Light and shadow: The mystery and legacy of George Masa

He lay against white sheets, a slight figure wasted by disease. Friends came to see him, sat beside him, reached out to touch his arm. They asked whether he was comfortable. Could they get him anything? But he was out of reach now. He had traveled beyond words.

To take some of the earliest photos of the Great Smoky Mountains, George Masa lugged his equipment up the steepest slopes before any trails had been blazed. Photo courtesy George Ellison.

More than 60 seasons had passed since George Masa arrived in the North Carolina mountains—winters when ice draped the firs, springs when the bloodroot unfurled along the trail, summers when the Turk's-cap lily nodded above the wet places, autumns when the mountainsides were in flame.

Now he was dying. Influenza, along with the chronic ravages of tuberculosis, had sent him weeks before to this bed, at the county sanitarium in Asheville. It was an end that likely no one would have predicted for Masa, a man who had walked nearly every mile of the mountains. A brief, hopeful notice in a newsletter of the Carolina Mountain Club from the time said it best: "Who'd have thought that George Masa, of all people, would fall victim to Old Man Flu?"

Masa, a Japanese immigrant who died on June 21, 1933, blazed a singular path through the North Carolina mountains. He was, among a number of things, a photographer of rare skill and sensitivity, a dogged advocate for the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a key figure in the identification and naming of the park's natural features, and a chief engineer of the North Carolina portion of Appalachian Trail.

This year, the celebration surrounding the 75th anniversary of the dedication of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has stirred to life what might be described as the year of George Masa. Earlier this summer, Masa's landscapes were featured in an exhibit at the Asheville Art Museum; another exhibit of Masa's work is ongoing at Western Carolina University, in Cullowhee. The late photographer has been the subject of recent features in the regional and national press, including WNC Magazine and National Parks magazine. And next month, Masa's life and achievements will reach their widest audience yet, as part of Ken Burns' new documentary on PBS, The National Parks: America's Best Idea.

Despite all the attention, Masa remains an elusive figure. He is a knot of contradictions: a socialite of scant means, a stranger with a thousand friends. He was an intensely private man who nevertheless managed to leave behind stacks of correspondence and handwritten records. As a businessman, he was shrewd but constantly in need of money. Trusted by many of the region's most powerful men and women, he was once suspected of being nothing less than an international spy.

Photo courtesy Hunter Library, WCU. Many of Masa's photographs have been lost, and some suspected of being his can't be firmly attributed.

"He's just a phenomenal curiosity," says Paul Bonesteel, the Asheville filmmaker whose 2003 documentary, The Mystery of George Masa, is the most comprehensive accounting of Masa's life to date. ""There are just so many unanswered questions about him."

Here is a little of what we know about George Masa: He was born Masahara Izuka in Osaka, Japan, sometime in the early 1880s. His father was a jeweler, maybe. He is believed to have had at least one sibling, a brother. Around 1905, he arrived in the United States and traveled throughout the country by rail, keeping detailed notes of his location and expenses.

He passed through New Orleans and St. Louis, and may have spent several months in Colorado. In 1915, along with a handful of fellow travelers from Austria, he reached Asheville. In time the Austrians left; Izuka stayed. He found a job at the Grove Park Inn, and within a few years had given himself a new name, George Masa.

Work at the inn suited him. Masa was a laundry worker at first, then a bellhop, and finally, a valet to guests arriving at the inn. His rapport with guests was excellent, and as time permitted, he began taking pictures of them at their request, converting a portion of the Grove Park into a darkroom where, for a fee, he developed and printed the images.

Three years later, he established a photographic studio, first named Plateau Studios, later named Asheville Photo Service, in downtown Asheville. At first, hardly an event took place in town that escaped Masa's lens, but his interest, increasingly, was focused on the high places. Excursions led him out of town and into the mountains, where his tools of choice were an unwieldy box camera that used 8-by-10-inch film plates, a canvas sling to carry it in, a wooden tripod and, strangest of all, a bicycle wheel fitted with handlebars and an odometer, a device that allowed Masa to measure and record the distances he hiked.

