Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Sadness of Disrespect

Newspaper Rock
 A few years ago, we traveled to Utah, and high on my list of places I wanted to visit was Newspaper Rock.  It is no surprise to those of you who follow this blog that I am fascinated with words--with selecting the right word to express my meaning, with arranging words beautifully, with learning new words, with watching children learn to express themselves, with respecting words enough to care about grammar.  My professions reflect that appreciation, as an English teacher, as a lawyer drafting documents, and as a writer.  Seeing the early Native American petroglyphs was, for me, like the awe I feel entering a wonderful library.  (I don't remember a fence when we were there.)

Reading about the recent vandalization of the wonderful Birthing Rock, containing markings made by various Native American groups over the past 2,500 years sickened me.  Sadly, the disrespectful destruction of such cultural heritage sites is too common.  From the simple ignorance of just wanting to add their name to the carvings without understanding the cultural significance of the ancient place, to intentional destruction and vulgarity, these damages are happening too often.

Goblin Valley State Park

In late March of 2021, a Colorado rock climber proudly posted pictures of the drilling bolts with which he had defaced the sacred petroglyphs of "Sunshine Wall" in Moab.  When other rock climbers exposed the damage he had done to the carvings, he acknowledged the severity of his thoughtlessness.  "It's just poor education on my part, and I do take full responsibility," he admitted in a magazine article.  Although his thoughtless act is a bell that cannot truly be un-rung, he did meet with BLM authorities and filled the bolt holes he had made.

Whether on Indian Lands or in National and State Parks, many of our national treasures, whether created by man or by nature, are in remote locations, difficult to constantly protect.  A few years ago, a Scout Leader, with a group of men that included one with a video camera, entered Goblin Valley and managed to destroy an ancient rock formation by toppling the goblin off the rock on which it had balanced.  He posed proudly for the videographer as he was cheered for his strength by the other men  The photographer documented this video with these thoughtless words: "A New Goblin Valley exists with this boulder down here on the bottom."

Roosevelt & Muir
Whether it is disrespect, criminal intent, ignorance, or racial hatred, irreplaceable Sacred sites and  Nature's treasures are being damaged and destroyed.  Because many of these places are found in State and National Parks, it is natural to think of two men to whom we owe a great debt for the preservation of such treasures.

Speaking in Osawatome, Kansas on August 31, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt said, "There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm.  The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value."  (Yes, it is true that Roosevelt did not always adhere to his own advice.)

The second man who devoted his life to preserving nature is John Muir, who believed, "In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks."  In speaking about our National Parks, he said, "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity."

Unfortunately, so many of us have realized Muir's necessity that in seeking the experience of nature we threaten the very wilderness we seek.  We take with us the exhaust from our vehicles, the trash from our picnics, the diapers from our babies, and the other remnants of man that our good intentions leave behind.  

In 1903, when Roosevelt spoke at the Grand Canyon, he said, "I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is.  I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon.  Leave it as it is.  You cannot improve on it.  The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.  What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see."  

Grand Canyon Skywalk
It seems that Roosevelt's wish that every American should travel to see the Grand Canyon is the one wish that has come true.  Roosevelt could not imagine today's number of visitors, nor all of the facilities necessary to accommodate the Canyon's guests.  Surely he would not have anticipated a permit given a tight rope artist to walk across the Canyon, nor the intention to reduce its size to accommodate drilling, nor a transparent horse-shoe shaped walkway to safely experience the sensation the tightrope walker must have felt, without the danger of falling.  The Grand Canyon Skywalk, with its glass walkway, now provides that very sensation of walking on air.

Muir's description that "Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn" seems not exciting enough to too many of us in our rush to be thrilled by disrupting the flow of Nature's peace with our dune buggies, carvings, hang gliders, wall climbing, and our sheer numbers.  

1 comment:

The Blog Fodder said...

The Taliban and ISIS also destroy priceless antiquities somehow believing that will please Allah. The lack of respect for history is heartbreaking. Thank you for this post.
I am going back over all your blog posts related to Isaac. I missed or have forgotten many of them. I found a website of Stafford County for 1904 with all the townships mapped and landowners named. In Albion township, I was surprised to see so many names from Isaac's time.