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Blue Lady in the Red Land

The Best and the Worst of the Western USA

USA | Sunday, 28 August 2011 | Views [457]

We do have really great people living in the west. Compared to so many other places in the US and the world we are law abiding, and you will travel here in safety. Of course any kind of bad human caused event can, has, and will happen. But such events are uncommon. Just take ordinary precautions as you move around the west and you'll be fine. Your pockets won't get picked, your backpack won't get slashed, you won't have people feeling you up on the buses, you won't be insulted on the streets, you won't be cheated in the stores. And you certainly won't get robbed, raped, beat up or murdered under ordinary circumstances.

Not only won't you be harmed, we'll actually be looking out for you and will help you as soon as we even think you might need some help. We'll approach you and ask if you need directions before you think to ask. Chances are we'll go out of our way to make sure you get where you want to go. We'll keep an eye on your stuff and intervene if it looks like one of us is going to make us all look bad in the honesty division.

We'll give you all kinds of advice about good places to go, things to do, food to eat, and if you take our advice, you'll find we were accurate. We'll ask a few questions about where you are from and engage you in conversation about your home and life. We want to visit your home some day (if we haven't already.) And should you get into serious trouble, especially during your outdoor adventure, many of us will risk our lives for you and do it with skill, generosity, grace and compassion.

Overall you will find us to be open, polite, friendly, trustworthy, helpful ... you know, nice people.

There's no denying that out west we have world class land and scenery to die for. People travel from all corners of the earth to see our land. The beautiful land is probably the biggest reason that most of us live here.

We all love our land in the west, and many of us care dearly about protecting it for eternity if we can. That great idea, the national park, was invented in our region after all. 

But what do many of my neighbors want to do with out beautiful land? Tear it up, cut it down, turn it into jobs no matter what kind of jobs, or how long those jobs last. We still have archaic mining laws from the 19th century that apply out here and are being used (abused) in ways those 19th century lawmakers never envisioned. We tend to lie down and play dead in front of the oil and gas industrial complex. You can find absurd and horrible things like huge "lakes" filled with cyanide and other poisons used to extract tiny amounts of gold. 

It's clear to all that we do not have enough water for all of us who live here and all the industry that we think we want to have. But so far I'm not seeing peole get really serious about doing a whole lot about saving water and keeping it as pure as it can be. We fight over water instead, and we tend to take no prisoners. Compromise does not seem to be a western virtue, and that's especially true when we fight over water.

We have so many beautiful places out west, but the places you might want to visit tend to be far apart from each other. It's difficult to find a locale where things are concentrated the way they are out east. Distances in the west are big. I and many others informally measure distance by how long it takes to drive from here to there. Three hours' drive isn't all that much. Most of the time you experience beautiful scenery and if the weather is fine, you can sail right along. The speed limits are pretty high. No big deal.

We all got ourselves dependent on the automobile awhile ago, and now we are having a heck of a lot of trouble getting ourselves unaddicted.(And many of my neighbors do not see this dependence as any kind of a real problem in the first place.)  You need to use a car in the west if you intend to do any traveling around at all. In a few of the biggest cities we have decent public transportation, but only in the very largest ones like Denver and Salt Lake. And all the great natural places you want to see are not inside the cities.

This region was developed by and for the railroads, but you can't count on the railroads to get you around any more. The long distance buses are not a convenient or pleasant option for many people. And airplanes, of course, also only go to larger cities. There are people who undertake long distance travel by bicycle, but that's not what most people have the time or ability to do. 

Bottom line ... in the west you need a private car to get around. If that bothers you or you simply cannot use a car, then you are just out of luck.

In the west a heck of a lot of the land is owned by some government or another. We have more than our share of glorious local, state and national parks along with Bureau of Land Management owned land and designated wilderness. This is wonderful except that a lot of my neighbors hate it. It's difficult to say how many of my neighbors want to take all the land back for themselves (not that they ever truly owned it, but that's another story). It's quite possible there are only a few of them. But these neighbors are very very vocal, and certain politicians pay an heck of lot of attention to them. In Salt Lake last week, for example, there was a rally at the capital building called "take back Utah." This happens all the time.

There are a lot of politicians who feed into this mentality even though the cause is mostly futile. The feds are not going to be giving the national parks back any time soon, and like it or not, people who live in New Jersey really do have a say about what happens to the land in the west. I think that feeding these fires ultimately makes my neighbors frustrated and even more angry. There is a lot of anger inside many of my neighbors in the west.

These same neighbors also make a big deal about things like "getting government off our backs" and will tell you often about how evil the government is in general. My neighbors seem to really believe this .... except when they don't. So you can find a lot of what might seem contardictory behavior around here. For example, get the government off my back, but don't you dare cut my agricultural subsidy or make me pay market rates to graze my animals on public land. Many of my neighbors really hate agencies like the EPA until the gas industry poisons their own water wells. 

The best example of this schizophrenic attitude is over abortion and contraception. Many of my neighbors want governments to have almost no power whatsoever, except when it comes to pregnacies. In this region my neighbors routinely elect people to office who then routinely pass all kinds of laws designed to outlaw abortion and make contraception difficult to obtain, all in the name of protecting the unborn. It ends up looking to me like many of my neighbors want the government to monitor every single pregnancy to make sure that every single embryo gets born sooner or later.

These neighbors don't want government to monitor or regulate the air, water, land, food supply to help to ensure our ability to live in  healthful place. Many want the government totally out of the business of providing schooling, and many don't want the government to give food or shelter to those in need of it. But they do want the government to be present with every woman aged 10 to 60 as she receives health care to make sure she isn't selfish enough to deny the chance to turn into a human to every egg in her ovaries. 'Nuf said.

And finally there are the guns. About all I can say here is "get used to it." The thing that I find to be odd, over and over again, is how the reason we are told we all need to be packing heat is because we all need to protect ourselves against those crazy kind of people who do things like attach that Congresswoman in Arizona.

But over and over again as these incidents happen, no one ever actually returns fire to the crazy person except for police officers or bystanders who sometimes get hold of the perpetrator's weapon. Many of my neighbors would say that just means we need many more guns around. I kind of think that the whole idea just doesn't work. 

So please do visit the western US. You'll travel safely and have a the time of your life enjoying out glorious outdoors. You'll tell others what nice people we all are. Just ignore the politics, and you'll be fine. 

Tags: #blogyourbackyard, western usa

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