Chimney Top at Sunset, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 1920, black and white gelatin print. Asheville Art Museum collection. Photo courtesy Paul Bonesteel / www.georgemasa.com.

Except for a few contemporary stories about him in the Asheville Citizen and a regrettably named profile ("The Little Jap") in a 1953 issue of The State magazine, little was written about Masa prior to 1997, when William Hart Jr.'s biography, "George Masa: The Best Mountaineer" appeared in the book May We All Remember Well, Vol. I (Robert S. Brunk Auction Services, Inc.).

Hart's amply cited work provided the ideal jumping-off point for Paul Bonesteel's documentary on Masa. "I called Bill Hart and asked him, 'How much more is there about this Masa guy?'" Bonesteel recalls. "And he said, 'Honestly, I've just scratched the surface.'"

Bonesteel and his crew made phone calls, spent months digging through archival materials, and interviewed most of the surviving people who knew Masa. The resulting film, an obsessive 90-minute tale, follows Masa from his blurry beginnings to his early years in Asheville, through to his role in helping to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the work he did establishing the North Carolina portion of the Appalachian Trail, right up to his death in 1933. 

Yet the project stirred up nearly as many questions as it answered. Where, for instance, had Masa gained his photographic skills? Why had he made a habit of telling people that he was a graduate of the mining program at Meige University in Tokyo, an institution that has on its rolls no record of a Masahara Izuka? And, more to the point, what had prompted him to leave Japan in the first place?

Then there is the question of Masa's photographs. Around 1,000 of his images are currently accounted for, but an estimated 2,500 of his negatives—which may include the lion's share of his Great Smoky Mountains work—have never been found. After Masa's death, the negatives were purchased by another Asheville photographer, Elliot Lyman Fisher, who ran a studio here for 15 years before retiring to Florida, where he died in 1968. (There is, as yet, no encouraging news about those negatives from the Sunshine State.)

Some of Masa's snapshot-sized photographs show evidence of being retouched, possibly for use as postcards. The exhibit currently up at Western Carolina University shows many of these. Photo courtesy Hunter Library, WCU.

The better images by Masa—the ones we do have—are tonally complex, full of deep shadows and penetrating light. In one of them, a Smokies vista marked simply as "O-2250," this quality is especially well represented. A bank of clouds hovers slightly above the distant peaks, admitting enough light to touch off the horizon in a bright glow. Sunlight rolls down the valley floor, arrow-like, ending at a dark cleft that shadows the foreground completely.

"People think of our mountains and the words 'divine inspiration' come to mind," says Martin DeWitt, director and curator of Western Carolina University's Fine Art Museum. "Well, Masa achieved that feeling by capturing a precise atmospheric moment. You can imagine him out there waiting for a sunrise, having left Asheville at probably three in the morning, sitting out in the cold and rain and finally, here it comes—the moment that he's been waiting for. There's more than just an artistic vision at work in his photographs; there's a tremendous sacrifice there as well."

Western's current exhibit on Masa, on loan from the university's Hunter Library collection, focuses on the photographer's less grandiose work. Among the 35 pieces on display is a scrapbook of Masa photos taken during a Carolina Mountain Club ascent of Mount Mitchell in 1924. Each snapshot-size photo—there are 25 of them—is hand-notated with the names and elevations of the physical features they show.

Smaller still are the 10 photographs in the exhibit—none bigger than 3 inches on a side—of mountain wildflowers, detailed images that show signs of being retouched, perhaps for reproduction as postcards.

The largest image by far in the Western exhibit is one that the photographer didn't actually take. The photograph is of Masa himself as a young, recent arrival to the mountains. Dressed in a fine wool suit and crowned with a puffy wool hat, Masa stands on a bare patch of ground, both hands clasping a bunch of aster flowers. He is smiling a mild smile; his shadow falls hard against the ground behind him, suggesting that the picture was taken late in the day.

