Category archive

Column - page 9

Dahl Erickson: Saying Goodbye To The Mascot Doesn’t Mean Dropping The Team

in Column/sports
5272

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Dahl Erickson, SVI Media

The world is a funny place. And sometimes funny actually means terrifying, or bewildering or completely unpredictable. Take your pick at any of those adjectives for 2020 because things are going to be whatever you didn’t expect them to be.

I’ve written on potential name changes for sports teams before. Many times actually. I’ve even compiled lists of potential replacements should things go that direction locally.

But before I get to that part of the discussion I wanted to expound a bit on the impending name change of the Washington Redskins. And yes, it is changing.

The second that organization released a statement saying they were examining the name, it was over. Corporate sponsors, big ones, made it clear they would like the organization to change the name and on top of decades of push-back by some and despite a fist-shaking refusal by others, it’s happening.

My own opinion on using Indian imagery as a mascot has evolved over a lifetime and it’s hard to encompass that into just a few words.

I was born in Afton, Wyoming, the youngest of six kids, all of which loved sports. The local high school team, which my four brothers competed on, were the Braves.

By five years old it didn’t take much for me to latch onto the Washington Redskins as my favorite professional football team. That was in 1981. 

At that time as a high school football program in Wyoming, you weren’t just going to pop on the internet and design a new logo and have them send it to you overnight for a cheap cost. Getting helmet stickers was a process and choices were limited.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t other helmet stickers for the Star Valley Braves. From a star logo, to the crossed tomahawks, to the lightning “SV” and others, there were different attempts.

But the sticker of the Redskins stuck in the 1980s for the most part with the aforementioned handful of exceptions, it was the symbol of the program.

Growing up, the term Redskins meant winning. From the time I adopted the team in my little tiny brain, the team went to the Super Bowl four times and won three of them by the time I started high school.

Joe Gibbs, the head coach of the team often used the phrase, “looking for true Redskins” in his search for players who would put team above self and sacrifice for the good of the franchise and the community.

That’s what I always felt the team meant.

But sometimes even in moments of blissful ignorance, we can be wrong.

Take, for example, the former mascot costume for SVHS. The head was over-sized with a giant nose and dark black skin and a scowl. I never gave it a second thought.

But there are those that were bothered by it and honestly I see why. It’s an over-dramatization of an entire group of people that is being winnowed down for entertainment purposes. Again, I’m not trying to explain anything to anyone, I’m just telling you my own personal journey.

The mascot costume went away. I’m not exactly sure when, but it did. In 1992 came the first of many lawsuits against the Redskins asking them to do away with the name. Threatening boycotts and who knows how many legal trademark court cases since then.

More recently, Teton High School, less than two hours away, has done away with their Redskins mascot usage. They are now the Teton Timberwolves.

In 2012, I wrote about how schools in the State of Oregon had a five-year grace period to phase out Indian imagery or face the reality of having their funds from the state legislature affected. As of 2017 that went into affect although some bills were introduced based on schools’ ability to garner approval from any of the nine tribes who call the state home.

In Wyoming there are many schools who have a majority of students who have Native American lineage. Some of those schools use that imagery, others do not.

Some people are incredibly fired up by the mere mention of changing any of these names. Make no mistake, this is a conversation that could well be coming to our very houses.

The Redskins, Chiefs, Indians, Blackhawks and Braves are the giant-sized dominoes that are starting to fall. When or if that gets to the high school level in Wyoming anytime soon? I don’t know.

And I guess the difference is, I don’t care. I used to be what I felt was being very “democratic” when it came to such changes. The majority rules.

I also used to be very defensive about this conversation.

Now, I have native friends who are very offended by this type of imagery and I have other friends who have roots who still love the names.

The important thing to remember to me is that history does not change. The team and programs that we grew up loving are still the teams and programs that we loved. They just might be getting a different wardrobe.

The Washington Redskins used to be the Boston Braves. The Star Valley Braves used to be the Star Valley Cheesemakers. Before that, they were the Star Valley Athletic Club. The program was still started in 1928 and is one of the most successful in Wyoming prep history. That won’t change.

