Hell’s Canyon, where the Snake River cuts its path past boulders and mountains along the Oregon-Idaho border, is deeper, longer and more remote than the Grand Canyon, according to my trail guide. She ought to know—her family rode in a covered wagon on the Oregon Trail and homesteaded in the 1800s.
We stood under the fire tower at Hat Point in Oregon, keenly aware of the wildfires burning to the west, and looked across green forests to the Seven Devils mountains in Idaho. We had driven up the trail, twenty-five miles along a one-vehicle wide gravel road with enough deep drop offs for me to hold my breath, from Imnaha at the bottom of another canyon. The view along the trail and overlooking the canyon was literally awesome, the amber waves of wheat, the expanse of green conifers, the folds of distant mountains, so I made pictures in every direction.
Which I posted on Facebook—until I was BLOCKED.
Blocked for posts which were offensive, subversive, vulgar and hate-filled. If I persisted in my bad behavior, or even tried to access my account, I was subject to being blocked permanently.
For photos of mountains, trees, and a family picnic.
I had no recourse. Blocks are unblocked only when the blocker chooses.
I felt like a child sent to Time Out, except that this could have more serious consequences. I was unjustly and arbitrarily accused of criminal behavior, the kind that stains a reputation. A mistake, but one which could be troublesome for me.
Someone suggested that I used the word “hell” too often in describing the photos. Of course I did—it was Hell’s Canyon, a place name on maps. Even if I’d been cursing, “hell” is as mild as dishwater compared to many posts on Facebook. What’s the objection?
I knew this would work itself out—of course it would. This is America. Such things don’t happen here—nevertheless, I felt helpless. And angry. Like a child, ready to lash out in rebellion, but there was nowhere to go.
I let my imagination roam to people whose lives are caught up in unfair, arbitrary rules which can land them in prison or deprive them of livelihood. If I was angry at being forced off Facebook, what would it be like to live in fear of the state police or moral monitors?
I’m going to Cuba soon, going as a journalist in hopes of talking with people about what their life is like. I know to be cautious. They speak more freely now, but still the word police have ears and I could be tossed out if I overstep.
Maybe Facebook provided me with a cautionary experience.
I’ve been released from the block. No explanation. I assume I’m free to post the remaining photos. But I’ll be looking over my shoulder from now on. That’s the lesson learned—watch out. It can happen again.