Carol W. LaGrasse, reprinted from Positions on Property, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Jan. 1995)

Culture for Elite Consumer Consumption

The Park Service doesn’t like Disney, but its own cultural preservation is also for mass consumption — by a more elite set.

Especially poignant and exploitable by the “sustainable development” buffs is the succinctly quaint. Hence antiques and cottage crafts are to be marketed by rural folk to rootless urbanites.

Museums and appropriate historic places, as well as sites for viewing, preferably part of long corridors, are sanctioned by the National Park Service and the elite preservation gaggle for weekend and vacation escapes by urbanites and prosperous professionals.

Thus the National Park Service prettifies true countryside for rafters and motorists and restores it to “wildlands” for the animals and elites.

The elites’ passionate defense of the environs of Manassas Battlefield in the face of the Disney brand of consumption culture for the middle class was not a defense of “real” culture. It was merely a defense of “our” culture, that of selective preservationists that doesn’t allow for the viability of a living, breathing culture.

The National Park Service’s brand of historic and cultural preservation has no room for the culture, religion and history of the ordinary rural people who built America day by day, for their living and dying that is inextricably connected to the rural countryside. This mundane heritage of old cemeteries, roads and fishing holes, of plain country dwellings surrounded by the essentials of rural self-sufficient life, has no glamor for the urban set, and interrupts the visual expanse and the intense “validity” of biosphere preservation. Everyday rural cultural has meaning in its particularity, some real living rural person’s home, a memorial to a person’s grandfather or aunt, or a person’s place for making a living. This is real culture and the National Park Service must crush it. It has no consumer purpose and “saving the planet” does. Worse, this heritage strengthens rural people in their independence. It all depends on the clientele and the source of power.

This is why when Disney intended to build a park five miles from Manassas Battlefield, which is already bounded by development, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt could say with conviction, “I think it’s something we’ll have to look at in terms of its impact on an area that is already hallowed ground,” (1) although he has not noticed the complaints of rural people as hundreds of their hallowed cemeteries are “re-wilded.”

(1) Lorraine Woellert, “Reversed Disney Plan Looks Bigger to Some,” Washington Times, May 24, 1994

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