A high school sports program should reflect one’s community and their ability to love each other, back each other up, show pride in their hard work and on game day show other communities that they don’t do it as well as we do.

By the way, my two favorite concepts should things move that direction at the local level? The Star Valley Cutthroats and the Star Valley Fighting Elk.

Keep the colors, the fight song and everything else. Maybe you have a different suggestion. Maybe this topic makes you madder than a hornet.

But in a year where we are just hoping to have sports, the names of what we refer to the teams seems more secondary than ever.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Bill Sniffin: Yellowstone Beckons! Big Park Ready For Your Visit Now

in Bill Sniffin/Column
5255

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Bill Sniffin, Publisher, Cowboy State Daily

After a quick visit this past week, I can honestly say my Yellowstone National Park is a different place than from any other time I have seen it in the last half century.

Yellowstone is my favorite place on earth. Our family has never missed going to the park each of the last 50 years.  

Over the last 30 years, one of the biggest changes in Yellowstone has been the huge influx of foreign tourists.  I was even involved in that by co-founding an international tourism company back in 1991. 

This year it seemed like I did not hear those European accents that were so common over the last three decades.  Perhaps they were there, but with people wearing masks, conversation might have been muted. 

The biggest group missing was the Asians.  In July 2019, when I last visited, it seemed like one-third to one-half of everyone there was an Asian family. And that is just fine. But this year, I saw just one Asian family in my visits to Old Faithful, Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone Canyon and Yellowstone Lake.

At Old Faithful there was a big crowd, but considerably smaller than normal for this time of year.  The Xanterra staff was doing a magnificent job of making sure people maintained social distancing.  They all had their masks on and occasionally we had to shout at each other to make ourselves understood.  It took three tries for me to communicate to the poor gal shoveling out pulled pork sandwiches, that no, I did not need anything else. We both laughed and I gathered up our grub and moved on.

The inside of the big Old Faithful Lodge cafeteria was almost empty while outside, the line to get in stretched out. Only small groups of people were being allowed inside. Social distancing was being enforced.  The restroom experience was crazy. The big restrooms were limited to a capacity of four or six people.  

There were some crowds, but not the overwhelming masses normally seen in early July. Traffic was steady on all the roads. A great many people were wearing masks.  And social distancing played a big part in everything about visiting this wonderful place.

This time of year, at the world’s first national park, normally the traffic is bumper-to-bumper and the crowds are wall-to-wall. It is the closest thing Wyoming will ever see to Disneyland-type crowds and lines.

During this visit, the traffic was fine.  The lines were manageable.  Most Wyomingites have learned their lesson and avoid the park during the mid-summer months because of the crush of all those out-of-state tourists. 

This year, it is different.  Go to Yellowstone.  It is an international treasure, and it is OUR treasure, right here in the Cowboy State.

It had been hot in Lander with temperatures in the 90s.  We were going to wear T-shirts and shorts on this trip to Yellowstone but a check with Weather Guru Don Day from Cowboy State Daily showed we might need to reconsider.  The high was going to be just 65, and the weather was clear.

We were glad we packed some jackets and hoodies.  The elevation in the park is over 7,500 feet in most places and the air is crisp. A cool breeze can make you really appreciate that jacket most of the day.

The purpose of our trip (besides my annual “fix”) was to introduce Taylor Benevides of Dallas, who is the boyfriend of our granddaughter Daylia Hollins, to the park. As a pair, they are known as Tay and Day.  On this day, they were our guinea pigs and I wanted to show off my favorite place on the planet. Taylor had never been to Yellowstone and had never heard of the Teton Mountain Range.

On our way to the park, we were hoping to see that big old grizzly bear that hangs out along the Togwotee Pass highway.  Not on this day.  But the view of the Teton Mountain Range was breathtaking. Taylor was blown away by that billion-dollar view.

Last year, I went through the park on July 3 and had to wait a half-hour as a quarter-mile long line of cars waited to get into the park.  This year, it took five minutes and we had four cars ahead of us. So far so good.

