Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Arrogant Politicians, Government Shutdowns, and our Underappreciated Public Servants: The Rangers and Staff of the National Park Service
I am appalled at what has transpired over the last two weeks, and I can only describe the behavior of certain individuals in government as reprehensible. In a nutshell, a political party decided that a law that was duly enacted by Congress, signed by the duly elected President, affirmed by the Supreme Court, and affirmed again by a presidential election, needed to be stopped by any means possible. They threw out the Constitution that they so dearly claim to love that describes the process for making laws, and instead held millions of government employees, veterans, children, and others hostage, claiming that they would even cause our nation to default on its bills if they didn't get their way.
For all of the horrific things that happened, the most symbolic was the exchange that took place between Representative Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) and a ranger at a war memorial. He voted to shut the government down, and then had the audacity to berate her for doing the job she was ordered by him to do. As if it was all her fault. No one deserves a supervisor like that (see the sordid episode here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5Du5FHBQ-w#t=16 . I'm glad people in the crowd stuck up for her).
I admire the people who have chosen to serve their country in the National Park Service. They are paid poorly and don't always have job security (when federal budget cuts come, the NPS gets cut first, even though they make up an infinitesimal part of the budget). And they are trained to take a whole bunch of crap from morons who think that the laws of society and civility don't apply in the parklands they are visiting. And they are marvelous role models for legions of children who are introduced to the outdoors in part due to their leadership. I know I was impressed with rangers when I was a child. It was one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up (I'm still wanting to be a ranger, just as soon as I grow up...).
I feel so bad for people who had planned for and traveled to national parks, but were prevented from doing so by the privileged members of Congress who barely seem aware of the damage they have done. I especially feel for the folks who couldn't start their river trips on the Colorado River, something that requires years of waiting for permits, and months of planning, and thousands of dollars. I wasn't able to introduce my students to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks last weekend. We had to go somewhere else.
I've been telling myself that the importance of closing down the parks was not as high a priority as caring for veterans or feeding kids in Head Start, but I'm not so sure now. Our National Parks and Monuments are the symbols of what is best about America, and we should be caring for them and promoting them to the world as our best ever idea. I don't care how big our missiles and planes and ships are. It says so much more about what we value as a people that we have set aside our most beautiful and precious places for future generations. Our parks should not be neglected; they should be cared for and improved, and staffed by sufficient numbers of rangers that they can protect the resources, and provide expert interpretation for all park visitors.
Take a look at this link at Anonymous Rangers (http://npexperience.com/blog/2013/10/15/anonymous-rangers ) and have a look at the beautiful video they provided. And let a ranger know you appreciate their hard work and sacrifice. They are the best of America! (including you, Gaelyn!)