"It seems like it offers personal insight into his unique character," says DeWitt. "It features him as what everyone seemed to say about him: that he was a gentle soul."

A "gentle soul," perhaps, but Masa clearly had a steely side. His rigorous approach to outdoor photography exposed him to hardship on a daily basis and may have contributed to his declining health. (The harsh darkroom chemicals he worked with may have been an aggravating factor in his respiratory troubles as well.)

That same spirit of persistence is evident in all of Masa's following work. After befriending the backwoods author Horace Kephart in the early 1920s, Masa joined him in applying considerable pressure to federal officials to turn the Smokies, a landscape increasingly ravaged by industrial logging, into a national preserve. Masa's photographs were clear evidence of the region's natural glory—or what was left of it, at least. The men's close friendship and their agitation for the park idea provided an ideal entry point for the Smokies segment of the Ken Burns' new documentary, The National Parks: America's Best Idea, explains Dayton Duncan, the series' writer and producer.

"Kephart was remarkably eloquent in making the case for the park [and] Masa's photographs were a tremendous visual complement to that," Duncan says. "In George Masa's case, his life is about as dramatic a representation of the power of the national park idea as anyone could ever find. An immigrant from a different nation falls in love with a beautiful portion of America and sets out to do everything he can to preserve that place for future generations of Americans. Deep in his heart, he understood that these majestic and sacred portions of our land need to be saved on behalf of everyone.  As Kephart himself said, 'He deserves a monument.'"

As a complement to the Burns project, Bonesteel's documentary, pared down to an hour-long program, will run alongside the series on a number of public television stations nationwide, including UNC-TV. "We're excited about the Burns collaboration," says Bonesteel. "It's great knowing that Masa's story will finally get widespread attention." 

Learn more about Masa

The documentaries

George Masa's story will appear as part of Ken Burns' new documentary series, The National Parks: America's Best Idea, which debuts on PBS affiliate stations (including UNC-TV) beginning Sunday, Sept. 27 at 8 p.m., and continues nightly through Friday, Oct. 2.

The series, narrated by Peter Coyote and featuring the voices of Tom Hanks, Andy Garcia, Sam Waterston, John Lithgow and others, intends to "tell the the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone," according to the producers.

Program No. 4 of the series, titled Going Home (1920-1933), recounts the efforts to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and airs on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

Bonesteel Films' documentary, The Mystery of George Masa, will air on UNC-TV sister channel UNC-NC during three showings on September 28. (Visit www.unctv.org for more information).

A full-length DVD copy of Bonesteel Films' The Mystery of George Masa, can be ordered through the company's Web site, www.bonesteelfilms.

The photography exhibit

The Fine Art Museum at Western Carolina University will present the student-and faculty-curated exhibit George Masa (1881-1933): Vision of the Mountains through Sept. 18. The museum is located on the campus in Cullowhee; hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, call (828) 227-3591.

But the search for George Masa isn't over yet. Today, Bonesteel maintains a blog dedicated to the late photographer, posting whatever new clues to Masa's story he happens to come across. Last year, a man named Gaylord Shepherd happened by the Web page and left a note, mentioning that his father had been involved with James Madison Chiles, developer of the Kenilworth neighborhood, south of downtown Asheville. Among the records his father had kept, Shepherd told Bonesteel, were some photographs Masa had taken of the project.

"So he invited me over and sure enough—here are 30 or 40 photos by Masa showing the Kenilworth area as it was being developed," Bonesteel says. "Historically they're interesting, but do they reveal any bombshells? Not really. Still, if those photographs are out there, who knows what else still is?"

In fact there is another crumb out there, one that seems to lie perpetually beyond Bonesteel's grasp. Not long after Masa died, a string of letters, written in Japanese, began arriving at the last residence where Masa boarded. Apparently, the owners held onto them. Descendants of the family still live in the area, and believe that the letters are stored on the premises somewhere. For several years, Bonesteel has carried on a fitful negotiation with the family, hoping that the letters—if recovered—might provide at least the smallest link to Masa's Japanese beginnings. So far, nothing.