My friend Bob Tipton had remarked earlier this summer how he had left Lander at 7 a.m., viewed the park and got home at 7 p.m.  That was the trip I was trying to duplicate.

We had a lot more traffic than he did a month ago and our passengers wanted to take some extra hikes, like to the bottom of Yellowstone Canyon, which is magnificent. The only problem is that you have to go back up to the overlook, which is uphill all the way!

Going and returning on our trip, we passed through one of my favorite mountain towns, Dubois.  The new National Museum of Military Vehicles is almost ready to open. What a treat that will be.  Thanks to Dan Starks and his family for building it.

We finally got home at 9:15 p.m., tired but totally content with our annual Yellowstone visit. 

Now my plan is to go again later this year and spend a few days up there – this trip was entirely too quick. Luckily, our group this time had an experienced tour guide.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Jonathan Lange: The Purpose Of Identity Politics Is To Divide And Conquer

in Column/Jonathan Lange
5242

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jonathan Lange, Columnist

In the opening pages of the Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn recounts how the secret police arrested millions of Russian citizens by secret midnight raids. Sleeping citizens would be awakened by the sound of their door bursting open. 

They would watch helplessly as every drawer was emptied and every mattress overturned. Eventually, they would be led away without need of guns or shackles. Terror was the tool. Neighbors who heard the crash would pretend not to notice for fear that they may be next. With each arrest the will to resist was further drained.

After recounting these methods, Solzhenitsyn noted, “how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if …people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?”

What is it that prevented the millions of Russian citizens from offering any meaningful resistance to the regime that would terrorize them for seven decades? No nation can be enslaved by direct power. Russia was divided before it was conquered. The tools of division are hatred and fear. 

Hatred is created by inventing ever-new categories of people, and setting them against one another. America’s motto, e pluribus unum (out of many, one,) must be reversed. The purpose of identity politics is simply to divide and conquer.

Divided people can then be manipulated by fear. When every man is for himself, a threat to his job or social standing leaves him helpless. Promise him that the threat will subside if he doesn’t make a fuss, and he will usually take the bait. The few who are not cowed by the unspoken threat must be made into public examples so that the rest will be too afraid to stand together. 

All it takes to counter such terror is the simple resolve to be united. “If…if…,” Solzhenitsyn continued. “If only we had stood together against the common threat, we could easily have defeated it. So, why didn’t we?” 

He answered, “We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.” 

These are powerful words. They challenge us today. Do we love freedom enough? How much do we value freedom? What price are we willing to pay to keep it?

When freedom is devalued our will to defend it is diminished. If freedom is nothing more than the selfish pursuit of doing “whatever I want,” who will die in its defense? 

Don’t let freedom be cheapened. True freedom, has never been about doing whatever you want but about doing what is right. It is about living up to the highest ideals of your own humanity. Freedom to raise a family and build a just civilization is freedom worth dying for. 

What price will you to pay for freedom? Are you willing to invest serious money in your children’s education? Are you willing to teach them at home and attend school board meetings—even run for the school board—to improve their moral education?

Are you willing to spend serious money to support candidates that will fight for true and noble freedoms against those who would debase our culture and enslave us further to debt and vice? 

Recently Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, spoke in Gillette and asked a simple question of his audience: Are you willing to spend as much on the election of good candidates as you spend on coffee? The average American spends about $10 per day on coffee. Imagine that multiplied by 100 million. 

How might that capital offset the multinational corporations that incessantly divide and debase us. What if… What if…? Solzhenitsyn asked. What if we “had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand”? He concluded that it would have changed the world and prevented the misery and deaths of millions.

Will we be asking a similar question years from now? What if… What if… we had spent as much money on good rulers as we spent on coffee? What if we had spent as much time on educating our kids as we spend on entertainment? What if we had spent as much energy on loving our neighbor as we spend arguing with strangers?

