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National Parks Remind Americans: We Are One Family

This picture taken in an exhibit at Grand Canyon National Park speaks volumes. The park ranger picked up shells from the floor outside and told the head of the Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative and me that they actually were the oldest layer, having started out at the bottom of the canyon millions of years ago.

By Audrey Peterman!

Growing up in a country village in Jamaica, I saw my Grandma Ida cook enough food every day so that if someone should drop by, there’d be plenty for them to eat. We weren’t rich though we had enough, and my Uncle Baugh who lived with us was very disgruntled with Mama’s generosity. I don’t know how much he contributed to the food budget, but Mama was the chief breadwinner, and this was her way of life.

As Mama’s only grandchild living with her I was the beneficiary of all the love and appreciation she generated in our village. Just this week one of my close friends from high school reminded me how she and others used to come and eat dinner at my house before going home to eat their own.

I found an old picture of Mama last night as I was thinning out my files. It brought back a flood of happy memories, and then it struck me that my early family might well be a metaphor for America: We’ve always felt we had enough to share, and America holds a special place in the heart of the world.

Grand Tetons

But what if an outsider had come in and tried to play upon Uncle Baugh’s feelings, magnifying it into such discontent that it totally disrupted our family? What if someone who resented our cohesiveness had set out to destroy it? I don’t know how we’d have handled it, but I believe Mama’s strength and my insouciance would have helped us remain intact.

From that village in Jamaica where both Mama and Uncle Baugh are buried, I invoke the spirit of love, family and unity for America once again.  In this great land that has been a beacon for the world for more than 200 years, those of us fortunate enough to live here should remember that we are one American family.

All the facts suggest that a foreign provocateur has come in and exacerbated our disagreements. Now it’s as if Uncle Baugh is on a rampage, and Mama and I are fighting him with all our might.  Our tranquility is totally disrupted. Meanwhile the provocateur sits back laughing: “See, they weren’t so great after all!”

In case this seems like a long way to go for a metaphor, think about the example of our national parks. When you realize that the most scenic and pristine land we have protected has been here since the beginning of time, you also realize that the land is the only constant. It has seen/enabled/withstood everything that has ever taken place in history.

One example: The land in Grand Canyon National Park was already 250 million years old when Julius Cesar was assassinated in 44 BC. The intervening 2044 years is not even a blip in time, nor is the 2018-year span since Jesus walked on Earth. The Guttenberg Press was the “social media” of the mid-1400s, making books readily available around the world for the first time. To the Grand Canyon, that mere 600 years hardly registers.

I sometimes wonder what the land might think of humans, who dance upon its surface for a century or so if we are lucky. As we strut about and destroy without thought, the elements (Fire, Air, Water and Earth) give us back the results of our folly in the form of devastation. The trauma that so many are experiencing today is readily traced back to human actions. Out of respect for the suffering of my countrymen and women, I will not name events, but a cursory search on Google will provide all the information if you care.

When my husband Frank (we’re celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary this Sunday) and I are walking down the street, we smile and say hello to everyone whose eyes we meet. He tells me that he’s grateful that I reminded him that it doesn’t matter if they respond, that it’s only important that we salute our common humanity. Interestingly, even the people who don’t speak the first few times begin to wave and smile after a while.

So, on this last full day of summer 2018, I am calling upon my fellow Americans to remember that we are one family. Whatever our disagreements, no one in the family benefits if we tear the unit apart. Let us dig down deep into our heart and soul and remember the familial bonds we share. Let each one of us commit to showing love to our neighbor and all we encounter.

November 6 is fast approaching. On that day, let us go to the polls and cast our vote for the party that shows love and respect for the family, promotes unity and maintains the integrity of the sacred land in our national parks. As so well stated here, the character of our country/family is on the ballot.








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