"What I've learned through all this is how hard it is to get a true picture of a person," Bonesteel says. "You take a core sampling of their life and all you know is that one little sliver. It's just a fraction, a narrow representation, of the life they led."

[Kent Priestley lives in Knoxville, Tenn.]

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19 thoughts on “Light and shadow: The mystery and legacy of George Masa

  1. ewv

    Why is there no such extensive coverage and concern over the rural private onwers and inhabitants who were brutally removed by the wealthy, politically-connected insiders who used the power of the government to take over this land? The Burns/Duncan film is political propaganda for a government agency. They use scenery and rhetorical imagery to emotionally manipulate the viewers, who are not told how the government and the park lobby treat the owners of the land.

    For a more honest account of how National Park Service arrogance and brutality see the earlier PBS Frontlines documentary For the Good of All. Burns, Duncan, NPS, and the pressure groups supporting them don’t want you to know about this. They want to manipulate you into supporting a campaign to authorize more power and money to the National Park Service and other government entities that take over private property.

  2. Piffy!

    ewv-

    Not that I disagree with your premise, but how did those ‘rural private owners’ come to ‘own’ that land in the first place?

  3. ewv

    They were the original settlers on unowned land. See Durwood Dunn’s book, “Cades Cove: The Life and Death of A Southern Appalachian Community 1818-1937”.

  4. yeah and it would all be private, gated communities for the rich only if a park had not been created read all about it and just imagine, from Backpacker Magazine, Sept. 2009:

    “At the turn of the 20th century, great debates raged over what exactly should be preserved, discarded and constructed within a national park. Certain advocates for a Smokies Park, such as the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, pushed to build a great system of roads, including a skyline drive that would run the entire length of the range. If not for Benton MacKaye, a highway would undoubtedly exist where the AT now traverses quiet ridgetops. Fortunately the Tennessee forester and conservationist recruited his friend, Bob Marshall, then director of forestry for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, into an alliance that succeeded in squelching the idea of the skyline drive. What has been preserved is a remarkable stretch of the AT that runs along the Tennessee and North Carolina border, often hovering around 6,000 feet.”

  5. LP

    Before 1818, though, didn’t it belong to the Cherokees? Before they were driven off their land?

  6. ewv

    The region did not “belong” to a tribe. Tribal rule is a primitive form of political control, not property ownership. No Indians had a “right” to impose tribalist control on everyone in the region, nor to racially exclude anyone from being there. The settlers had a right to be there, but bands of Indians roaming through the area practiced a pattern of savagely attacking and massacring isolated pioneer families.

    But this had nothing to do with the Federal government taking over the entire area and forcibly evicting the residents from their own property and destroying the rural community in the 1930s for a National Park. On the contrary, as for most National Parks, it was an agenda of wealthy, politically-connected insiders who exploited the power of government to take what they wanted because they liked the scenery.

    The Dunn book provides an extremely well researched and fascinating but tragically ending history of the community — from its original settlement and progressive development over more than a century, to its brutal death by eminent domain at the hands of cynical and dishonest power mongers with no regard for anyone’s rights (and no thoughts of Indian or any other kind of history).

  7. ewv, you complain about there being no coverage of the people displaced by the creation of the park than proceed to point to a Frontline documentary about the subject. I settled here recently, but that part of the parks history is even old news for me.

    Give it up. It is time to move on. Great Smoky Mountain National Park is an asset to the nation, the environment and to North Carolina and Tennessee far greater than some displaced private property owners.

    George Masa deserves thanks, not someone whining about the past.

  8. ewv

    What a morally disgusting, arrogant disregard for the rights of the individuals screwed by the National Park Service and its boosters. Don’t you dare tell me to “give it up”. No national park is “far greater than” the rights of individual human beings, who are not to be sacrificed to someone’s idea of the collective “environmental good”. Not in this country. We are not supposed to be worshipping trees and sacrificing people. No one deserves “thanks” for that.

