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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Wilderness, Changes, Hopes, and Frustrations

          There is a Blue Buffalo dog food commercial that talks about how inside the soul of a puppy, people will find a wolf. Sure, it’s savvy marketing, but it works nicely to express to all of us that there is something primitive and unrestrained in an animal, a place, or in us. A good word for that uninhibited desire stretching out to every boundary that it touches is wilderness. We can see this in animals, people, and in nature. 
             If you love the wild in yourself, like the wild in the dogs I described, then you have to embrace it as much as you can. Unfortunately, not all of us can do that for many reasons. Some of these include lack of confidence, health issues, perceived time constraints, and not knowing how. There are ways to remedy this, but they can all fit under one header, which says raise up the people around us to be better for their world. Let them see the fire in themselves, and good things will come. 
             To this end, Jack London once said, "I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." It it my belief that everyone has that right if they want it. If they don't, well we can't make them, but if people want to live strong and give back to themselves and the community, then we should help them do this.
             In addition to people, there is wilderness, and if you love the wild, there isn't as much of it left as there once was. For instance, in the lower 48 states, the furthest we get from a paved road is 28 miles. In the Eastern United States, the swamps offer us 17 miles of buffer zone from humanity. What’s in between places like that 100+ mile stretch of highway across Utah on Route 70 is a whole lot of desolation, national monuments, national parks, government-protected property, ranches, mining operations, and desolation. Some people would call that much nothing land a waste of space or a place to dread visiting, but others would call it a paradise. I'm one of those people, and so was Edward Abbey, who said, “A venturesome minority will always be eager to set off on their own, and no obstacles should be placed in their path; let them take risks, for godsake, let them get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches - that is the right and privilege of any free American.”
             However, not everyone has this respect for the unrestrained or that which yearns to be in its truest form. Instead, they seek to subjugate man, animals, and nature's will to that of their own strength and decisions of what is and isn't right.
            For example, on April 11, 1956, the federal government ecstatically authorized the construction of Glen Canyon Dam to power the West, making it possible for cities to exist in the scorching desert while flooding the wilderness. After all, it sure beat doing all of this to the Grand Canyon, and it helped society. Win / win, right? However, what used to be there in these canyons, places like Cathedral in the Desert, is now completely dead, dying, or whittled away significantly because of America’s need to get bigger and bigger. 
            Unfortunately, this reaction is what it is when the inevitable change has to occur. Seeing as people like me want to see the sights on vacation, there has to be a way to do it. That way is that people need to live in this wilderness to make that goal possible, and something in the world has to give to make these things a reality. In addition to this it’s true that no matter what solution we offer, inevitably, someone will complain about what’s lost to largely deaf ears. With this, more often than not, nothing will be remembered by the casual masses until it's too late, but for those of us who scream and shout our warnings anyway, anywhere, just to be heard in the muffled vacuum of silent space, we will reach some people.
           But will it be enough? 
           Fortunately, even if we only get to their words years later, we can still listen wisely to the voices of the past so we won't make the same mistakes again. When we do this, we can't apologize for someone else's mistake, but we can do our best to learn from it so we don't repeat.
            But this brings us back to where we are now with the decisions that compromise our individual rights and our own personal wilderness. Many times this exists in utilitarianism, but other times, it exists in the will of a bull in the china shop looking to impose its desires on anyone around it to make things right for it by any means necessary. Here, then, we need to ask why is this thing acting as it does? Can we rationalize its will or is it out of control? 
            Here we must realize that, like it or not, forced change by people who know better than us must be implemented through government authority to make things like this happen from time to time. Such is the fact that things like eminent domain and police enforced authority are the drawback to even something that can be so positive for so many people as utilitarianism, no matter what we believe when we get the dirty end of the stick. Hence, we live in a paradox of free will to object and necessity to do anyway. 
           This seems to be true no matter the issue that we put to our government leaders and the teams that they assemble. We do our best to predict the future, but often, we just can't. Even with our skills and foresight to smooth out the nasty and necessary, our inability to perform truly perfect longitudinal studies in advance of the incident happening means that problems are bound to occur. For instance, completing our feasibility studies with technical results from our calculus equations, even those integrated with the possibility for friction and chaos, hurts us when years later, we find ourselves in a conundrum. When this happens our country is forced to do confusing and ethically-challenged things like pardon wind turbine companies for killing eagles, which are otherwise protected, while we hope they figure out ways not to do this in the thirty year grace period they are extended. 
