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Midnight repost: Shut down fascism in the Smoky Mountains

The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: In 2013 Diane and I made a trip back east to visit the Smokey Mountains and do some hiking. Coincidentally, our trip took place at the end of September, when the budget battle between Obama and the Republicans in Congress was about to cause a government shutdown. This essay, the first of three, describes the extra effort and money being exerted by Obama’s administration to make that shutdown as unpleasant and as inconvenient to the American public as possible. The later two essays, linked to as an update at the top of the essay, outline what happened next.

Shut down fascism in the Smoky Mountains

See my October 2, 2013 update here.

Today, October 1, 2013, my wife Diane and I went hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We did this despite the news from Washington that the federal government had shut down due to the lack of a funding from Congress and that all the national parks were closed.

The news reports had said that the National Park Service would close all roads into the park except for New Found Gap Road, the one road that crossed over the mountains from Tennessee to North Carolina. They couldn’t close this road because it was a main thoroughfare used by the public for basic transportation. Moreover, my research into the hikes we wished to do told me that several of those hikes originated on trailheads along this road. In traveling the road the day before, we had seen that these trailheads would not only be difficult to close, it would be dangerous and stupid to close them. For one, the road was windy and narrow. If there was a car accident or someone had car problems, any one of these parking areas might be essential for the use of the driver as well as local police and ambulances. For another, there are people still backpacking in the mountains who will at some point need to either exit with their cars or be picked up at these trailheads. Closing the trailheads will strand these hikers in the park, with dangerous consequences.

So, despite the shutdown, off we went to hike the Appalachian Trail, going to a well known lookout called the Jump Off, an easy 6.5 mile hike that leaves from the parking area at New Found Gap, the highest point on New Found Gap Road that is also on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. It is also probably one of the most popular stopping points along the road, visited by practically every tourist as they drive across.
Smokies from the Appalachian trail

The hike itself was beautiful, if a bit foggy and damp. The picture above shows one of the clearest views we had all day. Nor were we alone on this hike. We probably saw one to two dozen other hikers, heading out to either the Jump Off or Charles Bunion (another well known day hike destination along this section of trail).

Trailhead parking at New Found Gap, before and after the shutdown

When we got back to the parking lot, I took some additional pictures. It seemed to me that something had changed since the day before. If you look at the image on the left, which compares an image taken on September 30 at the top with a comparable image taken on October 1, you will notice the appearance of orange barricades close to the lot’s entrance and exit. These barricades had appeared either while we were hiking or during the night. Moreover, as we drove down the mountain we then noticed that many of the pull offs and trailhead parking lots now had orange cones blocking access, even in cases where there were many cars parked there. We also saw several trucks and workers with more cones, placing them in several additional lots.

It is obvious that the Park Service intends to block access to these trailheads, even though it literally costs them nothing to leave them open and by closing them they actually increase the possibility of serious problems for drivers on the road and hikers still in the park. In fact, it is costing them money they don’t have trying to block access.

To block access is thus a deliberate, senseless, and mean-spirited act that demonstrates quite clearly the political goals of the Obama administration during this shutdown. The administration has decided it will use its power to do as much harm as possible to the American people as it can, with the hope that this harm will cause the public to rise up and throw the Republicans out for refusing to pass the budget that Obama wanted and demanded. By limiting access to the park, the administration will also cause harm to the thriving businesses just outside the park that depend on the tourism trade.

Further proof of this vicious and fascist political strategy by the Obama administration could also be seen in Washington, DC., where the park service put up barricades to try to block access to the World War II memorial, despite the fact that it is an open-air monument that is unmanned by any park service staff. Before the shutdown the memorial cost the park service nothing. After the shutdown it is costing them a lot to try to keep people out. When a large group of veterans, many in wheelchairs, arrived today to visit the memorial, however, they decided to tell the park service what they thought of this policy, and tore the barricades down.

More Americans have to follow the lead of these veterans. The time has come for some courageous defiance by everyone. For example, we plan to go hiking one more time while we are here, on Thursday. If the shutdown is still in place, I intend to remove those cones and park my car and go hiking. Since a park ranger has already told me they will not be providing any service in the park, what will they do? They won’t be there to stop us.

