Monday, May 23, 2011

A year later and the Mojave Desert Cross is still missing from atop Sunrise Rock.

It is hard to believe that about a year ago I was sitting in a McDonald’s surfing the net and came across the news of its’ theft from Chris Clarke’s Coyote Crossing site. This was the first I had heard of it and since my company had no work for me that day, I immediately took off for Sunrise Rock in the Mojave National Preserve…..
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The rest is history, a lot of water has passed under the bridge, and there has
been time for reflecting upon this event.

First, to the alleged veteran who per a letter dropped off with a small local newspaper claiming credit for the act and giving the motivation for it, you have made your point, could you please drive out there and drop it off, if nothing else?

At the time, when interviewed by the media on site, my immediate reaction was one of outrage, I likened it to stealing a cross from atop a grave in a military cemetery, I believe. I still feel that way, but mixed now with sadness, I guess.

Having personally climbed up atop Sunrise Rock several times, and having looked all around at the beauty of that area of Cima Dome, gazing out toward Clarke Mountain and the Kokoweef “River of Gold” area in the distance, feeling the winds gusting, to the point of fearing that I might be blown off the top, I feel that I am qualified to have an opinion on this issue. Having been a student of history and of war, for many years, I feel that I am entitled to an opinion on this issue.

The Mojave National Preserve is a giant jewel of our National Park Service. But its’ very name denotes a different purpose for this wonderful place- Mojave National Preserve. This preserve not only showcases nature in all her beauty and majesty, but it highlights man’s effects upon the landscape. This area has been mined, cattle have grazed upon it for over a hundred years, why the Lanfair Valley was even homesteaded with little farms at one time, until the drought ran them out, did you know that there were a few families still farming there at the beginning of the 20th century?

This place has a history, from the native american peoples that settled long ago in the area up to the last remaining ranch in the preserve, the name of which escapes me, but the family is still active today and recently were involved with events in the park, one member is a fine poet if I recall.

What I am trying to impart to you, my readers, is that this place has a history of man within its’ confines, we can’t erase that, nor should we want to.I, for one, love the old cattle pens and water tanks that are still around, and enjoyed my recent visit to the Vulcan Mine off Forshay Pass Road recently, we can’t just wish all this history away. It is our history, it is where we came from. How do you know where you are going, if you don’t have a clue where you came from?

This nation is embarked upon wars at this moment in our history, unnecessary wars in my opinion; still that does not dismiss the real sacrifices that some are making over there, and all the others, the ones that came back home, and those who didn’t: which was, and is now, and always will be the reason and purpose for that old, rugged iron cross which once stood atop Sunrise Rock, many decades before they even created this federally owned(taxpayer owned) Mojave National Preserve. We must not forget those who gave all that they had to give, all those many long decades ago.

This cross was part of the area’s and our nation’s history- for just that reason, it should have been allowed to stand up there alone as a reminder of what our ancestor’s endured over in the trenches of France and Belgium in the
First World War. Crosses have always historically been considered appropriate for military and other graves, if those interred underneath were Christians, and most at that time were;I, and many others don’t have a problem with the Mojave Desert Cross standing there for over 50 years.

But we know that some were not happy with this history, and began litigation to have the cross taken down. Litigation which went on for over a decade, and which was close to being settled when the U.S.Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower courts, and to some observers, sent a clear signal that it would be allowed to stand, and the cross was re-erected, and then stolen in a bold and totally unexpected development, at least to this blogger.

So now a year is in the books, a year that has gone by with a cross missing from that rocky outcrop in the Mojave. Some have stated on the record that it shouldn’t be put back up, for a multitude of reasons. I feel that I have made the case for it to be returned to its’ rightful place looking down from atop Sunrise Rock. Not just for the memory of those who fell in war, but for those who survived and the families of the participants in that “war that was to end all wars.” You know at that time, that was the fervent wish and hope for all, that the terrible conflagration would be the end of war. But now we know the timeless wisdom of the ancient greek philosopher who said that only the dead have seen the end of war, was probably the truth then and now, to our regret.

I say this cross is a forceful reminder to we, the people, today, that war as an instrument of national policy should be ended and that we must start anew in
finding an alternative to it- that we should rediscover the wisdom of the ancient ones who came before us, drop our conceit and arrogance, and try to get along as a nation with the rest of humanity that is all trying to get by on this tiny blue orb adrift in the cosmos- to quote another wise greek from ancient times, Aeschylus the great tragic dramatist:

“He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”

To those of faith involved in politics, may I just offer a scripture which I am paraphrasing, from one some religious historians say was the brother to He who died on the cross:

Faith is not enough. Faith without (good) works is dead.

I am sure I got the quote wrong, but I believe that the message is clear and in
line with the spirit of the actual passage in the Book of James. And I grant you that I am not a very religious person. But I say to you, to all of you reading this, that going up to Sunrise Rock and seeing it before they took down the cross, before the litigation, and after the court battle and SCOTUS ruling, and then to see it bereft of the cross, was a moving and touching experience that has had an effect upon me that lasts until this very day.

People of faith and their organizations involved in this situation, need to bring others into this matter. I made video which is up on youtube where I talked about this. I suggested that, as others have, that if veterans fought and died over in Europe that were of different faiths, that the top of Sunrise Rock was big enough for a Star of David or the Scimitar, if soldiers of those faiths fought there for us, and I am sure that they did.

Other folks need to be brought into this, I don’t mean building a giant cross or putting in massive security, just similar symbolism made in the same fashion to that old rugged iron pipe painted white cross- which when viewed out in place in that grand vista never failed to bring tears to my eyes, especially knowing its’ history and reason for being placed there.

This area is perfectly suited for and has been used historically for roadside camping- why there is even a rock fire ring behind Sunrise Rock that has been used for decades. I suggest that young people, our future, should camp there often, even tend to the area, at least until the furor dies down, once the matter has been litigated to its’ conclusion, which I feel will be for the cross to be put back up, the sooner, the better.
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Forgive me for being so presumptuous as to give advice to people who have probably forgotten more about religious matters than I will ever know, the advice was offered in good faith and hope it will be received in a similar way.

This sacred place has meaning to me, and to millions of folks who have had ancestors lost in war in our past, and they and what they did deserve better than to be forgotten and their, make that our history, should not be rewritten by a few who in the middle of the night, came in and defied the will of our highest court, and our will, by taking down this symbol put up for them, that their ultimate sacrifice paid for with their own blood and agony long ago on those foreign battlefields, shall not and must never be forgotten, so that we
can find within ourselves, the means to live up to their ideals and make this country a better place for all its’ people, and a better neighbor to the rest of the

This is my heartfelt wish.

Vaya con dios, my friends.