The Desert Anarchist Essay

The Desert Anarchist Essay

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Throughout history there have always been controversial figure-heads of movements; whether its race, politics, the environment, universal suffrage, or illegal immigration; the list goes on. Some are decried as fanatics. Some are labeled as heretics, or hysterical. Some have been assassinated. Some lived full lives. A reigning feature has been a misunderstanding of a message, due to poor historical memory, or a lack of critical thinking. One of the most misunderstood figures of the twentieth century was the anarchist writer Edward Abbey.
The first of five children, Edward Paul Abbey was born on January 29, 1927 in the tiny village of Home, Pennsylvania. After learning to read when he was four, he became an incessant reader and, showing an ego that would prevail until the time of his death, lorded his intelligence over his siblings as he got older. His father, Paul Revere Abbey, exerted tremendous influence over the Abbey children with his radical politics and frequent Walt Whitman quotes. Howard Abbey, Edward’s younger brother, described their father as an “anti-capitalist, anti-religion, anti-prevailing opinion, anti-booze, anti-war, and anti-anyone who didn’t agree with him,” and would espouse the virtues of Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas, Soviet Communism, and “Big” Bill Haywood.
Prior to being drafted to fight in World War II at the age of seventeen in 1944, Abbey was struck with the family wanderlust and hit the road, hitchhiking across America. After making it to California, Abbey was taught how to hop a train from an old hobo, following fruitless attempts at hitching a ride in the blistering summer heat of the Mojave Desert outside of Needles. Two train-rides and a night in jail later, he was in Albuquerque buying a bus-tic...


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...of our time as best as I can see it…To oppose, resist, and sabotage the contemporary drift towards a global technocratic police state, whatever its ideological coloration. I write to oppose injustice, to defy power, and to speak for the voiceless,” and Abbey stuck to those ethos his entire life.




Works Cited

Abbey, Edward. One Life at a Time, Please. New York: Heny Holt and Company, 1988.
Bishop Jr, James. Epitaph for a Desert Anarchist: The Life and Legacy of Edward Abbey. New York: Macmillan, 1994.
James Hepworth, Gregory McNamee, ed. Resist Much, Obey Little: Some Notes on Edward Abbey. Tucson: Harbinger House, 1989.
Limerick, Patricia Nelson. Something in the Soil: Legacies and Reckonings in the New West. New York : WW Norton & Company, 2000.
Loeffler, Jack. adventures with ED: a portait of Abbey. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002.

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