Given my love of the outdoors, nobody was surprised when I volunteered for the infantry in the Army. Backpacking with a buddy in the Appalachian mountains as a boy eventually led me to the majestic Muir Woods north of San Francisco as a man, where I developed great respect for John Muir, the iconic founder of the environmentalist Sierra Club.
Following approval of Central Park in New York City, he said: The making of the far-famed New York Central Park was opposed by even good men, with misguided pluck, perseverance, and ingenuity, but straight right won its way, and now that park is appreciated. His message was that right – the right thing – moral right, environmental right, political right – can overcome vested interests. That resonated in my young mind. It is with no small sadness that John Muir is now being trashed for racist comments.
Is a person’s reputation forever held hostage to changing mores or judgments in the future?
Growing up in a segregated rural Southern county, using the N-word was perfectly normal. I don’t think I even knew it was a pejorative until the Freedom Riders in 1961. Does that mean that — nothing I do in life matters — because I used the N-word as a boy? How long will my reputation be held hostage, due to my ignorance?
If — If — Muir was indeed a racist, he was also one of the greatest environmentalists in history! I will always salute him!
It was June 4, 1954 that the McCarthy hearings went too far, prompting attorney Joe Welch to ask the Senator “Have you no decency, sir?” It was a “jumping-the-shark” moment, when the Senator had finally gone too far — questioning the character of too many decent people. Ignoring the great accomplishments of John Muir, due to some ignorant comments, shows neither decency nor good sense.