Nor should I be alone in this. For example, I wonder why the governors of Tennessee and North Carolina are not defiantly announcing that they intend to use the police to remove the cones themselves, to make sure the trailheads along this major road remain open, for both safety and the economic health of their states. What will the National Park Service do, arrest the governors and the police? As I said, they won’t be there.

One last point. The New Found Gap parking lot has a epic and large stone platform at one end, built back when the park was first dedicated. It is from the top of this platform that I took the images of the parking area above. Prominently displayed on the wall of this platform is a plaque, with the following words (see image below):

For the permanent enjoyment of the people
this park was given
one half by the peoples and states
of North Carolina and Tennessee
and by the United States of America
and one half in memory of
Laura Spelman Rockefeller by the
Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial
founded by her husband
John D. Rockefeller. [emphasis in original]

“For the permanent enjoyment of the people.” Hollow words indeed. If the National Park Service and the Obama administration tries to deny Americans the right to enjoy these parks, even when there is absolutely no justifiable reason for doing so, they will prove to all that they don’t maintain the parks for the American people, but for the sole benefit and power of the Park Service and the federal government.

The only way to give these words their true meaning and stop this grab for power is to make sure the Park Service and the Obama administration fail in they attempt to hijack what belongs to the people. The people have to not only demand access, they have to refuse to obey the attempt to shut them out.

Dedication plaque at New Found Gap

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • janyuary

    Great reading.

    I wonder if I might be able to write off my subscription as a medical expense? !! Robert, you’re helping me to stay sane right now. In my (now past) bitterness some weeks ago I found myself singing “land of the slaves and the home of the cowards.” It was comforting to read here that I’m not the only one to recognize the irony.

    This trio of park-closure articles is very timely, considering the last few months on California’s remote Central Coast (midpoint between Los Angeles and San Francisco). I see many, many Californians, who almost by definition love sun and playing outside, quietly defying these nutty rules as much and as cheerfully as possible.

    All this economic homicide over a clearly false pretense, today as it was during Obama’s shutdown. Your third essay, Robert, thrilled my heart … I share two sets of families who helped pioneer this rugged but richly abundant region more than 150 years ago. They were like those in the Ozarks and all over the U.S. except they went as far west as they could. They risked EVERYTHING to get here and stay here in California.

    So today, I wonder at some of my fellow patriots’ version of being victorious over the Big Bad Lefties, abandoning such a sublime climate and resource-rich nation-sized state as California and fleeing to the desert in droves. They have it backwards — the tyrannical central-plan-obsessed lefties should be the ones cowering out of state in the heat.

    Ongoing traveling productions of Black Lives Matter protests are duly scheduled and performed with regularity in our mostly rural and extremely non-racially-oriented towns, to the point of it being laughable. These protests are excellent for overshadowing legitimate gatherings to protest the mask mania.

    I think Californians, and all Americans, will sooner or later recognize that we common-sense folks willing to live “dangerously” are the majority, that those who want the masks and to live in fear, are the equivalent of the pint-sized mutt that has a dog four times its size bamboozled into mistaking who is the actual “big dog.”

    Clear majorities at the ballot box in 2016 told both Trump and Hillary to pound sand; the electoral college (which MUST remain, the EC is as important as the 2nd Amendment) only did its job. Both candidates were shams preserving the status quo, loathed by boots-on-the-ground in their respective parties, and I believe the same is true this year no matter the major party nominee. I will again vote for a plurality (via any legit third party) so the guaranteed skunk at least goes into office on defense, with a clear voter majority opposed.

    Today, it is a safe bet that that voter next to you thought both of them stunk, is disillusioned with both parties, and considers SloJoBiden as much of a wart as JokeTrump. I think what we’re seeing in America is like when a cell divides and splits into two. Time to move forward and progress toward liberty!

  • janyuary: Thank you for your kind words. Much appreciated. Though I cannot find you in my subscription database, no matter. However, if you do decide to subscribe or donate, I am sad to say you can’t write me off as a medical expense — though considering the horrible advice we have been getting from health officials about the Wuhan flu (such as wearing masks when they likely do no good and might cause harm), my qualifications in some matters might be as good. :)

  • janyuary

    You are very welcome. My name here is not the name on my subscription, which I completed in yesterday! If I’m not in your subscription database by my next billing … heads will roll!!

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