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Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Letters

Idolizing Ed

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Call me humorless, but I was disturbed when I read Michael Branch's essay about the boulder he and his buddies sent smashing downhill (HCN, 5/2/11). His joyous description of the event, in which he channels Ed Abbey's ribald style perfectly, strikes my sober ear as just another chapter of the bad old story of humans degrading the world. Usually we do so for some kind of perceived profit; sometimes, as in this instance, just for the holy hell of it.

Also disturbing is his invoking of Abbey as justification for the violence. Now, I'm a fan of Abbey too; he was a spirited fellow, a prizefighter for worthy causes, an essayist capable of marvelous bursts of eloquence.

But to idolize him with bumper-sticker slogans? It's one thing to overlook his substantial flaws -- among them booze-fueled fits of vandalism -- and say, "Oh, that's just who Ed was." It's quite another thing to place him up there in the pantheon of Those Who Can Do No Wrong.

Let's take the best of Ed and bury the rest.


Rick Kempa
Rock Springs, Wyoming

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