John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham

Photo: Mount Graham Coalition.

On Memorial Day weekend, a little reminder of who John McCain really is…

We waited for a night when the moon was obscured by clouds. It sounded like a silly plan here in the heart of the Arizona desert, where Oregonians stream each year to worship the unrelenting sun.

But the wait was only two days. Then the sky clouded up, just as the Apaches predicted. These weren’t rain clouds, just a smoke-blue skein, thin as morning fog, but dense enough to dull the moonlight and shield our passage across forbidden ground.

We were going to see the scopes. The mountain was under lockdown. Armed guards, rented by the University of Arizona, blocked passage up the new road and patrolled the alpine forest on the crest of Mount Graham. Only certified astronomers and construction workers were permitted entry. And university donors. And Vatican priests.

But not environmentalists. And not Apaches. Not at night, anyway. Not any more.

Yet, here we were, skulking through strange moss-draped stands of fir and spruce, displaced relics from a boreal world, our eyes peeled for white domes and trigger-happy cops.

It says something about the new nature of this mountain, this sky island, that we heard the telescopes before we saw them, a steady buzz like the whine of a table saw down the block.

The tail-lights of SUVs streamed through the trees, packing astronomers and their cohorts towards the giant machine eyes, on a road plastered over the secret middens of the…

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