The value of freedom is infinite. If we are unwilling to spend mere pocket change in its defense, we will purely and simply deserve everything that happens afterwards.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Dave Simpson: Remember, Always Lie to Pollsters

in Column/Dave Simpson
5191

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Dave Simpson, Columnist

So much news. So much going on.

Let’s touch some bases:

– According to the polls, Joe Biden – who has adopted an “in his basement” strategy, an offshoot of the “Rose Garden” strategy – is leading President Trump by double digits.

The question is, can we trust these polls to be as whoppingly wrong as they were in 2016? Can we depend on pollsters to get it as laughably incorrect as they did in the last presidential election?

The late, great Chicago columnist Mike Royko had this advice when exit polling was first introduced: Always, always lie to pollsters. It’s the only defense we have against people who are relentlessly distorting our election process.

– It’s hard to imagine voters turning the presidency over to the political party that has made such a mess of things in our big cities – crime, budget chaos, horrible schools, and now, in Minneapolis, a unanimous city council vote to disband the police department.

What next, de-funding hospitals because there are some bad doctors?

– The amazing thing is that politicians who have been in Washington for 30, 40, even 50 years can so blithely blame everything on a president who was new to politics a mere four years ago.

So they expect us to believe that everything is his fault, and we need to turn the government back to those who have been mismanaging it for decades?

– Comedian/pundit Dennis Miller said he’s through worrying about Chicago until voters there throw out the bums who have been running the city for decades (Democrats), and try something different (say, a few Republicans). I agree. Time for a change.

– The president and governors are walking a fine line between virus precautions and wrecking the economy. What amazes me are the folks who are perfectly happy decimating the economy if it means getting rid of a president they loathe. They’re OK with economic devastation if it defeats Trump. It’s a price they’re willing to pay.

Which brings to mind something longtime Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn said about critics:

 “Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.”

– Does anyone really believe the answer to this complex snarl of problems and challenges is Joe Biden?

Have you listened to the man? Recently?

– Up where I do my social distancing, the Medicine Bow National Forest issued a warning that more black bears than usual have been sighted this year.

I saw that warning in a Facebook post. It was followed by a comment that anyone stupid enough to leave food or garbage around deserves to have bears ravaging their camp.

I never leave food or garbage outside my cabin, and that’s probably why I’ve seen exactly one bear – a smallish cinnamon-colored bear about a mile from my place – in the 39 years I’ve been summering there. And one time tooth marks on a torn down hummingbird feeder let me know a bear had visited my porch when I wasn’t around.

However, I appreciate the Forest Service warning that more bears than usual are being sighted. Thanks for the heads up.

As for that guy’s comment on the post, something about Facebook makes it almost irresistible for people to call other people stupid. Social media can be a bare-knuckle, unforgiving place.

Why the anger?

– Just wondering. With as mean and vicious and hateful as our politics have gotten by summer, what’s it doing to be like in late October?

– And lastly, if something isn’t done soon, some “peaceful demonstrator” is going to get squashed like a bug pulling down a statue they don’t like in some big city.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration needs to require the use of hard hats and steel-toed shoes by all peaceful demonstrators. If a ladder is to be used, it must be secured at the top of the statue before a peaceful demonstrator may climb it. Approved barricades should be required to keep the statue from falling onto other peaceful demonstrators, squashing them like bugs.

And if the statue is to be dumped into a harbor, Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices should be required of all peaceful demonstrators.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Bill Sniffin: The Red Desert: Loneliest Place In Loneliest State

in Bill Sniffin/Column
5135

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Bill Sniffin, Publisher, Cowboy State Daily

RED DESERT – Jim Smail’s Scottish grandfather came to America and homesteaded in Farson back in 1915.  

That old desert rat started taking Jim’s father to the Red Desert back then and that tradition continued as Jim’s father took his son to the desert shortly after Jim entered the world 83 years ago.

This column is a tribute both to my friend Jim, who died recently, and to that vast desert that he loved more than just about anybody that I ever knew.

It is also a companion story to the unveiling of a wonderful new map of the Red Desert produced by the Wyoming Outdoor Council, which printed 20,000 copies for distribution across the state.

