The most heartening story of the past weekend, with even the Kansas City Chiefs’ improbable run to a 6-and-0 record notwithstanding, was the continuing wave of civil disobedience protesting the administration’s peevishly punitive policies during the government’s partial shutdown.
Apparently worried that the public might not notice the absence of so much of the governments’ employees, or worse yet start asking dangerous questions about why we need to keep racking up such enormous debts in order to keep them on their officially nonessential jobs, the administration has endeavored to make the shutdown as painful as possible. One of the more obvious tactics has been to close national parks, monuments, and other public lands even when doing so requires more manpower and expense than keeping them open. Supposedly essential government employees who remain at work have reportedly enforced these closures with an officiousness that one elderly national park visitor described as “Gestapo tactics,” and efforts by the House Republicans to fund public access to these sites as well as offers by state and local governments to assume the costs have been rebuffed by the administration. One might not know it from reading or listening to the major media, who are mostly concerned with the alleged intransigence of the stubborn Republicans that President Barack Obama has refused to negotiate with, but the administration has acted to deny the public its right to public lands.
This is an outrage that a free people shouldn’t bear, and it is therefore good to know that many among us have chosen not to. The social media are full of accounts of people defying the attempts to shut them out of their land, often with hilarious pictures of the protestors happily frolicking behind the “do not enter” signs that were erected by the putatively shut-down government, and even such a polite press outlet as The Chicago Tribune has featured a tale of a usually law-abiding writer’s visit to a closed national park. Harder to ignore was Sunday’s mass demonstration at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, where several thousand people, including some very seasoned veterans of that conflict, knocked down the barricades to reclaim their rightful place at the monument. Some even dragged the barricades — now known in the feistier sort of media as “barry-cades,” in honor of the president’s nickname before he decided that exotic sold better — to a noisy protest outside the White House gates. Such a tumult would have brought banner headlines had it been a scruffy bunch of leftists shouting down a Republican president, but veterans and truckers and other middle-class Americans protesting a Democrat’s infringements on the public’s rights was worth only a passing mention on the evening news.
More attention was paid to the pro-illegal immigration rally recently held on the National Mall, despite the area being closed to such troublemakers as the veterans who hoped to pay honor to their fallen comrades, but it was little noted that the speakers at the rally made a point of thanking Obama for being allowed on the property. As the estimable Mark Steyn has already noted, the land isn’t Obama’s and “his most groveling and unworthy subjects shouldn’t require a dispensation by His Benign Majesty to set foot on it.” That there are still a few bold Americans willing to act against such monarchical madness is a story worth telling, and celebrating.
– Bud Norman