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I maintain a profile under my real name on Facebook, and via the Facebook grapevine word has filtered back to me about a fairly recent article about some shenanigans some friends and I got up to in my undergrad days back in the late eighties.
It was Reagan’s second term, and all across the country, college students and others were protesting the situation in South Africa. My alma mater, the University of Utah, was one school where these protests happened, though I believe we were relatively unique in being one of the few schools where there was also a pro-apartheid presence, in the form of a few returned missionaries who had spent time in South Africa and some old dude who owned a cooking-stove business there that did a booming business selling to people who lived in Soweto and various villages and shantytowns scattered across the country.
I, perhaps not surprisingly, was a loud voice in the anti-apartheid crowd, and I routinely mocked the pro-South Africa demonstrators when they had the temerity to show up on campus. One of them once actually accused me of “betraying my race” because I was more inclined to believe the reports of black South African students on campus than those of white South African students (we actually had a smattering of both groups attending the U). In a moment of unbelievable self-righteousness, I told the guy (rather loudly, as I recall) that the only race I considered myself a part of was the human race, and as such, I was more inclined to listen to the oppressed than the oppressors. The line got a few laughs and some applause from passersby, so hey, all good.
The article about the anti-apartheid movement in Utah appeared in the Utah Historical Quarterly, and while it is somewhat distressing to think of anything one has been involved with in one’s life referred to under the heading “history” (I’m only 42, ferchrissakes!), it’s still kinda cool to think that someone took the time to do this research in the University of Utah archives (where I worked part-time as an undergrad) to put this together.
In spite of being rather heavily involved in the activities of one of the student groups mentioned in the article, I somehow managed to dodge the bullet of being mentioned by name myself, so I am going to go ahead and post a link for those among you curious enough to check this out. For me, it was a real stroll down memory lane, and a lot of fun to read.
One note for the curious: although I am not mentioned by name in the article, you can still see a bit of my handiwork in it. In the pictures of the shanties that accompany the article, you will see my writing on the walls of the structures (though I did not paint the face that is shown in one photograph). I was the designated grafitti artist at our little shanty town, because I could write the clearest using spray paint.
My little claim to fame…
By now you may have heard about my new hero, Tim DeChristopher: the University of Utah (my undergrad university!) student who threw a spanner into the works at the recent Bureau of Land Mismanagement oil and mineral lease auction for parcels surrounding Arches and Canyonlands national parks.
If you haven’t, here’s more or less what happened:
The BLM, under Bush’s direction on his way out the door, was holding an auction December 19th in Salt Lake City, trying to sell off chunks of our pristine national wilderness to people in the non-renewable fuel industries. This has made a lot of people very unhappy, myself included.
It seems my new hero decided to do more than protest in front of the building where the auctions were being held. In a brilliant bit of monkeywrenching, he entered the building and registered as an auction participant, then proceeded to bid on many of the parcels being auctioned off, driving up the prices of the leases and even winning a few of the auctions.
Of course, Mr. DeChristopher (which is very fun to say out loud – try it and see) has no money to pay for these parcels, and has been arrested for his actions. He may be charged with criminal fraud, earning himself a few years in jail.
He has said that if his actions are successful in saving that pristine wilderness, he’s willing to serve the time.
Meanwhile, the outcome of the auctions is tangled up in some legal maneuvering connected to Mr. DeChristopher’s court case.
According to Rachel Maddow, there’s supposed to be some sort of court hearing to resolve the whole mess on January 19th. It’s probably not a coincidence that that’s the day before Obama and his crew take over in D.C.
Still, I have high hopes for this. See, I’ve had my own experience before a Republican-appointed judge in the Federal District Court in Salt Lake City. And he ruled the right way (i.e., in favor of my friends and I in our civil rights-related case), rather than the way that would have been popular with local (read: Republican) leaders.
So there’s still a chance that that pristine wilderness will remain pristine, at least for a few more years.
And in the mean time, Hayduke Lives!