    But this atrocity did not stop with the brutality at Smokies and Shenandoah in the 1930s. They have done the same thing to people all over the country — starting with Indian removal for National Parks in the 1800s — and are still doing it. Duncan said a year ago that the eminent domain takings at Cades Cove would be mentioned in the film but none of the rest. They want people to think this was only some irrelevant quirk of ancient history, to be excused for a “higher” cause. NPS thinks it’s doing something grand with its display of how people used to live at Cades Cove. Never mind that they wreck people’s lives.

    The PBS documentary “For the Good of All” from the 1980s documents how the National Park Service destroyed the communities and lives of property owners for the Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio, not the Smokey Mountains. The story is typical of the arrogant brutality of the National Park Service and it apologists everywhere. It has since been buried by PBS in its promotion of NPS revisionist history, but can be seen on the web at http://www.landrights.org/VideoGoodOfAll.htm

    This history of shameful abuse should not — in the name of ignoring the alleged “whining” of the victims or anything else — be hidden from the public any more than the history of Pearl Harbor, 911 and other atrocities. This “documentary” on the development of the National Park System that systematically excludes this history is dishonest, but for a political purpose: The apologists for the National Park Service are cynically hiding what they do to people in their way. They don’t want people to know this sordid history and what it means to people targeted by National Park System expansion today and in the future. They know very well that normal people around the nation don’t know this; they don’t want them to know it because it might cause a backlash against the nature worship and its political imposition. Such is the nature and purpose of revisionist history in the Duncan/Burns political advertisement promoting the National Park Service. There is no excuse for this.

  9. tatuaje

    The region did not “belong” to a tribe. Tribal rule is a primitive form of political control, not property ownership.

    Your use of the word ‘primitive’ in this instance appears to be disparaging. Which is unfortunate, because you seem to be on the right track with this statement.

    No Indians had a “right” to impose tribalist control on everyone in the region, nor to racially exclude anyone from being there.

    It seems to me that your knowledge of history is a tad skewed.

    The indigenous population of these lands didn’t attempt to exclude anyone based on race. This is fact. In fact they attempted to assimilate the foreign caucasians into their lives and were rewarded with genocide.

    The settlers had a right to be there, but bands of Indians roaming through the area practiced a pattern of savagely attacking and massacring isolated pioneer families.

    You really do need to educate yourself on the reality of what transpired after the arrival of the white man on this continent.

    And when you say they ‘had a right to be there’, what do you mean exactly? They had a right to drive the prior inhabitants from their homes? Who gave them this right?

    And your statement concerning ‘bands or Indians roaming through the area practiced a pattern of savagely attacking and massacring isolated pioneer families’ is straight out of a bad ’70s TV series. It is completely sensationalist, without context or merit, and revisionist.

  10. ewv

    The settlers at Cades Cove didn’t drive anyone from their homes. They had a right to settle on unused land in the wilderness and needed no one’s permission. Isolated families were in fact savagely attacked and massacred by Indians, as is very clear in the Durwood Dunn history mentioned above, “Cades Cove: The Life and Death of A Southern Appalachian Community 1818-1937”. The revision of history comes from those who try to deny this in demonizing western civilization on behalf of more primitive, tribalist forms of human development. See Thomas Bowden’s The Enemies of Christopher Columbus”.

    This is not disparaging to those of native American Indian descent, who have the same rights and potential of any other human being and vice versa. It was not the fault of any particular individual what culture he happened to be born into — that was simply a fact — but neither did they have a right to massacre the settlers and demand they not live on the land deemed to be under tribalist control, just as no one had a right to wantonly kill Indians outside the context of a defensive war.

    None of this has anything to do with establishing a National Park through the removal of descendents of the settlers from their homes and land by politically-connected insiders taking what they want by exploiting the power of the state and Federal governments in complete disregard of other people’s rights. That is what happened at the Smokies and which was repeated elsewhere all across the country. It includes victimizing Indians in the west in the late 1800s and much later. Anyone with an interest in this topic should read Mark David Spence’s “Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks”.