            After all, nobody wanted birds to fly into wind towers, it's just something that happens when we're trying to generate power, which is a necessary things. Not all the ways to make birds not do this are easy, and it's not going to be 100% safe for flight out there no matter what we do, after all birds do fly into buildings, but if something can make a difference, then why not? Sometimes, we need to assume the cost and pass it on. It sure beats a boneyard under the mountain towers.
             This brings us back to the thought of government / private industry trying to do whatever with the best possible results. Intentions mean nothing when better actions could mean everything.
            Thus, just like the wind turbines, the monstrous form that was Glen Canyon rose to create a jar in Arizona, much like the one local Reading, Pennsylvania, poet Wallace Stevens spoke of, which was created in Tennessee, and there was a feeling that at least this wasn’t the tragedy of Hetch Hetchy Dam all over again. We weren’t going to be crucifying Yellowstone / Grand Canyon National Park / Dinosaur National Monument, so yeah, Who cares about a stretch of desert canyon river in the middle of nowhere. Manifest Destiny or whatever we were going to call it, and we can hope for the best. At least we were respecting the sanctity of PARK / MONUMENT, which said and meant something to Americans everywhere.

            Sixty years on, we are fighting a different fight. A decade ago, we saved ANWR from drilling, which would have benefited Japan more than America. When this fact was ascertained, we rescued northern Alaska from execution at the last minute to keep a crappy GOP law from taking out the porcupine caribou and the way of life of the local population. Sure, this meant giving up jobs for Americans, which is never easy, but America as a whole looked at their long-term best benefit to figure out what they should do and where they should be. 
            Now, we face the same thing at the resurrected Dakota Access Pipeline as it looks to help foreign markets with their oil issues. Energy independence or short term sales to benefit investors?
            We, the people who love the natural world, even the one they will never see, won that first fight, but unfortunately, we can’t and won’t save every shred of wilderness from potential effects like this, so we have to choose our battles. We thought we won the DAPL fight, but it's back again. Can we still win or will Trump make this happen no matter what? As a result, this fight is very real. It's real for Native Americans, the environment, and opposing views. It's a war that must be fought.
            However, when it comes to other issues, we must decide what's right and where it's right and make the best choices for the most land, animals, and people that we possibly can save with the time, effort, and money we can muster.
            When we do this, we must consider the words of the past. As John Muir said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” These are simple words, but they make a lot of sense. We need nature to hike, fish, hunt, play, photograph, mountain climb, meditate, and travel through. If we don't protect, respect, and utilize it, it might not be here when we really need it.
            With these thoughts, today, my mind rings out in the hope that the nice weather of the past 2 days, for the most part, will continue until tomorrow afternoon when I can get myself between some trees when work finishes at noon so I can relax in nature. Sure, it will only be a local hike to the Horseshoe Trail, but that could lead me to Middle Creek, Colonel Dick’s Park, or somewhere else beautiful where I can get out and breathe fresh air instead of being stuck indoors, staring out a window at birds flying by and tree branches blowing in the winds. I know that while I'm there, there may only be a mile or so between road crossings, but sometimes even that is enough to get effectively lost for a while.

            At the end of the day, even a simple trail pushing through nature can be enough to live free instead of living out some perpetual existential cycle of wake up, shower, work, eat, poop, watch TV, and sleep. That stuff gets old.
            And for as happy as that should make me, the future state of the wilderness in nature and in society and myself is breaking my heart. In just my three main issues of concern, they are affected more than they have ever been in my life because we have a president that needs to be Stone Cold Stunnered by the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt. 
            Here, I begin my discussion of concerns with nature since that's my favorite way to relax. For years, things have been done on the down low in secret (kudos to Larry Laruso on sharing this link, which exemplifies one of them), and I guess that what we don't know doesn't hurt us, especially for people looking for a reason to get upset about everything, but the more we learn, the more we realize that an administration that embraces their questionable agendas openly won't need to hide programs like these.

            Simply put, we are facing an administration looking to give Sean Hannity every wish that he and his ilk, as well as Ya’All Qaeda, have ever had for the environment so that they can continue to reap its every benefit with no regard for environmental balance. I write this not to stand opposed to the necessary and appreciated act of ranching (or farming or hunting or fishing), but to say that sometimes, ethics demands that we consider others before our selfish ways consume everything without regard for next year, next decade, or next century. Thus, do we need to engage in hard and fast strip mining of our resources or can we do things realistically and minimally?
