Mojave Cross Thief Issues Demands

Taking an already-magnified situation* and escalating it, someone claims to be the thief who stole the now-notorious Mojave Cross and has gone so far as to issue demands regarding its return.  He did so in the Desert Dispatch, a local newspaper in Barstow.  The anonymous author of the letter claims to be a veteran and says he will return the cross to someone who promises to put it up on private land after a different and secular style of war memorial is chosen to replace the cross at Sunrise Rock.  Interestingly, he concludes his letter as follows:

…this has happened because as Abraham Lincoln said: ‘To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men.’ Perhaps this was an inappropriate form of protest if so I humbly request your forgiveness and understanding for the actions that I have taken here.

Sorry, my friend, but forgiveness is not forthcoming from this quarter. You have escalated an already-difficult situation and polarized, rather than reconciled, feelings about that cross. Even though I agree with you that if there was to be a war memorial there, it should have been secular in nature, the Supreme Court ruled otherwise. We don’t get to make up the rules ourselves based on our own personal preferences — we have to submit to the rule of law and this was the decision of the nation’s highest court.  Just like I heartily disagreed with the decision of the California voters to pass Proposition 8 but nevertheless submit myself to the rule of law thus created, here again those of us who though the cross represented an Establishment of Christianity over other kinds of religion must seek out a different way to express that belief.  Your decision to express that belief through destruction of a Federal monument is not one that I can support or countenance.

I think one thing to bear in mind is that most of the people who have decided to concern themselves over the Mojave Cross would be better-advised to start caring about the Mojave Preserve from which it was taken.  They don’t, of course; it is a hallmark of magical thinking to confuse a symbol of something with the thing itself.  The cross is not Christianity.  The cross is not remembrance of fallen war dead.  It is a symbol of those things, not the things themselves.  But it is this very confusion that causes people to think that the idea of litigation over the placement of a cross on Federal land is an attack on Christianity, it is this very confusion that motivated someone to take the cross down and issue protests about its appropriateness as a war memorial.

I find myself in the position of, to take a more extreme example, an advocate of a separate Palestinian state upon hearing news of a suicide bombing in Israel.  The ostensible goal of the terrorist is to create a Palestinian nation, the same as the political activist, but that does not necessarily mean that the violent means of attempting to effect that political change can be even impliedly endorsed.  Some people might disbelieve that it is possible for person “A” to peacefully and lawfully advocate a goal that person “B” pursues through violent or unlawful means — and person “A” should both resent the actions of person “B” as counterproductive and should publicly condemn what “B” has done in the interest of advancing the desired cause.  That is the point of this post, and the point of my previous post on this subject.

The fact of the matter is that the only thing this thief has done is to make people who liked the cross on Sunrise Rock more determined than ever before to have a cross on Sunrise Rock.  Along the way, he has caused great embarrassment for those of us who thought there should not have been a cross on Sunrise Rock.  Now, not only do I have to argue that the Supreme Court blew the call, but I also have to disclaim someone who had the arrogance to replace his personal opinion for that of the Supreme Court’s.  Thanks for nothing, dude.  Here’s what I think you should do — drop the cross off in front of a National Park Service office somewhere anonymously and go away, then go get a lawyer, and refrain from making any further public statements about the matter.

The cross is not yours and it is not for you to decide its fate.  You have committed a crime.  Your moral duty is to return this property to its rightful and lawful owner, the Federal government, and your legal duty is to thereafter confine your protests concerning the cross to the meaningful and lawful means available to you for thus expressing yourself.

* By “magnified” I refer to the fact that had there not been a high-profile Supreme Court case concerning this cross, literally dozens of people would have noticed that the cross had gone missing; as it is, what would have been a deeply local event has become national news.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.