One gets the impression that Andy Kerr would like us all to join him in his fundamentalism (HCN, 6/13/94). He tells us the world is divided into discrete units for us to hold in contempt: New Yuppie Scum, Elite Welfare Ranchers, and Old Land Abusers. He tells us they are bad, we are good. Then he gives us six commandments about what we must do about them. And he gives us a gospel as well: "Environmentalists must be both fierce and compassionate." But where's the compassion in his environmental polemic?
His finger-pointing leaves him neither the time nor the desire to try to understand who the them we must incinerate are.
The mess in the West is mostly the result of failed and outdated government policies. And certainly there are individuals who have taken unfair advantage of those policies: the social detritis whose greedy, selfish destruction of the West deserves our wrath.
But there are also a great many folks who are just trying to live their lives. Must we label them with some vile epithet and relegate them to the human trash heap just because we disagree? Does Kerr's bow to compassion for the "rural poor" who are "just collateral damage in the war" include those who also happen to graze some cattle? Can he agree to disagree? Or must we hate them too?
We are not, as Kerr states, in a battle for the soul of the West. People, not geographies, have souls. Perhaps he sees that the geographies of our souls are mirrored by the geographies of the West. Regardless, we each have our own visions thereof.
What we are in a battle for is understanding: of our disparate selves, of our visions of what the West might be, and of how we can all live here without compromising our environmental principles while at the same time not destroying each other.
John S. Swift
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