August 23, 2009

Obama, Old Faithful and the Real Animals

U.S. President Barack Obama, and his family visit the Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, August 15, 2009.  REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES POLITICS)

I have to say it was wonderful to totally unplug and leave civilization. In one troubling respect, though, it felt like I didn’t get away at all.

Like the Obamas two weeks ago, I spent much of the last week in a national park. While the Obamas visited Yellowstone, I was in Yosemite at a campground called White Wolf.

White Wolf is pretty rustic and, for the past few years at least, people in the campsite — about 8,000 feet above the valley floor — have been sharing it with a bear. The situation, however is actually quite routine. The bear is known to amble through the campsite on the occasional afternoon — followed close behind by rangers who run him off — and the animal also prowls the grounds at night. Unless someone leaves food clearly out in the unprotected open, however (instead of locked up in the supplied metal bear boxes), there is little danger. Wary of people and complication, the animal is just looking for easy take out.

So why am I painting this picture?

It’s because of the burly biker types that showed up the day after we did. About six sites away from us, one of them had a big red truck covered in white scrawl broadcasting how “Barrack” Obama was anti-American and anti-Christian and how Obama was going to turn “his Islam” on the country if people didn’t watch out. More chillingly, though, each night these guys formed into a posse (that’s a direct quote from the wackos via the camp “host”) to patrol the perimeter of the campground (superseding the authority of the government forest Rangers) to protect every man, woman and child from the bear.

Needless to say, this taste of the radical fringe — in a setting I’ve experienced several times and with only with the greatest of harmony — has caused me to take the current and rising homegrown terrorist threat a lot more seriously. It also led me to think more deeply about the photo-op of the Obamas in front of Old Faithful. When I saw this image a couple weeks ago — the family on holiday, while likening Obama also to the geyser in his blend of energy and consistency — I mostly took it as nostalgic. Today, however, with the radicals not just appropriating the health care issue but GOP politics, I see something more pressing.

This time, I saw a gesture not just implying but almost having to remind that Obama, in faithfully executing the office of the presidency, is (or, at least fully deserves to be) an intrinsic part of the American landscape.

(image: Larry Downing/Reuters. caption: U.S. President Barack Obama, and his family visit the Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, August 15, 2009. )

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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