National Perks

I think these wingnuts have always existed, but now they’re being given a scarily prominent voice in the mainstream media. There’s some disagreement about whether the Bush administration is really going to cater to the conservative Christians as much as they hope, but there’s no doubt that the media is honoring their perceived mandate by publishing each new ridiculous demand, thereby giving them a legitimacy they never before enjoyed.

For roughly a decade, a film has been shown to visitors at Washington's Lincoln Memorial, depicting historic events that have taken place there -- from civil rights marches to antiwar demonstrations.


"It showed only those liberal, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual marches," said [the Rev. Lou] Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition.

Sheldon's influential Christian conservative group took its complaint to the government's top levels -- "so they could reach down and work their system and cleanse in a proper manner and make it fair and balanced," he said.

Sheldon would like film of some conservative marches intercut as well, though it is unclear whether any major conservative marches have taken place at the Lincoln Memorial itself, which is the film's focus.

The National Park Service is currently reviewing the contents of the film and debating whether it should remove images that Sheldon finds inappropriate -- including, for example, one visual of a protester holding a sign reading: "The Lord is my shepherd and knows I'm gay."

Some Park Service personnel resent having to edit the film.

"They felt that there was a political effort to rewrite history, to edit out gays, feminists, war protesters," said Jeffrey Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit group.

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here by suggesting that Park Service personnel might also be resentful that the National Park Service would even consider editing the film based on one man’s opinion of its content. Does my opinion, as blogmaven of Shakespeare’s Sister, that the aforementioned visual doesn’t bother me carry the same weight?

The fight over who controls the portrayal of history is playing out all over country, from the Lincoln Memorial to the Grand Canyon.

Park bookstores at the Grand Canyon now sell the book "Grand Canyon: A Different View," which contradicts science, saying the Grand Canyon was formed by the great flood from the Bible story of Noah.

The book was written by a "born again" river guide who writes that his view of the canyon's being millions of years old changed after he "met the Lord. Now, I have 'a different view' of the Canyon, which, according to a biblical time scale, can't possibly be more than about a few thousand years old."

Letters to the park service from leaders of the scientific community protest the inclusion of the book alongside those based on science.

"The book is not about geology but, rather, advances a narrow religious view about the Earth," wrote seven presidents of scientific organizations -- including the Paleontological Society, American Geophysical Union and Geological Society of America -- in a December 2003 letter. "We urge you to remove the book from shelves where buyers are given the impression that the book is about Earth science and its content endorsed by the National Park Service."
Despite the National Park Services’ statutory mandate to “promote the use of sound science in all its programs, including public education," the book remains on their shelves. One man writes a book that is denounced by multiple leaders of the scientific community, and the book keeps its place. This is beyond an overextension of an alleged mandate; this is total acquiescence to extremism. There may very well be an appropriate place for a book suggesting that the Grand Canyon owes its existence to the great flood, but it is not at a federally-funded park site that promotes sound science.

"During the Clinton administration, it's like we felt like we lived in outer Siberia," Sheldon said, "and [during] this past administration, it's like we died and went to heaven and got a preview of what's to come."

“What’s to come” being, of course, making those hedonistic, heretic liberals feel like they live in outer Siberia.

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