A map such as this is long overdue.

Has this magnificent area known as the Great Red Desert changed in the more than three-fourths of a century that Jim roamed it?

Well, yes and no.

Just like today’s energy prospectors who look to Wyoming’s plains for sources of power, the desert was always seen as a place of opportunity.  In typical risk-reward activities, the stakes were high when you ventured out into this vast empty place.

Some folks think of it as a place almost devoid of permanent human habitation. But it has been provided a stage for American Indians, Oregon Trail travelers, gold prospectors, the Pony Express and other intrepid souls trying to conquer an unconquerable place. 

Geographically, some folks think the desert is a gigantic space that includes land crossed by Interstate 80 and extends up toward Casper, Shoshoni, Riverton, Lander and encompassing Rock Springs and Green River.

But to the purist, and I guess that includes me, the real Red Desert is found in the confines of the Great Divide Basin.  This, truly, is the loneliest place in the loneliest state.  A place with no permanent human habitation at the present time. Despite that, it is a place that has been occupied by humans for over 1,000 years.

In many ways the desert has not changed at all. 

Smail told me: “Among the high points of my life has been driving my jeep around the approved roads in the desert and visiting ancient sites of these early humans.  We always approach them with respect and with a vivid imagination to trying to figure out what was happening here?

“Perhaps this desert affection started with some family history.  My dad climbed up Boar’s Tusk north of Rock Springs and sat me in the notch high above the desert floor when I was just 18 months old.  Now that would whet anyone’s appetite!” Smail said.

To someone speeding by the desert on the highways, well, how can you describe to them the joys of White Horse Canyon?  Or the vast Killpecker Sand Dunes?  The magic of Steamboat Mountain and its wondrous buffalo jump? Adobe Town or the Honeycomb Buttes?  Continental Peak and the famous Oregon Buttes?  And so much more.

It is a vast area and once you start looking, well, it is almost impossible to comprehend it all.

Here’s a challenge: Turn on the Google Earth app on your computer, tablet or your smart phone and scan the Red Desert between Rock Springs and Lander.  What you see will look like the surface of some far-away planet.  Yet, it is right here in Wyoming.

Let me take you on a little journey that we took a few summers ago. Here are some of our thoughts and feelings.

Strange noises and odd winds abound in the desert. Was that sound just the wind or was it the noise generated by the ghosts of a vast herd of bison that roamed this place for thousands of years?  Or was that the cry of a lonely Indian brave in the center of a vision circle evoking whatever image he was trying to conjure?  

Maybe it was the plaintive cry of the gold miner lost in a snowstorm, knowing full well that his death was imminent?  Maybe it was the sound of a lonely white man trying desperately to work his way across this vast expanse alive?

Perhaps it was a combination of all of these? 

We were standing on a lonely knob about 25 miles southwest of Jeffrey City. 

Strange rocks covered this knob and occasionally, powerful gusts of wind would come from nowhere and almost knock you down.   My three companions and I all looked at each other following these gusts.  “What the heck was that?  Did you feel that?”  

Jim and I were driving around to some of these odd sites.  It was my first time out here to most of them.  The first time experiencing the odd feelings and powers that the desert emits. 

But we were not there to check out the wind.  Unusual ancient rock structures and symbols were our goals, commonly called “teepee rings.” 

I prefer the term “vision circles” and they can be found in old sites along old, worn Indian trails.

Smail’s theory was that young Indian braves or perhaps older Indian medicine men used these circles as ways to experience visions or to communicate with the spirit world.

Instead of perfectly round circles, often the rings of rocks would have an opening and most often, they actually had a spiral effect, as if “to let the spirits into the circle,” he speculated.

Although Smail did not qualify as a learned college professor, he spent much of his 80-plus years in this desert, having originally grown up in Farson and spending the rest of his life in the Lander area.

We continued on riding along the well-worn trail to a location rarely visited near the Honeycomb Buttes.  There, we found 19 of these vision circles, which were the best I had ever seen.

