OPINION – It was a foolish act. It was impulsive and sophomoric. The excuses offered by those who did it come off sounding like so much blustery equivocation. But the over-the-top public overreaction to the individuals who toppled a rock formation in Goblin Valley is even more disturbing.
For pushing over a single hoodoo in a state park, the two Utah scout leaders have received hate mail and even death threats from all over the world. Social media and discussion boards have bristled with calls for heavy fines and imprisonment for the men.
Even state park officials and prosecutors have publicly dropped hints about potential felony charges being filed. As incredible as it sounds, these two men may have succeeded in bumping GOP leaders out of first place as America’s most hated people.
Why all the irrational hostility for pushing over a single rock?
(opinion continues below)
Stripped of the emotional grandstanding, the knee-jerk reactions, and political opportunism, the reality of what these guys did doesn’t quite fit the fury it has provoked. Let’s all take a deep breath and consider what actually occurred instead of pretending they committed a crime against humanity.
They pushed over one solitary rock in a park filled with thousands of such formations. Yes, it was bad manners. True, they sped up an act that would have taken place eventually due to erosion. Their impetuous moment of fun is reflecting badly on the organizations they represent.
But they have not robbed mankind of an irreplaceable treasure. Judging by the reactions of some, you’d think they had blazed a trail to the sea like General Sherman, leaving everything leveled in their path. A single, highly publicized incident in one park is not the same as instigating a holocaust against nature.
If the media sharks hadn’t smelled blood in the water and engaged in a feeding frenzy with the story, none of us would have lost a moment of sleep over it. What does it say about us that we’re so easily led by a sensationalized report of someone’s lapse in judgment that we’re willing to destroy mens lives over something that hasn’t actually harmed us?
We expect that kind of hysteria from the hardcore environmentalists who would hold funerals for every tree that’s cut down, but what exactly is driving our blood lust?
It’s okay to take offense at their thoughtless actions, but civilized people should strive to maintain some rational sense of proportion when calling for justice. Heavy fines would soothe the state’s hurt feelings and jail time would certainly teach these men a lesson—at the taxpayers’ expense.
Felony convictions would follow them for the rest of their lives and deny them the right to vote, to keep and bear arms, and would limit future employment opportunities. Does that really sound like justice?
If we strive to remain within the boundaries of reality, they did not destroy a sacred object; they did not destroy the works of another person’s hands. They filmed themselves tipping a rock off of a dirt pedestal and then stood laughing like idiots at what they’d done. It was wrong, but calling it a crime requires an overexcited imagination and toxic levels of self-importance.
If justice is about righting a wrong insofar as is possible, then let the men bear the cost of putting the boulder back atop its pillar. If this is not doable without causing further harm to surrounding formations, then let the rock stay where it would have eventually fallen and let the goblin-topplers find another way to rectify their wrongdoing.
Perhaps a few weekends of picking up trash at Goblin Valley State Park would serve to reinforce the need to behave oneself even in nature. The public shame they’re already enduring is something that few of us would willingly shoulder.
Those who are quick to call for the harshest measures possible might want to recall the times they’ve done something foolish or impulsive. Let those who’ve never screwed up cast the first stone, so to speak.
The thing we don’t need is to make every perceived slight a matter of legal consequence. It will be interesting to see who will be the first state legislator to propose a stronger law to deal with a rock-tipping incident that has happened just once.
If the latest emotional outrage is an indicator of what to expect, the public will likely give its roaring approval to yet another layer of unnecessary law being foisted upon us.
Ed. note: The YouTube video first included was removed from YouTube. On Dec. 10, 2013, another YouTube of the same event embedded.
- I can’t believe I survived; video of flash flood crashing down on canyoneers
- Southern Parkway road construction unearths ancient ruins; what archaeologists say
- Boulder dumping, spring cleaning; one man’s waste, another’s treasure?
- What the HAYnes? It’s exciting living with geological perils; or, City of St. George shrugged
- Husband reflects on house-crashing boulder, wife’s close call; future of the rock
- Rocks, resources and faults; new geological mapping of St. George area
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.