Arriving at Cedar Grove during a break in the storms on the day my father died for a much-needed meditation along cascading Big Chico Creek, I was met by a scene of devastation. In the heart of Chico’s lifeline, Bidwell Park, a stand of oaks had been massacred—in back of the Nature Center no less!
A young mother sat on the hood of her car staring out over the stumps and sections of chainsawed limbs while her toddler tested his sea legs in front of her. When I asked her what happened here, she was disinterested and strangely detached: “I should know,” she feebly replied, “I intern at the Nature Center, and someone told me. But I don’t remember.”
As Richie Bamlet, Urban Forest Manager for the City of Chico emotionally said to me on Friday as we viewed the destruction later on, “I’ve spent two years saving 20 damaged oak trees; they destroyed 28 healthy oaks in two days.”
The goal of evil is not carnage, or chaos, or violence; the goal of evil is what it has been achieving in America: the deadening of the heart and the destruction of the soul of people, and ultimately, humanity.
As Robin McCollum, an urban forester and 37-year firefighting veteran said, “The Camp Fire was a manifestation of evil like I’ve never seen before, but this clearcutting of healthy Valley Oaks to thin out some catalpa is a manifestation of hysteria.”
Rather than address the underlying causes, both local and global, of the fire that destroyed Paradise, is this egregious act the shape of things to come? At minimum, there was a negligent lack of planning and oversight by Public Works Administration, and a shocking absence of crew supervision by Park Staff.
The wanton destruction of 28 healthy Valley Oaks behind the Nature Center in an environmentally conscious town is a symptom of Trumpism, as well as an example of its intensification. It felt as if darkness was being directed at anyone and everyone in this town who still gives a damn.
The vast majority of locals believe that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), the monopolistic California utility company, is responsible for the fire that killed nearly 90 people and destroyed nearly 20,000 structures. PG&E recently declared bankruptcy in an attempt to cover their financial asses.
Yet as Robin McCollum said, “This same company has declared all oaks that survived the fire a primary danger, and have cut them all down.” There was a controlled burn in his voice as he reported this, adding, “I’ve been working for years to get PG&E to properly trim around power lines and insulate their wires.”
In a political climate like this, it is no wonder decent people reject their civic responsibilities and ‘numb out’ in self-centered worlds. When confronted with evil, what else can one do? What is the right response?
Many Republicans now crow about “owning the Libs,” by which they mean poking and stoking the sore spots of liberals out of spite, in order to drive them crazy. That’s dark as hell, and progressives, even if they don’t take the bait, are at a loss how to adequately respond. Of course, Democrats also have darkness within them, though they are less inclined to act out of it.
Irrespective of political divides and parties, indeed irrespective of nationalism and inter-national divisions, people who still have a beating auricle in their heart have to first look at our own darkness. That turns the tables on evil, since then one does the one thing it doesn’t want you to do: learn from it. Subsequently one sees how to deal with it outwardly.
Admittedly, that is a very hard to do. And reacting to evil isn’t evil unless one rationalizes it and continues reacting to it. But the worst thing you can do is quit on humanity, because then you are quitting on life, and yourself.
Owning one’s own darkness and remaining with it, evil cannot hook into you. Then you are learning all the time, while diminishing the darkness within, which we all have, and growing as a human being. That’s the last thing evil, which is intentionally directed man-made darkness, wants.
Whatever the motivations for the negligence by the local authorities and malevolence of the work crews, the utterly unnecessary act of violence upon nature at the Nature Center is not an isolated incident. Evil is man-made, and it is therefore within our capacity to meet it.
Lefevremartin77 at gmail.com