As we start a new year, it is easy to be reflective on the past year(s). It’s easy to wax eloquent on grand scales of how things could have been different and vow to do better. Unfortunately, we as a society are not so disciplined to follow through on all our resolutions.
Looking at the changes at the federal level, I obviously have many concerns as a conservative. The balancing act the Biden administration faces will be very challenging, especially with stimulus money. I expect many theatrics from their fringe — every bit as much as the conservative fringe has given.
Fringe groups on both sides have grown very loud over the last decade. It’s how they advance their agenda: bully, threaten, call names, etc. The more abusive the language, the worse the response becomes. It is now a game of one-upmanship. I have to wonder if anyone has what it takes to stop the insanity and demand a return to decency.
President-elect Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t be the ones to usher that in. But maybe they will advance some who can and will.
I am enamored with a PBS series on the national parks. It chronicles the creation of our park system, the ups and downs of each park, our successes and failures.
Today’s series brings us into the era of the Great Depression. During this period of great unemployment, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took single, jobless men ages 18 to 26 and sent them into the woods for a period of six-month enlistments.
They lived in barracks. They had a strict routine, moderate discipline, good food and hard work. They made a tremendous difference in the environmental condition of our parks. The Civilian Conservation Corps built trails, stopped erosion, burned ladder fuels and fought forest fires. They were paid $30 per month, $5 of which they were allowed to keep and the rest was sent back to their families.
It’s hard to believe the small wage they received made much of a difference. But listening to the folks who participated in the CCC, it was all that kept their families back home alive.
The men telling these stories spoke with great pride. Many came from very large families in cities where there was no hope of employment. Many had never traveled or seen a mountain. The Western parks were an amazing classroom for them. Not only did they learn about the environment but they learned from each other.
Often classes were held in the evenings because many young men had never completed school. They were taught a variety of subjects by those who were more learned. It was a way to help one’s self as well as one’s family through hard work.
Listening to these folks today I admit I couldn’t help but wonder why that couldn’t work again. Hundreds of thousands are out of work and there is much work that needs to be done in this country. Granted, we would have to be careful. But the same outdoor tasks still need to be done in parks whose budgets have been slashed.
People could be matched with temporary government jobs that matched their skillset or interest until we are to a point where COVID-19 is controlled enough to return to our normal lives. This would be in place of straight-out stimulus checks. Maybe for those who work, it could be more.
I don’t like the stimulus bills but I know they are needed. I can only wonder if programs like the ones fashioned by a Democratic president in 1933 couldn’t have a basis in times like ours so many years later.
I can’t help but entertain the thought that those in need would be the ones who came out with the most in the end: more pride of ownership, more knowledge, new skills, more strength of character — all things we need desperately in this country in this new year.
Agidius represented Latah and Benewah counties in the Idaho House. She lives in Moscow.