Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stupidity Hurts Us All

Though not as tragic or blatantly disrespectful/destructive/douche-baggy as this recent desecration of ancient rock art, the National Park Service (and SAFE) recently reported another incidence of vandalism in Arizona. The genius in question, Trenton Gainey, decided it would be "cool" to scratch his name onto the surface of the "Descending Sheep" panel at Glen Canyon Dam. He's been charged with a felony violation of the Archaeological Resource Protection Act and will be ponying up $10,000 to repair the panel, as well as the sentence he'll be given later this year.

What a winner.

Of course, this is not entirely Trent's fault. It's also the fault of the U.S. government and Trent's family for not providing the kind of education that emphasizes the value of cultural heritage and the importance of its preservation. Incidences involving rock art desecration and looting of historical sites have risen in the American Southwest, brought on by sheer stupidity and the bad economy. What's worse is that the effort to preserve these sites is crippled by the incredibly small number of individuals assigned to protect and enforce the law in these huge, unpopulated areas. Trent had to learn the hard way that although rock art may not be anything to him except a convenient place to mark his "coolness", it does mean something to other people. People with the power to make him pay through the nose for being so "cool". Unfortunately, justice has not been so easily served to other looters and graffiti artists who are steadily damaging and erasing the little information that we have left on the cultures that inhabited this region before it was invaded and colonized by Europeans. It is more important than ever to be aggressive about preserving historical sites and demanding that these issues be brought into the educational system. Tell your teachers, yo.

If you see any evidence of archaeological damage or suspicious activity at a ruin, please report it by calling the Federal Law Enforcement Communications Center at 800-637-9152.

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