It started out as an intriguing idea, an opportunity to illustrate absolutely what is wrong with one of Phoenix's landmarks. But the idea quickly became a bandwagon and the bandwagon a freight train, and heaven help any unfortunate soul who stands in the way.
It's Piestewa Peak or bust.
Somehow the death of a brave soldier has become the latest, most lethal weapon in the war on words that wound.
Just 24 days ago, Army Pfc. Lori Piestewa was reported missing in action, her 507th Maintenance Unit ambushed near Nasiriyah, Iraq.
Just 12 days ago, the 23-year-old single mother was confirmed dead, becoming this nation's first Native American servicewoman to die in combat.
Just eight days ago, my seat buddy, Ed Montini, eloquently suggested a way to both right a wrong and honor a fallen Arizona solider: by erasing a name for Native American women that many find offensive and replacing it with one that will, for all time, stand for honor.
Within days, the bandwagon was discarded and it was all abooooard. Destination: Squaw--- Piestewa Peak. By Friday, Gov. Janet Napolitano was demanding the resignation of Tim Norton, chairman of the state panel that names mountains and such. This, because he had the audacity to try to flag down the train by pointing out that the rules require a five-year wait.
Napolitano was not amused.
"His legal responsibility is, if I file a petition to change a name, he is to review it and consider it," she told reporters, in asking for his resignation.
And so Piestewa becomes a political hot potato. It's sad, really, because with this warrior, there is an opportunity to change far more than the name of a mountain.
Instead, we seem determined to bind her forevermore to controversy and resentment. Already, people are asking, what of Mike Williams, the Marine lance corporal killed while serving as a forward observer for his mortar unit? What of Fernando Padilla-Ramirez, the Marine sergeant killed during fighting near Nasiriyah? What of Jay Aubin, the Marine pilot killed in a helicopter crash in Kuwait?
When this war is through, they should all be honored, for such losses cannot be measured one against another. Then, when some time has passed and emotions settle, we should turn to the matter of the mountain.
But not now. Remember John F. Kennedy? Just six days after he was assassinated, Lyndon Johnson announced in a televised address that Cape Canaveral would be renamed Cape Kennedy. What ensued was a 10-year battle in Florida to change it back to the name it had held for 400 years. Until finally, it was.
Lori Piestewa deserves better than that.
It may be right that the mountain should be renamed for the first Native American servicewoman to die in combat.
It is certainly right that it should be renamed.
Her legacy, for now, should be that people come to see the word squaw in a new light: that the word offends, regardless of its linguistic root. And that we all grow in understanding and respect her for who she was and where she came from. Then rename Squaw Peak, in a year or two or five.
Perhaps her name should grace one of the city's most recognizable landmarks, soaring high above us and imbedded deep within us. But not now, not yet.
Give it time.
In the long run, done right, Pfc. Lori Piestewa might change more than mere mountains. She might change hearts.