in reverse.

Lovers of the wilds, pack your bags and visit the national monuments on Trump’s list before they die.

Get to Bears Ears National Monument quickly and rush to the Kane Gulch Ranger Station for one of the 20 daily permits issued to visit Moon House. It may be your last chance to get a photograph of the 1,000-year-old multi-story Native American ruin without an oil rig in the background.

In his interim report on Bears Ears, Zinke called for shrinking the monument’s area and separating out those “that have significant objects to be protected.” Given that there are archeological sites and fascinating rock formations in all nooks, crannies and canyons of Bears Ears, Zinke’s flawed idea would appear on a map as strands of spaghetti, missing “significant objects” that need the protection of the full area now designated as national monument.

You’ll be close to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, also in Utah and another Zinke-wrap target. Designated in 1996, it’s the largest national monument in the United States. That could change soon, so hurry to check out rock art and granaries from the ancient Anasazi and Fremont cultures as well as fossils from the end of the dinosaur era.

There are two Trump targets in New Mexico: Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces, and Rio Grande del Norte, about 12 miles northwest of Taos. La Cueva in the Organ Mountains has provided shelter dating back to 5000 B.C., but it is going to need some protection of its own to stay intact. Conservation groups and concerned citizens, get busy.

Then head west to Nevada for the Gold Butte National Monument, designated late in President Obama’s term, which was sure to make it a prime target of the man who has promised to erase all things Obama whether it makes any sense or not. Right now there’s lots of rock art and the ghost town that gives the place its name.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association has joined the fight to keep the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument whole. That’s because the 2,650-mile path from Canada to Mexico passes through it.

Hikers on the 38 miles through the monument in Oregon and California should brush up on geology: To the south are the Siskiyou Mountains, 425 million years old if a day; to the north, the younger, volcanic Cascade Range. This variety in geologic features is the basis for a wide range of habitat in the monument, including lots of trees Zinke would like to see cut down.

The Katahdin Wood and Waters in Maine is another place where Zinke would like “active timber management.” The area didn’t meet the 100,000 minimum acreage called for in Trump’s executive order seeking the monument review. But the governor of Maine, an early supporter of Trump, wanted its designation rescinded. There’s no Zinke shrinkage recommended, but commercial logging could be in the offing.

And commercial fishing would be allowed in two marine national monuments in the Pacific Ocean (Pacific Remote Islands and the Rose Atoll) as well as Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic.

The emphasis in the Trump order and Zinke’s comments has been on local control, allowing state and local officials more say on land owned by all Americans. Even opponents of the monuments concede that transferring more control of Americans’ legacy makes it more likely that the lands could be opened to private extraction industries such as timber or oil and gas interests. Which means that the Trump and Zinke charade is mainly a way of transferring national monuments to the control of multinational corporations under the false pretense of “more local control.”

Get your bags packed and start traveling.

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?

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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.

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At the exit from Ape Cave.