            While there are 2 extreme ends to this with regard to how the radical extremists feel we should engage in animal and natural resource use (1: radical eco-terrorism that stands in opposition to anything done to an animal / mature for whatever the reason and 2: the whatever the hell I can and will do to the land without your damn government hands on my land side), the sensible and realistic answer is one of moderation. Shelby Foote spoke about how Americans are great at compromise, and that’s what we need again. Peaceful discussion with both sides must exist (and that goes for everyone, not just Trump America). We need the middle to rise up to take control back from the fringes who have been pulling America apart since 9.11. We don’t need the Trump Administration to flout their win by openly destroying everything they hated in less than 2 weeks with no sensible plan of replacement or long-term understanding of the consequences of what they are about to do (and to give them credit, they've done a hell of a lot in 1 week). In the same way, we don't need the polar opposite of what's happening now being done to benefit the left-leaning equivalent (though the more I think back, the more honest Bernie Sanders' dreams really were - even if they were very tough to financially initiate).
             In looking at the ways that the future stands compromised by a run amok Trump administration, we risk seeing the Endangered Species Act gutted so that the land endangered animals live on will not be protected from the interests of business (timber and ranching, for instance). While this is being done under the guise of eliminating frivolous lawsuits by people who want to protect the land by whatever means necessary (not eliminating names on the list), the consequences for many species' futures are equally threatened by not having this fail safe to protect them. Anyone who has any doubt what having their local environment affected dramatically can do needs only to look at Flint, Michigan. Thus, as industry waits for the last ivory-billed woodpecker to shuffle off this mortal coil, we finally have a way to speed up its demise as “inevitable” and a pro-job creating tactic (if we're looking to create more jobs like those found at strip malls).
            Thanks, Donald.
            We also see federal lands getting ready to be handed over to the states so that they can babysit them by their own terms (whittle the protection provisions down on the guise of cutting the federal budget). If this means getting rid of a tax burden, it's hard to see how they can do this unless the lack of rules for them from the feds will allow the states to sell them off as amusement parks or the like. That would truly let the real users pay for their watered-down nature fix. After all, someone still has to pay for the land to be run, whether it's just Wyoming and those who use Yellowstone or it's the whole United States paying for the National Park Service to still be there when we do get to utilize it, even if it's just a roadside amusement park instead of the pristine nature we try to keep it at now. 
             Does he really think we're too dumb to get that this is what privatization really means (Holiday Inns, Burger Kings, and oil wells inside the gates)?
             In thinking about the shortsighted-ness of this knee jerk reaction, Heaven forbid that a person from Pennsylvania is given a say over how Utah and Wyoming take care of the lands that were created and maintained with federal taxes for all of America to use. I mean it’s not like the Organic Act says anything about this ("the Service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments and reservations…by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations").
             If only Gustaf Nordenskiold was still alive, he could plunder the rest of Mesa Verde for pennies on the dollar to pay off our national debt, Antiquities Act and Native Americans be damned. 

            Additionally, we can see the disregard for benefits to our society as a community (rather just a business) when we look at Trump’s "well-intentioned" cut in agencies and funding with the end in sight for 17 different Democrat backed agencies and projects that include more environmental protection / regulation as well as civil rights and the arts. While many people don’t see the need to fund someone’s ability to be creative and artistic unless we would pay for the DVD, CD, or artwork (myself included, though Big Bird and Ken Burns were awesome), the money saved per person from killing off the National Endowment of the Arts will be so minimal that it feels more personal for them funding the bullwhips of Mapplethorpe as well as a slap in the face of all of those he beat to the world's complete and utter surprise. It's like he's literally urinating all over their yards to mark his territory. Nevertheless, to only see things by the terms of what benefits me would see me standing back, not taking action until it gets to me.
           By that time, it could be too late.
           Nevertheless, THAT TIME IS HERE because he has arrived at 3 things I really do care about. This is not to say that I don't care about the others, but these things are personal
           And for this, there are things in my job's future (education), which scare me. I have no problem with people's right to school choice and eliminating No Child Left Behind and Common Core, but to see Betsy Devos's desire to complain about government education while crying over taxes like a good Republican (and I am registered Republican) while sticking her hand out for vouchers to fund private schools that don't have to follow government regulations is both hypocritical and sick. There's nothing like privatizing businesses on government dollars. Here, a sane person might wonder if this endeavor of creating charter schools, home schools, religious schools, and whatever else, while eliminating (instead of reforming) unfit schools would go as well as sucking at the cash cow of private prisons did. Being the handpicked choice of the man who created Trump University, this is a nightmare waiting to happen for many people who already have trouble navigating with choices of higher education (to be clear, through no fault of their own since there's so much to know). Imagine if parents have to investigate different schools from kindergarten to 12th grade!