  11. “What a morally disgusting, arrogant disregard for the rights of the individuals screwed by the National Park Service and its boosters. Don’t you dare tell me to “give it up”. No national park is “far greater than” the rights of individual human beings, who are not to be sacrificed to someone’s idea of the collective “environmental good”. Not in this country. We are not supposed to be worshipping trees and sacrificing people. No one deserves “thanks” for that.”

    Do you feel the same way about the men and women who have sacrificed their lives throughout this nations history for the greater good of the collective? Or is private property more important than an individual’s life? And yes a national park is more important than the individual rights of property owners. Tough luck.

    Now try and tell me that the people displaced by eminent domain were not paid money for their property.

  12. ewv

    People have lost their lives fighting for their values. No one has a duty to sacrifice his life or property to the “greater good of the collective”. This is not Soviet Russia. Christopher C has revealed what he is in stark terms that most viro progressives know to strategically hide, which is why the Burns/Duncan ‘documentary’ is deliberately deceptive manipulation.

  13. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Many good points above, but a Supreme Court decision several years ago giving local governments more power to seize people’s homes for economic development is rather scary, especially since local governments nationwide are now condemning entire poor neighborhoods where people have lived their entire lives in order for developers to take them over “for the greater good” of the local economy (increased tax base). We are now experiencing an extreme leap beyond our original “king’s highway” definition of eminent domain.

  14. ewv

    The Kelo decision a few years ago by the dominant progressive wing of the Supreme Court is the most recent in a string of such controversial decisions over seizing private property for “urban renewal”. These cases extend back at least 50 years to the first of the “blight” cases wiping out relatively poorer communities in cities. The Kelo decision further extended the elastic phrase “public use”, again showing what happens to helpless individuals under the premise of sacrifice to the “greater good of the collective”, which is always pursued by political interests who capture the power of government in the name of the “public” for one cause or another. The adverse Kelo decision created a national uproar and there has been some reform at the state level — see the website of the Institute for Justice non-profit legal foundation and its “Castle Coalition”, which has been spearheading this, at http://ij.org.

    But rural America had it “Kelo” decision for the Big Park campaign a long time ago when the Roosevelt court ruled in the 1940s that the National Park Service could use condemnation to take any property that it was authorized to acquire. This decision used the Condemnation Act from the late 1800s, which was intended to authorize Federal agencies to use condemnation for acquiring isolated, single buildings, but which has been interpreted much more broadly. Before 1900 there had not been much national eminent domain — the previous abuses had been under state power — but that changed with the rise of Progressivism in the early 20th century. Even in the 1930s the condemnations for the Smokey Mountains and Shenandoah were under state condemnation authority with the land then flipped to the National Park Service. The big wave of direct National Park Service condemnation took off in the Big Park campaign of the 1960s to early 1980s until it was stalled by limiting funding for government acquisition.

    This wave of propert seizures began with the Minute Man National Historic Park established in 1959 in the name of commemorating, of all things, the beginning of the American Revolution — for which use of condemnation of private property is about as morally inverted and obscene as the Burns claim that these government land takeovers are “America’s best idea” and an “extension of the Declaration of Independence”.

    A campaign by the park lobby to revive Big Park was announced in 1988 after the Reagan administration, and they are gearing up again now in coordination with the Burns/Duncan film promotion. The automatic power of condemnation once a park is authorized is why it is so important to stop the authorization of new parks and to clamp down on the acquisition funding for existing parks — once NPS is authorized to acquire your land and has the money, it does what it wants despite earlier poltical promises that it won’t force you out. The promises made at Cades Cove in the Smokies were among the earliest of a long string such broken promises, including at Minute Man, and today at Acadia — Don’t trust Lucy holding the football; the National Park Service always uses its powers. This is also why part of the Big Park campaign now seeks a Federal entitlement for billions of dollars a year for off-budget acquisition funding that cannot be controlled by the usual annual Congressional appropriations process. They want unlimited power to expand and the Burns/Duncan “documentary” is intended to promote this.

