For most of us, Marjory Stoneman Douglas is the high school in Parkland, Florida, where 17 humans were murdered on Valentine’s Day. Many more were wounded. It is, by some counts, the 18th school shooting this year.
The day after, it’s going to seem irrelevant to remind folks of who Marjory Stoneman Douglas was, but I’ll do it anyway.
In 1947, she wrote a book that changed the way people looked at the Everglades, and eventually at swampland in general. Here is a quote from “The Everglades: River of Grass” on a National Parks Service marker:
“There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like them; their vast glittering openness, wider than the enormous visible round of the horizon, the racing free saltness and sweetness of their massive winds, under the dazzling blue heights of space. They are unique also in the simplicity, the diversity, the related harmony of the forms of life they enclose. The miracle of the light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slow-moving below, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades of Florida. It is a river of grass.”
Before her book, the Everglades had been considered a nuisance, an impediment to progress, a swamp to be drained. Evolution hasn’t been perfect, but Douglas deserves a large share of credit for the fact that any part of the life-giving wetland remains.
The book has proven to be an enduring classic. It’s scientifically sound. It’s well written. It’s still in print and it preceded Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” by 15 years and transformed Douglas into Enemy No. 1 among South Florida’s voracious real estate developers and business lobby.
Those who are offended by women taking to the streets in pink knit hats would hate her for being a suffragist, a feminist, a newspaper reporter and columnist, a naturalist, a novelist, an essayist and an agnostic who forbade religious services at her funeral.
Not that she’d have given a damn.
She lived to be 108 and stayed active almost until the end of her life. Her ashes were scattered over the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wildlife Area in Everglades National Park.
A lot of things are named after her, including two public schools – an elementary school in Miami-Dade and the high school in Broward County that has become the site of a mass school shooting. I’m stifling the urge to call it the most recent school shooting. Hell, it’s only Thursday. By the time this column appears, another could have gone down.
I’m permitted to use this space to air the occasional rant and was set to write about another topic today, but I woke up this morning and couldn’t remember what it was.
I’m scared for my grandchildren, and for all of us. Open-carry politicians who have made it possible for the AR15 to become the weapon of choice for school shooters can take their thoughts and prayers and shove them.
And I hate that this is the way that most people know the name Marjory Stoneman Douglas today.
But look at the bright side: Florida’s ambitious attorney general, Pamela Bondi, has announced that her office will pay for all the funerals. Hooray!