Many years ago, when I was a kid, I saw the film The Alamo, starring John Wayne. I seem to remember enjoying it, but I wasn’t altogether sure about the events it depicted, whereas other films dealing with Waterloo, Cromwell, the Battle of Britain and the voyages of the Argonauts, for example, contained material that resonated with me far more.
As such, I pretty much forgot about the place for over a decade until late February 1982, when I learned through the pages of a music paper that the former Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne had found himself in very deep mire indeed after he was caught pissing on the Alamo by an outraged member of a Texan law enforcement body. The event immediately took on legendary proportions and while I can’t remember exactly how I learned of it in those far-off, pre-internet days, I was taken aback to discover that the Alamo compound was surrounded by many modern roads and buildings, as I’d imagined that this ‘sacred land’ in America somehow still sat in splendid isolation in the midst of some relatively inaccessible dusty prairie.
In the profound ignorance of youth, I formed a largely negative idea of the American heritage industry as a result of this, while my prejudices on this broad subject were reinforced when I learned of fast food restaurants and suchlike despoiling the sites of Civil War battlefields and others. I fondly like to think that enlightenment would have dawned sooner rather than later, but as I came to realise to what a shocking degree the ‘sacred’ Stonehenge landscape had been systematically despoiled, then so it occurred to me that my views on the treatment of the Alamo and other sites were ill-informed and hypocritical.
This much is surely obvious, but despite my belated realisation of my wrong-thinking, the desecration of Stonehenge and its landscape continues as I write this. A few months ago, I was appalled when I was sent a link that supplied details of what the English Heritage staff had been forced to deal with after one of the Open Access events at Stonehenge, because the summary made clear that every form of fluid and solid waste produced by the human body had been deliberately left on and around the stones.
And while the very heart of Stonehenge has been wantonly befouled, the wider landscape itself is in danger of being eroded by the construction of a proposed tunnel, although I’ll leave the reader to look into this matter for themselves, as I find it too wearisome to revisit the details and the attendant arguments.
From a personal perspective, I can see that the Stonehenge landscape is home to just about every tangible and intangible treasure that it’s possible to imagine, and I’ve looked into this matter carefully for more than a decade. However, despite the very real existence of this cornucopia, it seems to me that all that stands between the heart of old England and the metaphorical bulldozers is an online petition, which I suspect will be carelessly swatted aside like a gnat then forgotten when the day of reckoning arrives.
Despite the undoubted fact that this landscape is a Wonderland in every sense and probably has been for millennia, I suspect that there’s more chance of the territory claimed by ISIS being recognised as a state than there is of Stonehenge’s landscape being regarded as sacred and inviolable for ever more.
“What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down…”
The Doors, When the Music’s Over.