Georgia Guidestones: A controversial monument's explosive end
Farewell to America's Stonehenge, a weird-ass collection of scolding granite
Right up until last Wednesday, several gargantuan, carved granite pillars stood in a lonely, remote field in eastern Georgia. Called the Georgia Guidestones, they were impressive feats of engineering, stones weighing thousands of pounds apiece placed with enough precision that you could literally use them to tell time. They were adorned with observations and guidance that, depending on your mindset, read as anything from benign to Satanic.
They represented humanity’s immense capacity for creation and innovation, and the hope that tomorrow would be better than yesterday. They were the living embodiment of humanity’s need to be weird just for the sake of being weird. And they also demonstrated two of humanity’s worst instincts: the need to tell other people how to live their lives, and the urge to destroy anything that provokes discomfort.
And now they’re gone.
Early on the morning of July 6, an as-yet-unidentified car drove onto the grounds near the pillars that comprise what’s been called America’s Stonehenge. Soon afterward, an explosion blasted one of the pillars into rubble, taking a chunk of the horizontal capstone with it.
Investigators determined that the entire structure was unstable and unsafe for further inspection — not surprising, given that you’re talking about monstrous chunks of granite that could squish you into paste if they fell on you — and so ended up pulling the rest of the structure. It was a sad end to a monument that had stood on the site for more than 40 years.
The pillars — four slabs and a center column, connected by a capstone overlaying them all — first showed up in 1980, funded by a proverbial Mysterious Benefactor named R.C. Christian and built, on his behalf, with the assistance of a local banker who never revealed Christian’s true identity. Nearby Elberton is a granite manufacturing hub, so both the raw materials and the engineering knowhow were easy to come by. (So too are explosives strong enough, hypothetically, to take the monument down, just for perspective.)
The land on which the stones sat was bought off a local farmer and deeded to Elberton. Cows grazed on the land right up until they started using the stones as scratching posts, which really distracted from the solemn majesty of the whole scene.
The stones featured carvings with ambiguous messaging, words that could be interpreted — depending on your intelligence, your empathy, your conspiratorial suspicion or your cynicism — as inspirational, motivational, or demonic. The words were repeated in multiple languages — Arabic, English, Hebrew, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, Swahili and Traditional Chinese — with the apparent rationale that since those languages covered the majority of the earth, almost anyone who made it to this field in the middle of nowhere would be able to read them.
What did the stones say? Hey, glad you asked. The following messages were inscribed:
Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
Unite humanity with a living new language.
Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
Balance personal rights with social duties.
Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.
Now, at first glance there’s a whole lot to like in those messages. “Leave room for nature” is always a good idea, as is a focus on truth, beauty and love. And I’m pretty sure we can all get behind No. 7; nobody cares for petty laws or useless officials.
But a couple other lines raised eyebrows — and, obviously, explosive desires. The idea of a “world court” or a “new language” tends to freak out the isolationist elements of American society, as does the idea of curbing “personal rights” in favor of “social duties.” And any time words like “fair” and “tempered reason” start showing up, so too does the question of who gets to define what “fair” means.
It’s the first two lines, though, that really chap some hides. Keeping the world’s population under 500 million — or about one-sixteenth of its current level — would require a whole lot of culling. (Perhaps by the nuclear war that the monument’s mysterious benefactor thought was coming, which was not an uncommon view in the 1970s.) And “guiding reproduction wisely” sounds a whole lot like the sorts of experiments that end with lunatic scientists trying to breed master races, which never ends well.
So, yes, you can see why those lines might not receive universal acclaim. Combine that with our persistent interest in the peculiar and mysterious, blend in a few YouTubers with internet connections and too much time on their hands, toss in a few dashes of utterly unsupported Illuminati/Satanist/Q-Anon it’s-all-connected conspiracy babble, and you’ve got yourself a genuine American mystery. Now throw in some explosives, because some people can only handle challenges to their worldview by blowing them up, and you get what happened on July 6.
In eulogizing the stones, Daniel Graves, mayor of Elberton, dismissed the apocalyptic speculation that’s hovered over the stones since 1980. “The Guidestones are unique and confusing to many, but the message they testify to has never been what is written on them or what some kooky YouTuber thinks they mean,” he said the day after their destruction. “It is the stones themselves and the men and women who crafted them from the raw earth that tell the story.” Credit to Graves for focusing on the visible effort of creation, and also credit for using the word “kooky” in 2022.
The local D.A. wants to prosecute this as a case of domestic terrorism, since it’s really not a great idea to have people running around free with enough destructive power to pulverize granite. But the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s progress in the case has slowed because — shocker — nobody’s talking.
There’s a kind of circular perfection to the Guidestones being born in mystery and destroyed in mystery. But the end result is that Georgia’s a little less strange today without them. And that’s a damn shame.
Your turn. Tell me your favorite roadside attraction … which hopefully hasn’t been blown up yet.
Meanwhile, at the day job …
The Open Championship is this week in Scotland, and Tiger Woods may or may not have just said goodbye to the famed Old Course at St. Andrews. Here’s what I wrote about his tearful goodbye Friday, which by my count is the 745th farewell I’ve written to Tiger’s career.
Walker Hayes seems like a decent fellow. However, Walker Hayes also foisted the song “Fancy Like” on the world, which you may know better as the horrific Applebees jingle that wraps itself around your skull like a tapeworm. Hayes released another bit of song-like product Friday, a list of Southern cliches (high school football! Sweet tea! Jesus!) called “Y’all Life.” The SEC tried to give the song some love, and it didn’t go well. Here’s the song, judge for yourself.
See you next week, friends. Good luck getting that song out of your head.
This is issue #64 of Flashlight & A Biscuit. Check out all the past issues right here. Feel free to email me with your thoughts, tips and advice. If you’re new around here, check out some of our hits:
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