It's too bad I have to get you involved in our national politics today, but it ties right in with our study of the United States Civil War. There are many unsung heroes of the war, which ended 148 years ago, and many of them are alive today. Don't believe me? Read on.
Have you ever seen the Federal Government of the United States as a keeper of history? Consider this: citizens from all over our country, and all over the world, come to the United States to explore our history through visits to national parks, national military parks and national monuments. Many more travel in cyberspace to the National Park Service website. These places are all maintained by federal employees. But our government is shut down and, hence, so are these parks and monuments, and the website - with the exception of unpaid park rangers and others trying to maintain public safety.
Folks, rangers aren't there just to direct traffic, tell you where the bathroom is and answer questions for the tourists. They have very real, very dangerous jobs, and if you don't believe it, realize that they sometimes are murdered in the performance of their duty.
Sometimes they are there to save tourists from themselves.
This, meantime, is what rangers are facing during the government shutdown.
If you visited the NPS (National Park Service website) today, you would find the following. I am taking the liberty of copying and pasting it, which I normally would not do, to prove a point. Read, especially, the last paragraph.
Because of the federal government shutdown, national parks are closed and the National Park Service website is not being maintained....
We sincerely regret any inconvenience the closures cause and look forward to once again welcoming you to your national parks. In the meantime, we respectfully request that you honor all park closures. With more than 20,000 National Park Service employees furloughed, the staff that remain on duty are focused on protecting park resources and human life and safety and cannot provide the visitor services that you have come to expect from us for nearly 100 years.
Thank you for your support during this time.Dear readers: The National Park Service is not the enemy. I've read reports that the Park Service employees are going beyond the "call of duty" in shutting sites down. I really don't care if that is true or not. I am sickened to read about verbal abuse of, and even physical assaults, to unpaid federal rangers and others caught in the shutdown.
I, in turn, want to thank each and every one of these rangers, and I hope you will join me in this, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat. The shutdown is NOT a reality show. People are being hurt. Military, children with cancer, and - yes, local economies wherever one of these parks or monuments exist. So much so that the State of Utah, rich in National Parks, is paying to temporarily reopen eight national sites.
If you want the shutdown stopped, call your congressman or senator and express your opinion. Or give money to the political party of your choosing. That's your right. Making life difficult for rangers is not your right.
Those Civil War battle sites and museums we like to go to? Well, a lot of them (not all, to be sure) are run by the Federal government These include some of the top sites in the country.
Some of these sites are treasured not just by people interested in history, but by birders and wildlife enthusiasts.
I hope the shutdown is over by next Sunday, so I can go back to blogging about the Civil War itself. In the meantime, I'd like to thank the employees of the sites I visited this past August and September, including Wilson Creek, Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern), and the George Washington Carver Birthplace. I, further want to thank other employees from sites I've visited since just before the 150th anniversary started: Ft. Sumter, SC, Ft. Pulaski, GA, Antietam (twice), Harpers Ferry,WV Monocacy, and Manassas (Bull Run). And even those visits before the 150th: Andersonville (home of a wonderful, and free, POW museum which honors POWs of all wars), Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, and others.
Your knowledge, your well run visitors centers, and your passion for the Civil War, have enriched my life and increased my knowledge.
And next week, hopefully, I will switch attention to a battlefield in Arkansas, one that is not a federal park, or even a state park.