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  • David Grassé

Compare and contrast

Most people probably take the State Seal of Arizona for granted. It is an image that appears of government vehicles, flags, websites, paperwork, etc. It is inlaid in the floor of the rotunda at the state capitol building. Most people never really bothered to study it, or to compare it with the original Territorial Seal. According to the Arizona Secretary of State, the State Seal represents "The state's key enterprises... mining, ranching, farming and climate; are symbolized on the face of the seal. In the background of the seal is a mountain range with the sun rising behind mountain peaks and at the right side of the mountain range is a storage reservoir (a man-made lake) and a dam. The sun and reservoir represent Arizona’s dry and sunny climate. In the middle of the seal are irrigated fields and orchards to represent farming; and, in the lower right side we see ranching represented in the form of grazing cattle. To the left, on a mountainside, is a quartz mill with a miner with a pick and shovel.

Above the drawing is the state motto, "Ditat Deus," meaning "God Enriches." Now. let's look at the Territorial Seal. Front and center there is a deer. The animal is standing is a pristine forest setting, replete with pine trees and grasslands. The background shows a mountain range (probably a rendering of the San Francisco Peaks, near Prescott, which was the territorial capitol). There is a saguaro cactus (or an over-sized barrel cactus) as well, which seems a little out of place. Again the motto "Ditat Deus" appears. It is the only thing the two seals have in common.

Immediately apparent in looking at these two seals side-by-side is the territorial seal is a celebration of nature's immense bounty, while the state seal is a celebration of capitalist industry. There is no evidence of human habitation or human interference in the territorial seal. What a contrast with the state seal, in which nature has fallen under the hand of humankind to be exploited. The pine trees and cactus are nowhere to be seen, and the grasslands have been uprooted, replaced by plowed earth, and rows of crops. What has not been plowed under has become the feed for cattle. The river is now dammed, and the canyon flooded. The mountains are being hollowed out in the quest for precious minerals (this illustration was obviously executed prior to the advent of open pit mining). And, of course, the wildlife, as represented by the deer, is now gone, replaced by a mining man, and his implements of environmental destruction (the pick and shovel). Only the sun above remains unaffected.

There are some, I do not doubt, who would argue that the state seal is a celebration of progress. I do not see it this way, as I have seen the after-effects of this so-called "progress." To quote the late Warren Zevon, "And it ain't that pretty at all."


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