  15. Caysee

    EWV – correct me if I’m wrong, but what you’re saying is that it would have been ok if private developers came in and forced the poor residents out in the process of building gated communities, but its not ok for the government to step in and do what was necessary to stop the destruction of the land and prevent private developers from profiting from the land?

    And why is it that you speak as if it is only the wealthy politicians who receive any benefit from the National Parks? Please explain what it is that you believe motivates these selfish wealthy politicians to ruthlessly victimize certain people with such ridiculous notions as declaring patches of land as protected from harm? And please, do go on about the hardship those victims suffered when forced from their homes and kicked out on the street to fend for themselves.

    I think its sad that there are people like you doing what you can to keep the anger and negativity alive so that anyone who might want to accept and move on, certainly can’t with you around. What good are you doing? Have you ever had a positive influence on anything?

  16. ewv

    The post by Caysee is a run-on smear against everyone from alleged ‘evil developers’ to me and my personal accomplishments that he knows nothing about. It adds nothing to the discussion of the deplorable forced population displacements by the government.

    The National Park Service and its wealthy, politically connected boosters have been forcing ordinary people off their property all over the country for a century. It continues up to the present day, with more intended. The apologists for this don’t want people to know it and try to divert and suppress legitimate historical discussion and moral objections, demanding “acceptance” as the sanction of their victims. If they are so proud of what they did to people to “save” other people’s land then why hide it?

    These ongoing reprehensible actions by the well-heeled politically connected preservationists pre-date and are concurrent with the equally reprehensible Kelo condemnations for the purpose of transferring property to those who can tolerate higher property taxes. Both come from the same statist premises. People have a right to be angry at this.

    “Profit” is not evil; building a home and living on one’s own land is not “destruction”; putting up a “gate” to keep out vandals and thieves as an unfortunate necessity is not an evil to be sneered at to blame the victim and manufacture resentment towards private property owners.

    The constant negativity and disparagement towards private property owners and political freedom of the individual by advocates of government land takeovers is not only spreading dishonest revisionist history, but is intended to prevent reform and to continue trampling and wrecking the lives of innocent people who happen to own property that the park lobbyists covet. One can enjoy scenery without becoming a primitivist nature-worshipping fanatic crushing people and their genuine human accomplishments in advanced civilization. Neither nature nor scenery is an end in itself, politically and morally superior to the rights of the individual and civilized behavior.

  17. ewv

    The post by Caysee is a run-on smear against everyone from alleged ‘evil developers’ to me and my personal accomplishments that he knows nothing about. It adds nothing to the discussion of the deplorable forced population displacements by the government.

    The National Park Service and its wealthy, politically connected boosters have been forcing ordinary people off their property all over the country for a century. It continues up to the present day, with more intended. The apologists for this don’t want people to know it and try to divert and suppress legitimate historical discussion and moral objections, demanding “acceptance” as the sanction of their victims. If they are so proud of what they did to people to “save” other people’s land then why hide it?

    These ongoing reprehensible actions by the well-heeled politically connected preservationists pre-date and are concurrent with the equally reprehensible Kelo condemnations for the purpose of transferring property to those who can tolerate higher property taxes. Both come from the same statist premises. People have a right to be angry at this.

    “Profit” is not evil; building a home and living on one’s own land is not “destruction”; putting up a “gate” to keep out vandals and thieves as an unfortunate necessity is not an evil to be sneered at to blame the victim and manufacture resentment towards private property owners.

    The constant negativity and disparagement towards private property owners and political freedom of the individual by advocates of government land takeovers is not only spreading dishonest revisionist history, but is intended to prevent reform and to continue trampling and wrecking the lives of innocent people who happen to own property that the park lobbyists covet. One can enjoy scenery without becoming a primitivist nature-worshipping fanatic crushing people and their genuine human accomplishments in advanced civilization. Neither nature nor scenery is an end in itself, politically and morally superior to the rights of the individual and civilized behavior.

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