REMEMBRANCE, live premiere, August 2013 by the U.S. Army Strings, Major Tod. A. Addison, conductor, at the Church of the Epiphany, Washington, D.C.
I’m blessed to live in a rural neighborhood that abuts one of the most spectacular gems of the United States National Park Service.
As of last week, the entrances to this, and all other such parks in the nation, have been blocked.
In response, I submit the following letter. Each point is accompanied by a photograph I’ve taken from, in, or of, the aptly named American Camp National Historical Park. Normally I would provide a link that readers could click to learn more, but alas, the National Park Service website has been taken down.
To Those Members of the U.S. Congress who voted to hold hostage the government services you were elected to oversee:
As a U.S. citizen and taxpayer, I write to readjust your perspective, by reminding you of how little power a politician actually possesses.
You have loaded your ideological weapon with the ammunition of irrationality and meanness, and you have fired it in the direction of the innocent. This dangerous combination of both the ability to aim well, and the lack of wisdom to know better than to do so, is currently preventing countless U.S. government employees from being able to pay their bills. Since the National Park Service is under federal purview, you have also shown that you can punish everyone else, whether from the U.S. or abroad, wishing to commune with our nation’s natural treasures.
Unwilling to accept the results from the same democratic process that placed you in your office, you have thrown your tantrum, and have effectively, if temporarily, shut down your own country.
But you can’t shut down the sunrises that stir American Camp’s horizon,
nor the sunsets that drape the Park’s peninsula with pastel affection.
You can’t shut down the navy blue clouds,
or the grey ones,
or the orange ones,
or the geometric ones,
whose journey to an unseen future endlessly shifts the light and shadows of American Camp.
You can’t shut down the sunshine,
nor the fog,
nor the kiss of the full moon on the weathered fingertips of ancient trees,
nor, for all your presumed power, can you stop the moon’s unfolding tongue from lapping at the Park’s waters: a glorious scene, witnessed by that most American of birds, the Bald Eagle.
You can’t shut down the waves barreling toward the Park’s shores,
nor the massive logs of driftwood violently thrown upon American Camp’s pebbly beaches.
You can’t shut down the rainbows that passionately spear the point,
nor can you blockade the storms that remind the cliffs that they cannot step out of the way.
You cannot shut down the vistas,
or the butterflies,
nor can you coax the secrets from these forests,
or from the mountains that frame this National Park.
You can’t cordon off the Great Blue Heron’s tarmac,
or prevent American Camp’s rugged coves from grinning at the Olympic National Park across the Strait.
You can neither halt the hypnotic motion of American Camp’s protected grasslands,
nor the chill of the snow that tickles them.
You cannot shut down the unruly, un-policed, rioting wildflowers,
or the unkempt beauty of the Park’s sweet foxes.
You can’t even stop the ones who, despite the park closure, defiantly visit the placard for Senator Henry M. Jackson, Conservationist at Large (he happened to be a Democrat).
You cannot shut down the killer whales who hug American Camp’s shores,
or the peaceable deer who graze its land,
and I assure you, Congress members, that though you can barricade my neighbors and me from this abundant acreage, you are powerless to ever, ever block our national bird from his home.
I am fortunate that I can publish this pictorial letter so that others may have a tiny, pixelated glimpse of the beauty that Congress, in its shortsighted grab for elusive control, has temporarily wrested from us.
And it is most ironic that I type all of this to you, on Monday morning, October 7th, 2013, with the nation’s noble-feathered emblem standing calmly in front of me. We are both gazing out to American Camp.
My wish for you, members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and for all elected officials, is that you will remember what our beloved Bald Eagle represents, and more importantly, that you will remember who you were sent to Washington to represent. “E Pluribus Unum:” out of many, one. Unity. One nation. One which is a Democracy, in which when the majority of citizens and leaders have voted for something such as affordable health care insurance for everyone, then despite your political or personal preferences, you must uphold the will of the people.
This is not about politics, it is about decency. In the best of circumstances, you are stewards and caretakers. Like all of us, you, Congress members, must think of the needs of others, and protect those who cannot take care of themselves.
Along with the photographs of the national park I love the most, at the top of this post there is a link to my string orchestra piece, REMEMBRANCE, which was beautifully premiered this summer by another gem of this nation: the U.S. Army Strings, who are among the very best musicians in the country. I am proud to have an association with them and with other ensembles in the U.S. Armed Forces, and it is my hope that these groups will soon be able to return to the exceptional music-making for which they have been hired. Long after history has forgotten the squabbles of politics, it will always remember the culture of a civilization. Please cherish the arts we have nutured in the United States.
And finally, members of Congress, I hope that you have enjoyed these photos. Should you ever visit San Juan Island, it would be my pleasure to show you any of these stunning scenes, for they are considerably more remarkable in person than in pixels.
But for the moment, these pixels are the only access to this beauty that most people have.
San Juan Island, WA
Our national emblem of freedom, above the Salish Sea.