Wednesday, September 16, 2009

For the people

Colorado 2009 from Howard Hill on Vimeo.

That’s a little video from a recent trip Whitney and I took to Colorado a few weeks back where we spent a week relaxing and enjoying the outdoors. A good deal of our time was spent in an area called the Indian Peaks Wilderness that’s part of the Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests—just south of Rocky Mountain National Park. All the beauty of the Park but without all the crowds, as I like to say.

The best part is that (like many wilderness areas) the Indian Peaks Wilderness is free to everyone. In most areas you can simply pull up, park and go—pack out what you pack in is all that’s asked of you. There is one particularly popular area of trailhead parking however that charges a nominal $9 for an entire week of use. That means for the cost of going to a movie you get access to thousands of acres of the most beautiful country we’ve got for an entire week. I honestly don’t think there is a better deal in the world. (FYI, access to all of our National Parks generally costs less than $10 per vehicle and an annual pass to visit all of them is still only $80—$10 if you’re over 65. Not too shabby.)

The point I’m slowly making is that we should all be thankful that our government had the foresight to set aside these lands for all of us to enjoy. I’m sure there were cries of socialism or communism (or whatever the boogie man was in 1864) at the thought of public land being set aside and administered by the federal government "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

But thank god they did.

Because from where I sit, the most basic job of government is to make our lives better, to do the things we can’t do individually. And I would argue there’s no greater example of this than the setting aside of these parks for our enjoyment. Theodore Roosevelt famously said upon viewing the Grand Canyon for the first time, "keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve it." For the most part, we’ve held true to that. And for that, we should all feel a sense of great national pride.

Sure, we pay for these parks. We all pay for them in our taxes. But what if we didn’t? What if we hadn’t set them aside? Would they have been developed? Would they have been bought by our wealthiest individuals for their personal use? Or would these wonders have been subjected to man’s thinking that perhaps he can improve them? Probably all of those and more. And our lives would be worse as a result.

This is a great country. It’s a wonderful thing that all of us can see its greatest natural wonders for a nominal fee. It is a testament to who we are and what we stand for as a nation.

So what if in the coming months we began to hear the words “For the health and wellness of the people?” What if we realized we’re all in this together and that my wellbeing and your wellbeing is all of our wellbeing? Is our individual financial standing really that much more important than our collective moral standing?

I hope not.

I believe we owe every American a chance to be well and live a fruitful life for the same reason we owe every American an education: because a life spent sick or ignorant is no life at all. Not in the United States of America that I believe in, anyway.

For the health and wellness of the people.

Someday we’ll all be proud of what we’re getting ready to do. The same pride our forefathers should feel for having given me the gift of countless acres of pristine wilderness in which to spend a week and renew both my spirit and my faith in the things we are capable of as a country.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy first post 9/11, 9/11

From this morning's Gawker:

"On this day eight years ago, four commercial airplanes were hijacked and crashed into buildings and a field. Thousands died. This is the first anniversary of that terrible day, though, that the Terrorists will not still be winning.

Have you finished composing your "where I was" blog post or, god save us, your #whereiwas Tweet? Have you muted MSNBC's deplorable annual encore performance of the televised deaths of thousands? Have you remembered to never forget? Good. Fine.

Shortly after (or maybe during) that day, our president at the time, a little fuckhead no one liked, handed over the reins to the most psychotic elements of his administration. In the vast national wave of jingoism, paranoia, dread, and fear that followed, he and his friends led us into an unrelated war they'd been planning beforehand, allowed the CIA to wiretap and torture anyone they liked (and encouraged the CIA to wiretap and torture even more than they were comfortable with!), and regularly insisted that our memory of that day should not be sullied with critical thinking or expressions of anything other than still-palpable fear. This played better in the sorts of places that had nothing to fear from international terrorism, but plenty of formerly reasonable-acting people in the major targets did play along, both out of personal conviction and partisan duty.

In fact an entire cottage industry of dudes who were Changed Forever On That Day thrived on the internet. Bloggers, all of whom were self-professed Former Liberal Democrats, were suddenly freed to be racist, bloodthirsty warmongers. They were rewarded with traffic and mainstream legitimacy (even as they ritually attacked the MSM as terrorist-loving fifth columnists). Most are still treated as Serious People, even though their defining characteristic was a hysterical response to a crisis.

But we don't even need to feel bad about the Joe Kleins, Chris Hitchens, Andrew Sullivans, Glenn Reynolds, Charles Johnsons, and Peter Beinarts of the media world. Because, whatever, they are as responsible in their own ways as Wolfowitz for the Iraq tragedy, but their magical ride on the patriotism express has ended.

Barack Obama is the president now. Regardless of what you think of him as a politician or a man, he admirably refuses to engage in 9/11 rhetoric. He does not operate from the cynical assumption that his audience believes that America Can Do No Wrong, that to criticize a war is to be a literal traitor, that to not worship the president is to spit on the graves of soldiers, that the correct response to a tragedy is to create a thousand more. He doesn't talk like that. And so, fucking finally, the anniversary belongs to the latte-sipping out-of-touch coastal elites who witnessed it.

On 9/12, people in New York (and DC) did not feel as "great" as Glenn Beck. They just felt like shit. They felt scared and confused and depressed. Many of them were drunk. And only an idiot or an actual terrorist would want to always feel like it was 9/12/01. And eight years later, normal people, with brains and souls, have decided that some emotional distance from that disaster is healthier and wiser than trying to recapture the dread.

So thank fucking christ that the Commander in Chief is no longer subjecting the nation to death porn.

No, this year it's limited to a nutty little cult leader on basic cable who is encouraging his radicalized band of fanatical followers to invade the cities where the tragedy actually happened in order to shock the populace back into fear.

Glenn Beck is an actual terrorist, and the people attending his rally in DC tomorrow are al-Qaeda in America."

I coudn't have said it better myself.