Lane: Keep your tiny hands off National Parks

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By Joe Lane

joseph-lane@uiowa.edu

As most of the country’s political debate turned to a new aspect of the refugee crisis propagated by the Trump administration, another battle was raging in the young presidency.

Following the inauguration, the National Park Service retweeted an image that appeared to negatively compare the Trump inauguration to the Obama inauguration of 2009. This tweet prompted a representative from the Trump administration to ask that the Park Service Twitter team temporarily suspend activity, according to CNN. The irony of the Trump administration being upset about Twitter activity is astounding.

As a country, we’ve listened to Trump rebuke national heroes on Twitter by spewing alternative facts and spreading hatred. We’ve listened to him complain of “FAKE NEWS” amid national tragedies and public outcry. We’ve listened to him call Meryl Streep “overrated” and seen him whine about “Saturday Night Live” being not funny. There has to be a point, however, where enough is enough.

The National Park Service is about as uncontentious a facet of American government and history as there is. Some — perhaps even Trump himself — would advocate breaking up the parks to be used for private interests. But the National Parks and Monuments (including the White House itself) are an integral part of what it means to be an American.

On Tuesday, recently retired National Parks director Jon Jarvis made a statement on Facebook about the politicization of the National Parks. Jarvis said, “I have been watching the Trump administration trying unsuccessfully to suppress the National Park Service with a mix of pride and amusement.”

The “pride” to which Jarvis is likely referring is the growing use of entertaining and educational “Alt” Twitter accounts by National Parks employees to combat the Trump administration.

Jarvis goes on to point out the ridiculousness of a directive that allows National Parks social-media accounts to report on safety and hours but not on “national policy.” He says, for example, “At Stonewall National Monument in New York City, shall we only talk about the hours you can visit the Inn or is it “national policy” to interpret the events there in 1969 that gave rise to the LGBT movement?”

Over the past week, the Woody Guthrie song “This Land is Your Land” became the unofficial anthem of the movement resisting Trump’s ban on immigrants and refugees from certain predominantly-Muslim countries.

And how appropriate an anthem it is. According to the National Parks website itself, the parks and monuments “reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”

Politics aside for a moment, the National Parks are America. From sea to shining sea, they are a reference to our spirit of perseverance and exploration.

This is “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” We do not cower in the face of terrorism or hide behind a wall when we see someone unlike ourselves. We stand up for what we believe and that shows in such monuments as Stonewall, the White House, Yosemite, and the Statue of Liberty.

No, we didn’t create all of these things; some of them were graciously bestowed upon us; others, brutally taken. American history is far from perfect. It’s a story of deceit, a story of anger and hatred, but it’s also one of love and empowerment, of grit and of bravery. This story is carved into valleys at the Grand Canyon and engraved in marble at the Lincoln Memorial.

The National Parks are the definition of being an American. Anyone that argues otherwise needs a history lesson and that, obviously, stretches all the way to the highest office in our country.

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