We were in the northern part of the Great Divide Basin, a vast 2.25 million-acre area where the Continental Divide splits in two.  Water inside that basin does not go outside of it, not East or West.

Wyoming is the lowest populated state in the country. And the least populated place in Wyoming is this basin.  

My favorite area in the Red Desert is the Oregon Buttes area, which is full of wondrous rock formations and strange canyons.

Aging hippie-types like to believe that certain places in the world have special energy fields called vortexes.  Not sure I believe it, but there are places in the Red Desert that sure give me a positive energy boost. 

Smail contended that if Wyoming had a vortex area, it might very well be right there.

Then another of our companions, Joe Motherway, told us about these weird circles he and his wife Bonnie had found.   We headed off to the east through this maze of old dirt roads and two-tracks. 

Occasionally there were roads blocked by signs listing that area as part of a wilderness study area.  We are not allowed to drive off the road with jeep or an ATV.

This new spot was hard to find and after a miss or two, we finally arrived.  And then the aforementioned wind really started to blow. Eerily so.

The place was littered with what Joe called “Flying Saucer Rocks,” which appeared to have been burned and had other little rocks stuck to them.  The site was a small barren knob surrounded by dozens of square miles of sagebrush.

It was obviously a special place. And it was full of these vision circles — only these really featured that spiral effect.  Doubt anyone would call them teepee rings because of the odd shapes.

Of course, we did not disturb them. Just took some pictures and tried to keep from getting blown over by the wind.

Then it was time to go home.  We traveled a few miles before stopping.  “Do you notice anything different?” Jim Smail asked me.  “No wind.” 


***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Jonathan Lange: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

in Column/Jonathan Lange
5133

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jonathan Lange, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Why can’t we all just get along? Since the L.A. riots in 1992, many have breathed out these words in despair and confusion. But, take courage! This question actually has an answer. And in the answer, there is a way forward.

Already in 1978, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put his finger on America’s problem and showed us the way forward. It was delivered by way of a commencement address at Harvard University titled, “A World Split Apart.” The audience, expecting to hear the Russian dissident criticize Soviet communism, was scandalized when he turned the tables.

With devastating accuracy, he showed how America was abusing its own freedom by wallowing in the same lies that communism forced upon the Russian people. Solzhenitsyn explained that virtue, not material prosperity, leads to freedom and human thriving. By abandoning it, America was enslaving itself.

His warning sounded strange to his audience. Many dismissed him as a quasi-religious moralist. The Ivy Leaguers counted virtue as a quaint vestige of the unenlightened past and were tossing it out of the classroom, the courtroom, and the legislative assembly.

But they were wrong. Long before Christianity came on the scene, public virtue was the single most important element of a functioning society. Plato, 400 years before Christ, first named the four personal qualities that were necessary for people to get along. These have come down to us as the Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Courage, and Justice.

Centuries later, Christian thinkers added Faith, Hope and Love to this list. These are called the Theological Virtues because they are specifically Christian. But the Cardinal Virtues are shared by all humanity.

One of the strangest ironies of our time is that the non-religious Cardinal Virtues have been marginalized under the rubric of “freedom from religion,” while the specifically religious virtue, “Love,” has been emptied of its Christian content and perverted into a political cudgel to beat down every other virtue.

Solzhenitsyn reminded his audience that human beings are more than animals. They have not only a body, but also a spirit. That is why the virtues are absolutely necessary for human society. Without them, societies can never rise above mere animal instinct. The following survey of the Cardinal Virtues will bear this out.

Prudence (wisdom) is the mother of all virtues. It rightly directs all human action toward a good goal. To do so, it requires all people to know the difference between good and evil. It rests on our common sense of right and wrong.

Without the categories of right and wrong, good and evil, there can be no society. Yet it is precisely these categories that are denied any place in public policy. They are treated as merely personal value judgments with no basis in objective truth. “That may be good for you,” we are told, “but it is not good for me.”

Any society unable to speak with a unified voice on the subject of good and evil will never be able to get along. And, every attempt to get along, while avoiding a sober and reasonable discussion of good and evil, will only underscore how unwise and uncivilized that society has become.

