Monday, April 10, 2017

H is for hypocrisy, the national parks, and the president

During this month's Ultimate Blogging Challenge, there are daily suggestions on blogging topics. One of the suggestions was to "stir up the pot" by writing about something controversial. One of the controversial things that was mentioned was President Donald Trump. That is how I am "stirring up the pot" today.
There are many national cemeteries, although
this isn't one of them (Whitehaven Cemetery,
Grand Island, New York).

Last week, I read that Mr. Trump announced that he was donating his first quarter's salary of $78,333 to the National Park Service. He wants to earmark the money to the maintenance of historic battlegrounds. Press Secretary Sean Spicer handed the check to Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, at a press conference. The two of them were photographed with Tyrone Brandyburg, superintendent at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

The National Park Service is in charge of numerous battlefields, monuments, and national cemeteries. They tell the story of the United States in some of its most painful and saddest hours, beginning from before the United States existed as a nation. The story starts with Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Pennsylvania, a battleground site of the French and Indian Wars, a protracted war in which France and Great Britain clashed for control of North America. The war started in 1754 and ended in 1763. In fact, George Washington served as a major in the British Army during that war.

The National Park Service also works hard to preserve many Civil War battlefields. At these places, the United States broke. Brothers fought against each other. Neighbors turned on one another, with hate in their hearts and with violence in their eyes. The battlefields of long ago are silent reminders of that national upheaval. That the United States was patched up and that we have a nation at all after that horrific war is actually amazing. But the battlefields remain and are open to visitors, to feel history and to know that history lives.

As a master gardener, a master naturalist trainee, and a history buff, I suppose that I should be happy that the president is donating the salary that, apparently he doesn't need, to such a wonderful cause. But I'm not. President Trump is offering thousands of dollars to the National Park Service. At the same time, he has proposed a budget cut to the Department of the Interior of $1.5 billion or twelve percent. 

It is unknown how much the National Park Service's budget will be cut. I would guess more than the $78,333 that the president offered in a public display. Will President Trump's donated salary do much to help pay for maintenance of historical battlefields? Probably not much. Ryan Zinke acknowledged, during the April 3rd press conference, that "we're about $229 million behind in deferred maintenance on our battlefields alone." 

Trump's words and his symbolic gesture of donating money to the National Parks Service are at odds with the very real and devastating potential effect of a large (and not symbolic) budget cut that he has proposed. The proposed budget cut will have a direct impact on the historic preservation that President Trump claims to support. It is more than odd that the president who speaks sentimentally about preserving battlefields would slash the budget that is intended to make this happen. This strikes me as the very definition of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy can be defined as "the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform." 

Do you want to show support for the work that the National Park Service does to preserve historic battle fields and national cemeteries, President Trump? Then be a leader and don't cut budgets for the sake of cutting budgets. Don't make symbolic gestures to make yourself look good. The National Park Service doesn't need symbolic gestures. It needs the financial means to do its work. It needs its budget to be maintained, not slashed to the bone. History is important. It tells who we are as a people and as a nation. Unfortunately, because of the hypocrisy of a president who prefers the appearance of supporting national parks without committing the necessary resources to actually maintaining those parks, those places that silently tell our story could fall into ruin.

My question to you: What does historic preservation mean to you? What do you think of President Trump's actions? Tell me in the comments section. Feel free to express yourself but please remember to play nice. In other words, personal attacks against anyone will be deleted! Thank you!





3 comments:

Alana said...

I agree it is full of hypocrisy. It wasn't bad enough that they closed the parks during the last government shutdown (which was a failure)The parks are so important in our efforts to preserve the environment and our history. The fact that "they" would even entertain budget cuts is disturbing.

Lady In Read said...

agree with you Alice ... the parks definitely are such an integral, important, wonderful part of us and they definitely do not need budget cuts..

WM Anderson said...

I had no idea President Trump had offered to give money voluntarily to anything that doesn't feather his own nest... ever...
Is that naive and wrong of me??

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