Three letters should not rule your world. Nonetheless, I should have seen this coming, after all, the initials of my father, the man from whom I received half of my DNA, are S.C.A. For most of my life, these three letters had no significance to me other than that they were my father’s initials.
And then came graduate school.
Like most archaeologists working in California, I joined the Society for California Archaeology as a graduate student. It was a simple affair – I filled out the application, sent in my membership dues, selected my interest categories, participated in the ritual blood-letting and candle-lit orgy in honor of A. L. Kroeber, and I was part of the tribe. It was another S.C.A. with which I had become associated, but that was fine – the pattern had not yet revealed itself.
The Society for California Archaeology provided me with all manner of opportunities for self-abuse and over-burdening. It was here that I began my current habit of public speaking as a professional archaeologist. I began with a paper delivered at the annual meeting, held in Sacramento in 2005. In 2006, the meeting was in Ventura, and I presented two papers. In 2007, in San Jose, I not only presented a paper, but was also co-chair of a symposium that has now turned into an upcoming book for which I have written a chapter. All in all, this S.C.A. was good for my career and bad for my blood-pressure.
My next S.C.A. experience came a year later, when I was recruited for an internship at Vandenberg Air Force Base through the Student Conservation Association. On the whole, it was a positive experience – I learned a good deal about how federal facilities and agencies handle their obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act, I had numerous opportunities to interact with elders and monitors from the Santa Ynez Chumash Reservation, and I was placed in a group that worked for (no I am not making this up) the Air Force’s Space Command (I even met a Sgt. James T. Kirk who worked for Space Command – no I’m not making that up either – I could never figure out why he hadn’t been promoted to captain).
Vandenberg has amazing cultural resources. My job was part paper-pushing (dealing with the basic bureaucracy of managing a large number of cultural resources on a large piece of land) and partially field-based (I used to spend half a day each week visiting endangered sites to see what condition they were in and whether they would need further protection or excavation to prevent the loss of archaeological information to erosion). I also monitored construction work to ensure that archaeological sites were not damaged – one time I even had to monitor construction done by a convict work gang – an odd experience by anyone’s standard.
I went to do the internship on the Air Force Base at the same time that the Air Force Academy was being investigated for aggressive and hostile proselytization of non-Evangelical Christians. The Air Force concluded that the behavior at the academy was inappropriate, but not worthy of extensive action. I cannot speak for the Air Force Academy, but if my base was any indication, then I suspect that those investigating may have been foxes sent to watch the hen house. I never had anyone actively try to recruit me, but the displeasure with non-Protestants was often made known.
For example – every meeting with military officers began with a prayer. And not just any prayer, but one that was clearly Christian, and of a born-again variety. I sat through presentations given by high-ranking officers in which they explained that “we have to tolerate ‘non-Christians’” which included Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Pagans, atheists, and so on, naturally. But the definition of “non-Christian” used by these officers bizarrely included such clearly Christian groups as Catholics, Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons (yes, they are Christian, most of what you heard is likely distorted or urban legend), and members of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The nature of the presentations made it clear that the officers always thought that they were speaking solely to a particular brand of right-wing Protestant and nobody else, even while the statistics they gave clearly indicated that many other types of folks were always in the audience.
Also, it was official policy that politics and religion were not to be discussed in the work place. It was also well known that this policy was ignored provided that the religion being advocated was Christianity and that the politics being embraced were those of the Republican Party.
So, on the whole, the experience was valuable, but in large part valuable by shaping my views of the disturbing nature of mixing religion with government. Remember, these folks loved Book of Revelation-themed literature such as “Left Behind” and often spoke about how they looked forward to the “End of Days” – and these people have access to nuclear weapons.
Also, I moved to Lompoc to facilitate the internship. And once I had moved to Lompoc, I was introduced to the next S.C.A.: The Society for Creative Anachronism. That is a story for Part 2.
Or you can be a slacker-ass and go to .Part 3.