Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More “High Plains Drifter” adventures: Yellowstone, buffaloes, old people & justice

By preserving Yellowstone National Park, Americans have really done something right!

While Bush, Cheney and Obama have been busy screwing up the Middle East bigtime and squandering a trillion dollars there for nothing, the fact that two million acres of pristine wilderness have been carefully preserved for future generations has given us Americans a true opportunity to pat ourselves on the back.

And Yellowstone truly lives up to its rep.

Even the thousands of acres of dead trees left over from the massive fire of 1988 are quite impressive – in a zombie-forest, living-dead sort of way.

Imagine if we had spent a trillion dollars on national parks instead of on killing strangers in Iraq. The mind boggles at the wonderfulness that would have resulted -- and at the lost opportunities we have let slip through our fingers.

And then I actually saw Old Faithful! Me and about 800 other tourists. “But you should have seen it here in July,” said a waitress at the Old Faithful Lodge, the world’s largest log cabin. “In only one day, we hosted over 25,000 visitors!” And boy can I understand why they came here. This place is magical.

“Yellowstone is also one of the only places in the world,” said a ranger, “where you can actually see some of the type of volcanic activity that is always taking place right under our feet -- no matter where we are on the planet.” Do you mean to say that all that magma and steam that I am seeing here can also be found right under my feet back home in Berkeley? “Yes.”

Then I saw two gigantic buffaloes and two gigantic elks – within 25 feet of me! Trust me, I backed right off. Those guys are fierce! And you should see all my fabulous photos of Yellowstone too. I have approximately 600 of them. Thank goodness for digital.

Okay. Enough about nature. Let's get back to talking about my favorite subject again -- justice. Every religion in the world has a soft spot for justice. Me too.

According to www.dictionary.com, the definition of justice is "The quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause."

So why should I be going all out, full-tilt for justice -- when the main historical rule for the rest of mankind seems to be "Might makes Right" and "If you can conquer it, it's yours"? I don't know. I just LIKE justice -- better than the bully approach to life. If you had a choice between Genghis Khan and Jesus, who would you chose?

Anyway, speaking of justice, today I talked to the first African-American I've seen since I arrived in "The West" six days ago, even after traveling all through South Dakota and Wyoming. Face it guys, racial diversity pretty much doesn't exist here -- hardly at all. Maybe that's why so many people out here seem to hate Obama so much. To them, perhaps he isn't seen as our President, but rather as one of "The Other," the unknown. I guess none of them ever watched Sesame Street when they were kids.

To someone like me, however, who lives in a VERY economically, culturally and racially diverse community, Sarah Palin and Glen Beck are "The Other".

And, unbelievably, I also just saw my first Native-American today. South Dakota and Wyoming seem to have almost NO Indians, outside of ones living on reservations. I don't even know what to think about that -- except that the genocide and concentration camp programs here must have been a complete success. I guess Sudan, Israel, Myanmar and China could come here and take lessons. Yuck!

PS: Aside from being able to glory in the wonders of America's national parks, another good thing that has come out of this trip is that, while on the road, I've met a whole lot of senior citizens that I have really liked -- which has made me stop worrying so much about getting old. If they can do it with such flash and charm, then so can I.

And I've also met a lot of really nice married couples out here on the road too -- which is also good. After having witnessed my own parents' dismally unhappy marriage for so many years, it never even occurred to me that there might be a possibility that married people might still actually enjoy each others' company years after the honeymoon is over -- and that participating in said unions might have actually enhanced both of their lives.

"Love stands for Looking For Good," someone once told me, "and if any marriage [gay, straight or polka-dot] is going to work out, that is what you constantly must do -- keep looking for good in your spouse."

And perhaps this philosophy should also be applied to our attitude toward people considered to be "The Other". And then, perhaps, we might have more justice in our world -- and we too could be enhanced by the presence of "Others".

PPS: The next stop on my whirlwind tour of America's various urban and wilderness areas will be the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole -- home to Spandex cowboy Dick Cheney. Or at least that's where Cheney currently keeps his crypt.