Monthly Archives: May 2015
The clock said 6 a.m. The house was dark and quiet. I slipped out of bed to the smell of freshly brewed coffee coming from the kitchen. I looked out the window. No rain. A cool breeze blew in, a remnant of the passing storm. I sipped my coffee. It was a good day to break in my boots. I laced them up and headed out the door.
It’s not often that the desert is humid, so the air was uncharacteristically thick and heavy; permeated with the pungent smell of earth and vegetation. The sun struggled to break through the clouds, but break through it did, leaving warm kisses across the land. With views like this, I could have hiked in ski boots and would still have enjoyed it.
It’s not about how long you live, but how well you live.
County Commissioner Phil Lyman was charged with conspiracy for planning and leading an illegal OHV ride through Recapture Canyon in Blanding last year. It appears that justice has been served. But has it? Sure, in this instance, it appears that has and it is cathartic to finally see it. Our sense of right and wrong, of fairness, is somewhat assuaged by it; but in the bigger picture, it seems to barely scrape the surface of enforcing the law equally.
I was in Blanding for the protest. I watched a train of people illegally ride through that canyon and they all knew what they were doing. So why were only two people charged? I understand that going after the ringleader supports the theory that if you cut off the head, you kill the body. But what happened in Blanding was an extension of what happened in Bunkerville.
Commissioner Lyman called the Bundy’s and Ryan Bundy and his troops showed up to add a little muscle to the protest. When it appeared that Lyman was going to keep it at a peaceful protest and not ride through the canyon (even though he stated he had no problem with doing so), Ryan Bundy ratcheted up the rhetoric by stating that he came to “open a road.” He made it clear that if they weren’t going to open a road, he was going to take his toys and go home.
Although Lyman had no moral problem with crossing the line where OHVs are prohibited, he had originally stated that he believed doing so may do more harm to their cause than good. He had suggested that for the protest, it might be best to stop at that line. But the people from Bunkerville, energized by their “victory” over the BLM, were not in attendance for a peaceful protest. They were there “to open a road.” Or in my view, they were there for Bunkerville Part II.
I can only speculate as to what this did to Commissioner Lyman but it appeared he didn’t want to lose his star freedom fighter, or maybe he didn’t want lose face or look like a chicken, and after Bunkerville, there were expectations. Either way, it looked to me like Ryan Bundy and his entourage was were the ones who tipped the protest into a full-swing illegal ride, despite Lyman’s calls for the opposite, and Lyman obliged them.
As Ryan Bundy said, “We the people took Bundy ranch back. It’s the freest area in the entire country.” And riding on that wave, why would they back down to the BLM in Blanding? Everyone who drove an OHV through that canyon knew they were breaking the law and they did it with conviction. So why weren’t all of them charged? Or at least, why wasn’t Ryan Bundy?
I am no fan of Commissioner Lyman and find him to be all over the place in defense of his actions ranging from being okay with breaking the law to denying he knew he broke the law. I find his wriggling rewriting of history and attempt to induce fear by warning all county commissioners that they don’t have jurisdiction in their own counties to be rather weak in comparison to his initial appeal to the convictions of men like Thomas Pain and Henry David Thoreau in their defense of civil disobedience.
And clearly the judge didn’t buy it either. As U.S. District Court Judge Shelby said when Lyman tried to make his defense based on first amendment rights, “Speech is not protected if it is the vehicle of the crime itself.”
So I think it was just for him to be found guilty and for people who care about such things as ancient artifacts, preserving ancient cultures, and protecting our landscapes, this was definitely a win – especially in Utah, where most circle the wagons and support their own.
That being said, Lyman should not be the only person facing charges. Furthermore, it begs the question: What is going on in Nevada? How is it that the ringleader of rebellion against the federal government in Bunkerville has not been charged? With a track record of breaking the law for 20 years and capping it off with raising a weapon-wielding rebellion, it seems that there is more than enough for not just a charge, but incarceration.
But it’s more than even that. People have become emboldened by Bundy. In a recent article in St. George News about a proposal for a new national monument, rancher Bill Gubler said, “They’re backing the ranchers into a corner, and you’re going to see a lot of Cliven Bundys out there.”
I agree with him but not for the same reason.
Because Cliven Bundy has not been charged with breaking the law, and furthermore, backed the government down with armed resistance, many believe that’s the way to push back. Because ranchers have a grievance with the government, and one rancher’s shenanigans worked, there most probably will be copycats. When one person gets away with it, it is logical to wonder if everyone can get away with it. And that is why the law must be executed equally across the board. Otherwise, there will be no respect for it or adherence to it – and why there will be civil unrest when justice is executed quickly for others.
There are many who want to see the law executed equally, those who want to see public land managed according to law, and those who think the laws should be changed. It is an explosive and divisive issue without doubt, and one that must be handled with care – but handled it must be.
