Wednesday, August 3, 2016

National pride, National Contentment, National Health

National Parks again…so important, our national jewels, I must write more!

If you have not been to a national park, national monument, wildlife preserve, national forest or any other public lands in a while, get going.  These lands are this country's greatest treasures and   are stunning examples of beauty and splendor and peace.   They represent the best of "government of the people, by the people, for the people," and stand in sharp contrast to what's happening for-profit on our land.  Cities and towns and  highways are clogged with ugly development.  This spirit-killing growth is brought to us, all too frequently, by corporate power, the same power the Republicans want to turn our public lands over to for private exploitation.    

We had traveled too many miles along roads showcasing ugly to be tranquil.  Yet, as we stood on the edge looking deep into Bryce Canyon, the splendor erased our travel weariness and political unease.  To our right was a Japanese family on vacation.  Their darling little girl was delightedly jumping around as only a small child can do.  Her parents were snapping photo after photo, first of the canyon and then of the family.  On our left  were teenagers on a school field trip, stunned into a few moments of silence by the canyon's sheer beauty before  leaping into a photo-taking frenzy.  A young family from Canada asked me to take their picture.   They posed in such a proper manner I asked them to do something silly for a second photo.  They were at first embarrassed by this unknown woman, asking them to do something silly, but then they sprung into action.  I'll never see the "silly" photo but I'm willing to bet it's a favorite -- all four of them flung their hands in crazy directions and put their bodies into crooked crazy angles and giggled with delight.

Bryce Canyon

Happy people from all over  the world gather on our nation's public lands.  They bond over the beauty and majesty.  All through the land, with cameras clicking and folks oohing and awing, friendships are forming.  The Grand Canyon, Arches, Mesa Verde, the Statue of Liberty, Glacier, Crater Lake, Big Bend, Denali, Everglades, and more are high on vacation destination dreams.   Often the dream is to see all 59 national parks, 121 national monuments or to hike as many national forests as can be squeezed into a life time.

Big Bend, Texas

Everglades, Florida

Empire State Building,  New York

Mesa Verde, Colorado

Cascade Mountains,  Washington

If our Washington DC cocooned politicians would travel this country, outside their chauffeur driven black cars, with a walking stick and walking shoes, exploring the nooks and crannies like we do, there would be no talk of  public land swaps, giveaways or privatization.  If they allowed themselves to get down and dirty -- camp, hike, swim, fish, build sand castles, observe wildlife, talk with park visitors -- they too would "fall in love with this land".   Fortunately, our dear President Barack Obama  did just that when he and his family visited Yosemite this year.  It inspired these words:

"I think that the way a place like this imprints itself in you, especially when you're young, and carries on the rest of your life, is remarkable.  I do believe that when we get kids,  families, out in the open spaces, it changes them.  It roots you.  It gives you a sense that there's something bigger and grander than you.  It gives you a sense of order."

I find it ironic that in this centennial year of our national parks, the Republican Party platform would have them struck dead, or at the very least turned over to profiteers for ruin and squander, as if squeezing the life out of them with draconian budget cuts has not been severe enough. 


"The parks do not belong to one state or to one section… The Yosemite, the Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon are national properties in which every citizen has vested interest; they belong as much to the man of Massachusetts, of Michigan, of Florida, as they do to the people of California, of Wyoming, and of Arizona.  Who will gainsay that the parks contain the highest potentialities of national pride, national contentment, and national health?  A visit inspires love of country; begets contentment; engenders pride of possession; contains the antidote for national restlessness… He is a better citizen with a keener appreciation of the privilege of living here who has toured the national parks."

~ Stephen T. Mather
 NPS Director, 1917 - 1929

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