It was only fitting and proper that so close to Memorial Day we the living should honor a child who was among the dead at the notorious Mountain Meadows Massacre. His or her remains need to be with the rest of the family in Utah, where they were all slaughtered by a mixed band of Mormons and American Indians.
That was 150 years ago. The mills of justice may turn slowly, but they still grind exceedingly fine. And the senior U.S. senator from Arkansas, the Hon. and honorable John Boozman, is doing his best to make sure they keep turning, even if he has to introduce special legislation to see that they do.
The child's skull was listed as Item No. 2032 in the catalog of the National Museum of Health and Medicine. "This is literally sitting in a drawer in the museum," the senator noted. Its 1866 catalog listed it as "a cranium perforated by a small hunting rifle ball, which entered just below the left parietal protuberance and emerged half an inch in front of the anterior inferior angle of the right parietal." That's as close to a decent burial that the child has gotten till now.
A group based here in Arkansas, Mountain Meadows Massacre Descendants, wasn't about to let the memory of this child and that of all the other victims of the slaughter be forgotten. To quote its president, Patty Norris, "All we've ever wanted to do is to see that that child had a proper Christian burial at Mountain Meadows. That's all we've ever wanted to do and hopefully we'll get that done." But even that much has been too much to ask in this world where martyrs are forgotten, evidence ignored, and cruelty too often outweighs kindness or even simple decency. The rule in these matters too often is not Remember the Dead but Bury the Evidence.
It was Patty Norris who reached out to Senator Boozman and found him more than receptive. Which speaks well of both of them and all of those who joined them in resolving that these dead shall not have died in vain, however long it might take to do justice to their memory and revive the country's. But will this reunion of child and family take place in death so long after they were together in life?
"I think it's likely to happen," says Senator Boozman, "because it's the right thing to do. It's the common sense thing to do. I think we've got a very, very good chance of having this young child laid to rest with the rest of her family." In a lovely mountain meadow that already has been declared a National Historical Landmark.
The sounds of gunfire no longer echo there, the bitter fruits of betrayal have long since been harvested, the shame of those who for years tried to deny this crime and fought every effort to raise a monument to this monumental crime. It has all passed now, and the only thing that remains is a skull. A solitary clue to all that happened, and even it has been desecrated. But one day all will be set right. And that day may be coming soon. Keep the faith. Not only for the sake of these victims but our own. For what are we without our memories, the essence of our very selves? We betray all when we betray ourselves. And unless we hold on to those memories, we lose the very basis of our very selves.
There's a reason people visit old cemeteries, and why the monuments to children there may be the most affecting of all. And then to have all those memories reduced to a scientific display in a museum, an item in a long outdated catalog of curiosities, the child's murder acknowledged in passing but with all the dispassion of a museum guide.
Justice, justice, thou shalt pursue, says the Good Book. And justice we shall yet have. However long it takes.
Editorial on 06/11/2016
Print Headline: It's never too late