All week I have heard two Cassin's Vireos singing
along my familiar San Fransquito Creek trail during lunch.
At first they sang, presumably two males, from the Menlo
Park side of the creek. Finally, on Friday, they had both
crossed the boundary into Palo Alto and could be seen in
the oaks near the intersection of Bryant Street, Poe Street
and Palo Alto Avenue. The same place they were last spring.
Now I must ask, where are the females?
The following post has nothing to do with birds, so I apologize
in advance for those looking for my typical news. I am not
a fan of George W. Bush, understand that first. Read on
if you wish, but be warned. This is a fairly political message.
Recent images of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib
prison in Iraq disturb me more than anything I can remember
in many years. I find the situation to be an awful reminder
of how much I oppose the Bush administration's policies
regarding the war in Iraq. I believe George Bush has behaved
like a stubborn, spoiled child and squandered any foreign
support we may have had after the events of September 11.
He has turned much of the world against us with his determination
to wage war unilaterally, charged forward toward military
solutions against the wishes of our many long-term allies
and saddled future generations with an inconceivably large
national debt. He has done more damage to our civil liberties
and global harmony than any other political leader I can
remember and distracted the American public from serious
domestic issues with his constant diatribes against terrorism.
These are my feelings however, and I do not wish to convince
anyone to agree with me, nor do I wish to participate in
any arguments. The situation we find ourselves in is unpleasant
enough, without us fighting amongst ourselves so I will
try not sermonize anymore about about George Bush or the
war in Iraq. I want to speak about something else.
Abu Ghraib has made me uncomfortable for some unexpected
reasons. Reasons I can't say I've ever considered before.
It is upsetting enough to know that these abuses have occurred
and that our country will experience increased resentment
around the globe because of these shameful events, but there
is something more. The guards that were involved in the
abuses, it seems, must have been following orders, from
their superiors. I find the suggestion that the guards involved
were rogue individuals, simply acting on their own volition,
to be an insulting distraction from the real issue. Ultimately,
I believe the suggestion is irrelevant.
The fact is that the human desire for, and subsequent addiction
to power is hard to escape. Almost anyone can fall victim
to this hunger. What has made it difficult for me to sleep
recently though, is the suspicion that this, combined with
the "just following orders" mentality is a human
weakness that will likely surface again, perhaps closer
to home& Perhaps even among my friends or within myself.
Human nature is such that we often do things because we
see others doing them and so come to believe that such the
behavior is acceptable. For example, if we are told by an
authority figure that we must perform a task, let's say,
mark up expenses for one client more than another, we may
do so even if it contradicts our personal values, because
we are afraid of consequences. I am fearful that humans,
including myself, do not question authority as often as
we should. We all want to fit in and avoid the difficult
consequences of asking "why are we doing this? ".
Countless dark periods in our own history attest to this
fact and I don't need to remind people of them now. I worry
because it takes enormous strength and principal to ask
such challenging questions. I worry because I don't know
what I would do if I were assigned to Abu Ghraib and told
to discipline the prisoners... I don't know how I would
behave in a battlefield. So few of us can say honestly that
we know how we would behave. That is what keeps me awake
The small voice we hear within us when we're confronted
with such evil surroundings, is that of our principals trying
to be heard. I suspect many people are asking themselves
the same kinds of questions I have been asking myself this
week. "What would I do?" " Would I behave
like the guards in those images?" "Do I have the
courage to challenge such evil? We can only hope that if
we find ourselves in a situation where our principals, honesty
and respect for human dignity are challenged, we will listen
to our consciences and our values will prevail, no matter
how loud the surrounding voices of authority, and not fall
victim to blind obedience.
I don't pray often, but recently I have been praying a lot.
Cricket and Brian and I made another reconnaissance trip to
Pinnacles National Monument today. This time we toured the
west side, coming in from Soledad, to assess which side is
more suited for our group trip next week. It's very hard to
say... The scenery on the western side is perhaps even more
beautiful than the east (see last month entry 04-09-04) and
the hiking seems generally a bit easier. The problem is though,
we saw very few birds. True, we did get a glimpse of a California
Condor as it flew over the peak, and we may well have
seen another perched high atop one of the rock formations,
but other than that, birds were scarce and hard to observe.
Species encountered include California Quail, Hairy
Woodpecker, White-throated Swift, Pacific-slope
and Ash-throated Flycatcher, Western Wood Pewee,
Violet-green Swallow, Western Kingbird, Blue-gray
Gnatcatcher, Canyon Wren, House Wren, Western
Tanager, Bewick's Wren, Townsend's and Orange-crowned
Warbler, Black-headed Grosbeak, Dark-eyed Junco and Song
Sparrow. While many of the birds we encountered last month
were also seen today, I think we saw them better last month.
As of right now, I'm leaning toward a group visit to the east
side next week. I'll discuss it with the class tomorrow night.