Temperance (moderation) is the virtue of controlling the appetite. It recognizes that human beings have built-in needs that must be met, and that meeting these needs gives pleasure. It also recognizes that overindulgence and disordered use of these appetites will always cause great human suffering.

Four of the seven deadly sins are connected to temperance. Gluttony, greed, lust and sloth are overindulgence in food, money, sex and rest respectively. But sin, like virtue itself, is dismissed as a “religious” category. Most forget that it was as familiar in pre-Christian Greece as in the Bible.

But, the pretense that only religious fanatics condemn intemperance is a convenient strategy to divide and conquer. By it many defenders of temperance are shamed out of the public square. This leaves room for a decadent culture not only to tolerate, but to celebrate and encourage such sins.

Courage (fortitude) is the virtue that is most in short supply today. It is the virtue that overcomes personal fear in order to do what is right. It is especially necessary today because Americans have become so entangled in their appetites for public approval and economic success that the Twitter mob and the Cancel Culture can easily silence those who lack this virtue.

Think about how many politicians, teachers, church leaders and businesses have been frightened into silence, or even into public apology for speaking their mind. Solzhenitsyn put America’s lack of courage up front in his critique. She has not gotten any braver in the four decades since.

Justice (righteousness) is the final virtue in Plato’s list. It is the constant and permanent determination to give everyone his or her rightful due. Prudence—the intellectual ability to discern good and evil—can tell you what is right and just. Justice is the willpower to do the right thing without regard to persons.

When Lady Justice is depicted in art, she is always blindfolded because she operates without respect of persons. When money, status, or public opinion skews the application of justice, it is evil. Social justice that judges class membership but ignores individual acts of good and evil is inherently unjust.

It has been a very long time since our political system paid attention to this virtue. America has been deluded into thinking that justice requires strict moral neutrality. This lie has driven our common sense of good and evil out of the public square. This foolishness has brought us to the brink of disaster.

While the Cardinal Virtues do not establish any particular religion, their exclusion is motivated by a materialistic worldview that hates the very idea of religion. This worldview is itself a religion that denies the very spirit of humanity and has led to the slaughter of millions and the enslavement of billions around the globe.

While Solzhenitsyn knew the evils of communism, he saw clearly that it sprang from virtue-less materialism. He observed that “through intense suffering our country has achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive.”

As a direct result of that development, countries of the former Soviet Union are rebuilding their societies by an unabashed return to the virtues. Poland, Serbia and Hungary, among others, are leading by example. If America is unwilling to take their advice, Solzhenitsyn predicted that it “would be broken by the pitiless crowbar of events.”

Mobs that burn, loot and deface statues may well portend the events that Solzhenitsyn warned about 42 years ago. No society can deny human nature forever. It will either be prudent enough to listen to those who have gained wisdom through suffering, or it must undergo its own bitter lessons.

How America responds to this present hour will determine the outcome for our children and grandchildren. They will either endure great suffering or enjoy true freedom. They will also have the clarity of hindsight to judge this present generation. By Prudence, Temperance, Courage and Justice our generation can renew America’s freedom. Without these, history will be a harsh judge.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Glenn Arbery: Should We Celebrate The 4th This Year?

in Column/Glenn Arbery
5139

By Glenn Arbery, President Wyoming Catholic College

A statue of Abraham Lincoln is being removed from Boston this week even though it is a copy of the statue in Washington, D.C., paid for by freed slaves and dedicated by the great Frederick Douglass. The statue of Columbus is now gone from Columbus City Hall in the capital of Ohio, and Mount Rushmore is under attack. Surely, the total eradication of past injustice is at hand.

A Song for the Fourth:

Are we celebrating our independence this year? Whether we even should is an open question in many places—but not in Lander, Wyoming, where the parade will go on, albeit more modestly than usual: no folding chairs parked curbside a day ahead of time, no candy thrown from floats to the kids swarming the streets, no firetrucks spraying water two hundred feet into the air above Main Street in the grand finale.

