As I’m sure you’re all well aware of, we’re fast approaching the 31st anniversary of a momentous American victory—a military operation that not only warmed Ronald Raygun’s cold, cold heart but was also deemed film-worthy by the former mayor of Carmel, California.
Yes, of course, I’m talking about the Oct. 25, 1983, “liberation” of Grenada.
(Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism can be ordered here.)
“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”
“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”
“Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.”
“Set patterns, incapable of adaptability, of pliability, only offer a better cage. Truth is outside of all patterns.”
“Using no way as way. Having no limitation as your only limitation.”
“The man who is really serious, with the urge to find out what truth is, has no style at all. He lives only in what is.”
(pardon the patriarchy)
Let’s say it’s 1927 and you’re looking for a place to carve a giant sculpture to increase tourism to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Why not opt for Mount Rushmore, located in an area seized from the Lakota tribe after the Great Sioux War of 1876 (despite the fact that the 1968 Treaty of Fort Laramie granted the Black Hills to the Lakota in perpetuity)?
The Lakota called this mountain Six Grandfathers but it was spontaneously renamed after Charles E. Rushmore (a prominent New York lawyer) during one of his “big game hunting” expeditions in 1884.
Once you’ve settled on the renamed stolen land, the only question left is this: Which founding and famous faces shall be sculpted into 60-feet high tourist traps? I say it’s best to just let the top candidates speak for themselves:
- George Washington: “Indians and wolves are both beasts of prey, tho’ they differ in shape.”
- Thomas Jefferson: “If ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the Mississippi… in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy them all.”
- Abraham Lincoln: “There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”
- Teddy Roosevelt: “Democracy has justified itself by keeping for the white race the best portions of the earth’s surface.”
Sounds like the ideal choices to have their white faces mar the sacred landscape of an indigenous culture—all in the name of tourism!
Postscript (suggestion?): In 1971, members of the American Indian Movement led an occupation of the monument and renamed it “Mount Crazy Horse.”
Each fall, even the most nature-oblivious humans can’t help but notice—and likely marvel—as the leaves turn. Here in New York City, many folks will go as far as driving up north to New England solely to witness the spectacular shades of ginger, auburn, gold, and crimson. This annual phase of nature presages both the colder weather and the shopping day countdown that lurk in our not so distant future.
Speaking of looming holiday season consumerism, as you try to remember where you parked your SUV in that crowded shopping mall parking lot, gaze upward. Take a good long look at the leaves that have changed color and are now breaking from the trees and wafting slowly downward to finish their life’s mission…on the pavement. Imagine the shock those nutrient laden leaves experience when they land not on sodden, inviting soil but instead on the unforgiving, oil stained asphalt we all know and loathe.
More than two million acres of parks, farms, and open space are destroyed each year in the name of a little something called sprawl. During the twentieth century, for example, an area equal to all the arable land in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania was paved in the United States. This swath of terra firma requires maintenance costing in the hundreds of millions per day and the surreptitious cost of our car culture totals in the hundreds of billions per year in the U.S. alone (much of that for waging perpetual war to keep the world safe for petroleum).
Besides the climate change, unchecked militarism, and other sinister side effects of a society beholden to the internal combustion engine, all that concrete severely impinges upon those multi-hued falling leaves—which are, by design, supposed to be introduced to microorganisms in the soil where they should theoretically land. Since we humans have seen fit to pave the planet, the rhythms of the natural world are habitually and imprudently ignored.
Here’s how the USDA Forest Service explains the aforementioned leaf-falling phenomenon: “Needles and leaves that fall are not wasted. They decompose and restock the soil with nutrients and make up part of the spongy humus layer of the forest floor that absorbs and holds rainfall. Fallen leaves also become food for numerous soil organisms vital to the forest ecosystem.”
Too many of today’s humans ultimately view leaves in search of soil organisms as a nuisance—something to raked and bagged and lugged away as quickly as possible. To leave leaves in front of your house is to risk the scorn of neighbors. Ironically, dealing with the leaves we don’t like can take us away from making a trip up north to see the leaves we do like as they change shade. We drive there, of course, in the vehicles that necessitate the highways, parking lots, off ramps, and roads that—by definition—devastate entire eco-systems and leave leaves no place to land except our three-car-wide driveways.
Human hubris aside, this vicious cycle impacts more than just our leisure time.
Here’s the USDA Forest Service again: “It could well be that the forest could no more survive without its annual replenishment from leaves than the individual tree could survive without shedding these leaves.”
I wonder if it’s too late to turn over a new leaf…