We all know that there are bad laws on the books. We know that bad laws get passed all the time. But the law is the foundation of this country. You can choose to break it, but then you must be prepared to face the consequences if you do. The other course of action is to seek to change it, and though not as glamorous or as speedy and with no guarantee you will get your way, keeps your butt out of jail and possibly makes a difference for others who feel the way that you do.
As Teddy Roosevelt said, “No man is above the law and no man is below it: nor do we ask any man’s permission when we ask him to obey it.”
Civil unrest happens when order is not maintained. We maintain order by enforcing the law. And we provide hope when justice is served. It is not fair under the law when one man gets charged and another walks away Scott free.
I’d say when it comes to justice being served, the jury’s still out.
Originally published by the Philadelphia Rock Gym
Crawford Arch is a thin spindle of an arch. From the valley floor it looks like a toothpick leaning against the massive rock formation it stems from. Until someone told me you could hike to it, it never occurred to me that it was possible to see it up close. But from that moment on, I wanted to see it for myself.
That day came in March. A group of us met up in the pre-dawn of a cold morning and set out on what would be a 12 hour day hike up to the arch and back down. We made our way in the warm glow of the morning sun, enjoying the solitude and beauty of the backcounty. Upon arriving, the arch was even more spectacular than I had imagined. It looked like the rock wall just sprouted a root. The arch looks delicate, fragile – but when you get to the top of it, it’s a good 10 feet across. I made my way out to where the arch starts to curve and sat down, the first of the group to perch atop it. I waved to my husband to join me for a photo.
He climbed up and then hunched down, not sure he wanted to join me out there questioning whether it would hold his weight. My friend who was taking the photo for us, not realizing that all he had to do was touch the screen of my phone for a photo, and the fact that the sound was off and it doesn’t show a screen shot once a photo has been taken, caught the entire sequence of me cajoling my husband out next to me.
There is a somewhat funny shot of me pointing at the spot next to me and him looking at me with doubt. I posted this photo on Facebook, joking that he was a chicken. A friend of mine responded with a comment that two of her friends had suffered accidents at this arch; one had died and the other suffered body crushing injuries after falling. She then said, “Not worth it.”
I have many fears, but fear of heights is not one of them. This lack of fear comes in handy for outdoor adventure that includes high elevations and sheer drop-offs like climbing, canyoneering, and peak bagging. But I do have different fears and a healthy sense of danger. If something makes me nervous, I will not push it. At no time was I nervous on that arch. As I read my friend’s comment I couldn’t help wondering what her friends had been doing the moment before they fell. Were they goofing around or doing something risky? It’s possible. In my mind, the only thing that would make the arch dangerous is a lack of humility and safety.
Life is inherently risky. It is easy to assign danger and risk to activities like climbing because it “looks” dangerous, but we could die in a car accident on the way to the crag. Obviously my friend suffered from these accidents and has determined that hiking to Crawford Arch is not worth it. And maybe it’s not. But in my mind, there is a fine line between being safe and living in fear. Life is a delicate and exquisite thing, but the pay off comes in spending it. A spider would never catch its prey without the intricate workmanship of its fragile, yet strong web.
We will all die someday, that’s 100 percent guaranteed. No one escapes death. We can live in mortal fear of how that death with come about or we can choose to focus on what we want and live while we can. As William Wallace said in Braveheart, “Everyone dies. But not everyone really lives.”
Life amounts to the decisions we make. Will I climb or decline to try because I might look stupid if I can’t do it? Will I go for that peak or just look at it from the ground? One decision is not better than the other, but your life will amount to the decisions you made; and that culmination will not matter to the world, but to you. In the secret recess of your mind will you wonder, “What if I had tried?” Not everyone has a burning desire to test their limits, but some do, and if that is you, answer the nagging question, “Do I have what it takes?” Swallow your pride and try. Be willing to change who you are now for who you want to become tomorrow.
It’s such a cliché to say that life is short, but if you are older like I am, that phrase has taken on some real meaning, and if you are young, you will discover just how true it is in time. We never know how long we have. If you have an aching desire to try something, take the steps to achieve it. No one climbed Half Dome before learning how to climb first. Overcoming fear is a process like anything else, but as you learn and grow and become stronger, the fear abates and turns into knowledge, confidence, and possibly expertise.
In order to achieve great things we must dare great things, even if the beginning step is putting on a harness and climbing a wall at the climbing gym, because each step is a personal victory. Everyone has to start somewhere. For me, it was getting over my fear of looking stupid. My first time climbing I climbed with a 5.14 climber that I didn’t know very well. I was sweating and nervous and terrified. But I did it. I was 36. That decision changed my life.
Ultimately the worth of attempting something challenging or dangerous is personal. My friend decided that the risks of seeing an arch 2,000 feet up the side of a mountain are not worth it. It was worth it to me. The climb to that arch, the 300 foot rappel to get down, the wind whipping through my hair and an entire golden canyon beneath my feet are the moments I live for. For me, life is most beautiful in those moments of decision when I dare to live.
This is a guest blog I wrote for the Philadelphia Rock Gym. If you are ever in the Philadelphia area, check’m out: http://www.philarockgym.com/