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A dangerous question to raise in today’s climate. where even amateur historians are justifiably reluctant to offend ethnic sensibilities and professionals can risk their reputations and careers on one unguarded comment. But the recent debate over the passing of the late Quessam Soleimani at least briefly focused attention on the question of definition: what is terrorism and who can be justifiably viewed as a terrorist?
Retroactively applied to the Apache Wars, the question might be immediately dismissed on the perfectly rational grounds that we cannot judge another, past culture according to today’s ethical and moral standards. But many of today’s historians don’t hesitate to apply their own value judgments to the antebellum South, the “Lost Cause” and the entire history of the American people. If we’re to truly understand our shared history here in the American Southwest, we need to honestly confront the past.
I don’t believe I directly applied the label to Nana himself in my book, but I certainly described his Raid as classical terrorism: the application of violence against a civilian population to exert pressure on the society’s leadership.
Terrorism is inherently a political act, and “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” In that sense, Nana would certainly to prefer to be known as a terrorist rather than considered a common criminal, which is how he was viewed by most of his white contemporaries.
Here’s a new hero in the ongoing struggle against man’s nearest competitor for North American “Apex Predator” title. A dad who takes on a coyote bare-handed to protect his son deserves something more than a Hallmark card on Father’s Day. The same coyote apparently attacked a woman and her two dogs earlier the same day, according to the news story. The dead coyote is being tested for rabies, which would be bad (and painful) news for the victims if the test proves positive but would be somewhat comforting in explaining the animal’s aggressive behavior. Note too that this all took place in a small town in New Hampshire just a few miles from the Atlantic coast — more evidence of the now continental reach of canis latrans.
Here’s a “Lost in the Woods” story with a happy ending. Colorado family returning from vacation in California detoured off I-15 into the Arizona Strip for quick visit to North Rim, bogged down in mud and snow 40 miles into the backcountry. Father and son hiked 20 miles back out to call for help and local Sheriff’s deputies, BLM and Park Rangers combined to locate and rescue the rest of the family. A couple of lessons here. First is “inquire locally.” Don’t venture into unfamiliar terrain without stopping by nearest convenience store, bar or preferably the local ranger station to ask for directions, road conditions and weather report. (On that last point, I would expect Coloradans to be familiar with the relationship between altitude and temperature. Might be sunny and warm in Southern California, but the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is up above 7,000-7,500 feet. As a rule of thumb you can expect temp to drop about 5 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 foot gain in altitude.) Finally, as a hidebound old paper map & compass geezer, let me caution you youngsters about becoming over-reliant on your new-fangled electronics. This Colorado family was misled by their “smartphone” mapping, which led them onto an unpaved road impassable in wet weather. Then, when their SUV got stuck, they found themselves out of cellphone range.
“Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. Yet those who do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everybody else repeats it.” An old New Yorker cartoon, one of very few both funny and true.
The new year’s calendar reminds me the Historical Society’s annual get-together is in Silver City April 16-18. Should be an exciting event, and I look forward to seeing some old friends.
Readers with more vivid imaginations may want to skip this post, but it’s kind of a necessary bookend to my previous post on the risks of White Sands. In re-checking some of the links in that piece, I turned up a recent Park Service release on a body found out near 49 Palms in Joshua Tree National Monument. Identity unknown, and I wondered whether the deceased might be the woman who disappeared out in Mohave Nat’l Preserve last summer. More likely the dead person will prove to be a 51-year-old hiker who disappeared in that area in July of 2018. But I was interested to note the Joshua Tree remains were discovered in steep, rocky terrain well away from the nearest hiking trail by an un-named “cooperating agency” examining aerial photos taken this past summer. Curious to know more about that mysterious agency and why it would be conducting a detailed aerial survey of the desert back country, I tried a web search for “human remains” and instead turned up a couple of equally interesting stories on an unrelated subject.
Most recent of these is that of the three mountain lions recently put down by Arizona Game and Fish rangers who caught the cats dining on a recently deceased human about 50 yards off a popular Tucson hiking trail. The rangers don’t believe the lions killed the dead person, but it’s somehow more disturbing they were feeding on the body, since mountain lions are predators, not scavengers. More ominous, the cats “repeatedly showed no fear” in the presence of the officers.