           However, while schools and nature will exist in some way or the other (hopefully) the destruction of Obamacare by any means necessary and with whatever eliminations possible scares the poop out of me. Here, I'm not alone. Whether it's for reproductive care or keeping college kids on their parents' insurance until 26 (or something else), there are good things in there despite the cost and the fines (unless someone doesn't want to pay for his or her employee's birth control pills or have to pony up for benefits after government assistance opportunities, then it's EE-VILLL). 
            As I am diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, I now have a pre-existing condition. Can I trust the government to include this existing law and other facets of the bill I like in the new one while removing only the fine and the price gouging done by insurance companies (like that done in Toledo during the water crisis and by some Toyota dealers during Cash for Clunkers) who chose to see this law as a cash cow since they were mandated to take high-risk people on board (and find ways to profit just like property insurers did when they managed to conveniently deny people coverage with convoluted language after Hurricane Katrina)? Can I hope that I am not job locked or stuck in a world of hurt if I'm not able to work? While I have good insurance now (THANK YOU, GOD), what if bad things come or change needs to happen? I need to be eat healthy, take medicine, stay positive, and be active so I can keep making a difference and not progress to darker stages of my disease. Can the government help me do this or should they take me to the glue factory now?
            My own senator who I voted for (never again), Pat Toomey, compared me to a burned-down house by saying, "So we have a system in collapse .. and figure out what's a better way to go forward. When we talk about reform, sometimes I hear people say we have to keep coverage of pre-existing conditions because, we've got to keep that. And when I hear that, I think that we're missing something here and here is what I'm getting at. There's obviously a number of Americans who suffer from chronic expensive healthcare needs. They have had these conditions sometimes all their lives, sometimes for some other period of time. And for many of them, the proper care for those conditions is unaffordable. I think we agree that we want to make sure those people get the health care they need. Now one way to force it [coverage] is to force insurance companies to provide health insurance coverage to someone as soon as they show up, regardless of what condition they have, which is kind of like asking the property/casualty company to rebuild the house after it's burned down. But that's only one way to deal with it." 
          There's a lot of things I can still do. Really.
          Besides, I didn't try to get this disease. This isn't from smoking crack, hiring male prostitutes, building a meth lab, participating in mixed martial arts, getting blown up by illegal firecrackers, worshipping Satan, supporting Black Lives Matter, donating to Planned Parenthood, or hiding undocumented immigrants (all things that any good Tea Party senator might object to and blame for my situation like conditions of the past, which were blamed on evil behavior by the fundamentalists of their day). Currently, a new theory says that Parkinsons begins in the gut. That's a far cry from devious behavior that should see me ostracized by the current regime, let alone anyone. The same can be said for other pre-existing conditions, birth defects, and illnesses. Through help, we make lives better. Through education, we defeat them. Through understanding, we respect those people with them. And let's be honest; when people are disrespecting and leaving others out in the cold, they aren't be utilitarian, compassionate, or just. If all I am is a burnt down house that needs to be relegated to a corner then I'm not interested in the politician, agency, or institution seeing me as that. This is about being a person first. I haven't given up on the wilderness in me despite my need for Azilect and neither should the law.
          I'm not alone in this boat. According to The Guardian, 27 out of 100 Americans (do the math over 320 million Americans) have pre-existing conditions. We are 1 MEDICAL CATASTROPHE AWAY FROM DEAD BROKE if we don't have medical care. We are 1 MEDICAL CATASTROPHE AWAY FROM DEAD if we don't have the ability to pay for a hospital visit and choose not to go in there to pray for the best or to wait it out. We are 1 MEDICATION THAT ISN'T GENERIC AWAY FROM A PERMANENT FINANCIAL BURDEN if our number comes up in the "my body is wearing out sweepstakes," as all of our bodies, Pat Toomey's included, will do. If this happens, we become a permanent statistic of the welfare state unless the lottery comes up in our favor. Think about that. For an industry (insurance) that asks us to gamble our money with larger premiums for problems (rightfully so) isn't it right to ask them to be responsible to the ENTIRE community it serves, too (not just athletic and youthful types who don't skydive or climb mountains so they can make shitloads of money)? Quid pro quo. Opening a business means you assume risk, not beg the government to save you after a hurricane rains day.
           While talk of this happening is in the "don't worry" variety, I could hope for the best, but my tremors and other symptoms as well as my fear of this Breitbart wet dream coming to be real have caused me to feel differently, and so I speak out to take matters into my own hands
           As a result of the future that I and many others face today, it is necessary to stand with the Badlands. It is necessary to stand with Death Valley, and it is time to stand with Golden Gate National Park. It is necessary to March with Science when the time comes. I stand with the USDA and EPA, who are being micromanaged for publishing revolutionary ideologies. It is necessary to say that if the government wants to play the Hatch Act against people posting scientific facts that all too many members of a political party choose to ignore and deny in the name of gaining votes from the Once-ler, whether in protest or not, then those of us who are educated and responsible enough to be able to analyze and interpret science will stand against them for playing politics with the truth, and we will come at them with change in our hearts and minds. We will use civil discourse, and we will bring back this country with our efforts and dreams of what America means as opposed to hating it and annihilating what it was to start a revolution of anger like some others are doing in the false name of protest (let it be clear; this isn't with the anarchists). We will be mature, and we will speak confidently and evenly with a brave truth to what has been presented to us. Like the women who marched last weekend, we will all stand stronger together because we get what's at stake, and we are good people. 

            I and others like me are the people who need to be the other face of this movement. We are the Never Trumpers. We didn't vote for Hillary, and we aren't sorry for that. While we could have accepted her coronation and disliked much of her adventures these next 4-8 years, we chose the other lesser evil (Gary Johnson, in my case, who I only sort of liked and now like even less). In the aftermath, as we sit back and stare at the remains, we sit here and we get photographic manipulations and stories about time and traffic delays. We know why comparison pictures are posted on social media, and frankly, we don't care either way for how many people did or didn't show up for Trump since we know that Barack was more popular than Trump coming in. It's a scientific fact. It doesn't mean one is better than the other. All the same, we're scared of the alternative facts we're stuck with and the scrapping of civil rights and global warming from government positions as our new leaders eat Member Berries when the change was too much, too quickly. 
             This leaves us to ponder what we must do.
            In his day, Thoreau was so carefree with his life that he said that, "In an unjust society, the only place for a just man is prison." While he had Emerson to bail him out of jail, whether he wanted it or not, we don't want to be bailed out because we don't want to go to the pokey. Our lives and our future mean too much to casually betray ourselves for some notion of martyrdom / childish adventure. Instead, we want our voices heard like the millions of women who marched last weekend for a different set of rights, standing proudly and peacefully against the varying degrees of sexism and discrimination that they couldn't accept any more.
            Those people who do not want this Trump future aren't alone. The whole management team at the State Department said adios. So did the Border Patrol chief as discussion of the wall becomes more real, a statement that just caused Mexico's president to cancel his visit. If this was chosen for them or their choice, the answer isn't clear, but the reality is here, and it's called CHANGE. We're not the whiny millennials with their coloring books crying over Hillary's defeat. It's the whole middle ground that likes individual choice, community, and social responsibility (given and received), which needs to be listened to.
            Thus, the response to this is my change as well. I haven't felt this way about realigning my politics since seeing the Democrat betrayal of 2005 (protesting the Republicans to protest party difference as opposed to a better America). At that point, I saw the loss of things we needed to stand for as I walked through the monuments and museums of DC. Now, I feel the same way, but pulled back to the middle in the other direction. As a result, if this new administration is the face of conservative America, then I am not. If the last administration was the face of liberal America, then I'm not that either. Instead, I represent the independent right to choose the parts of both sides I like best to stay moderate and non-partisan. These include community and the right to give my fellow community members the best that we can give to the most who want to contribute to that community. These include the individual rights to beliefs, ideologies, lifestyles, and pursuits that don't harm others. I have no interest in the right to shout fire in a crowded theater, to chain myself to barriers in the middle of a highway, or to open carry AR-15s in public, but I do believe in free, but responsible speech and the right to be armed. Like Shelby Foote, I'm willing to compromise for the right reasons. 
              Simply put, I want my America back.

           In the end, I would rather be mellow and happy with pictures of puppy dogs and joyful kids. I would rather not care about casual issues because we're all big enough to not need a babysitter, but I know that isn't true. We do need a babysitter. The selfish and loud voices have said that the only way we can make a difference is to be more than a slacktivist by giving things a like or a meme post. We have to keep rising up in protest and let our faces be seen and our voices be heard against their screams and tantrums. 
           That said, we can't let the people in charge get us down. We need to keep being us because really, 2018 is coming really fast. When it does, the majority will be gone, and hopefully, in the meantime, Congress and the Supreme Court will dial The Donald back.

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