The Wyoming Catholic College community will participate, and fireworks that night could very well make up for the relative restraint of the morning, but even in Lander the strangeness of 2020 will continue. It is good to remind ourselves, particularly this year, what America means in its noblest register. 

One-hundred twenty-five years ago this week, Katherine Lee Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, published the first version of “America the Beautiful” for the Fourth of July that summer. Many phrases from her hymn have become part of our national memory: “spacious skies,” “purple mountain majesties,” “amber waves of grain,” “from sea to shining sea.”

The song’s emphasis is bracing. The lines that best address our current situation come at the end of the second stanza:

                America, America!

                God mend thine every flaw.

                Confirm thy soul in self-control,

                Thy liberty in law.

Difficult as it is these days to imagine addressing America as a single entity, Bates does so boldly in her hymn. 

After acknowledging “every flaw” of this beautiful nation and praying for God’s help, the song turns imperative. “Confirm thy soul in self-control,” writes Bates, and a great deal is compacted into the word soul. It evokes 19th century romantic heroes—great, striving, sublime figures impatient with all boundaries, like Napoleon or Melville’s Ahab.

As Abraham Lincoln wrote in one of his early speeches, “Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored. It sees no distinction in adding story to story, upon the monuments of fame, erected to the memory of others.”

Bates has such heroes in mind, but she also draws upon the classical idea of magnanimity, “greatness of soul,” the crown of the moral virtues that Aristotle describes in the Nicomachean Ethics.

The tyrant’s way to distinguish himself might be to step over the usual moral thresholds with a larger-than-life excess, like the “extraordinary man” that Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov imagines. But the strongest soul overcomes its own unruly impulses and manifests its virtues through an inner equilibrium; it is like tuning an instrument.

“Confirm thy soul” in Bates’s poem means two things: first, to establish America’s nobility of soul beyond doubt before the nations of the world, and, second, to add greater strength to the national identity and make it firmer. The more America exercises the power and depth of self-restraint, as George Washington did, the more she confirms her greatness. 

The song also urges America to confirm her “liberty in law.” Liberty is sometimes construed to mean breaking free of all constraints, like an escaping prisoner. I am reminded of William Wordsworth’s poem, “Nuns Fret Not At Their Convent’s Narrow Room,” where he praises the demands of the sonnet form.

                In truth the prison, into which we doom

                Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,

                In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound

                Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground.

As the convent is no prison for the nun who chooses it, or the sonnet for Wordsworth, so the law is no prison for those who exercise their liberty in choosing its restraint.

In fact, America confirms her liberty—makes it firmer, gives it a more established strength—through obedience to law. 

Bates’s song remains perennially appealing because it conveys the incalculable beauty of virtue that America can exhibit by exercising self-control and taking on the high responsibilities of self-rule. The same appeal applies to each individual citizen.

We ought to shine, especially on this day, among the nations of the earth. The prayer of Wyoming Catholic College for this Fourth of July is that the anomalies of 2020 do not overcome us and that our nation will recall itself and find again the greatness of soul that gave us our liberty.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Hey GOP! Don’t Call at Dinnertime!

in Column/Dave Simpson
5117

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily

THEM AGAIN: There was a time when a phone call from the U.S. Senate would have been a big deal in my family.

That was back in the 1960s when I was growing up in Illinois. It’s hard to imagine today, but back then Illinois was represented in the Senate by two actual Republicans – former Bell and Howell mogul Charles Percy, and smooth-talking Everett Dirksen. Today, Democrats represent Illinois in the Senate.

What we all knew about Percy was the tragic story of the murder of his daughter Valerie at their exclusive north suburban Chicago mansion in 1966. The murder was never solved.

Our other senator, Dirksen, was a giant of the Senate, and was key in gathering Republican support for President Lyndon Johnson’s historic civil rights legislation.

My grandmother, in her 80s at the time, loved Dirksen’s famous voice. It was so smooth and memorable that four records were produced featuring Dirksen reading poems and famous speeches. He won a Grammy for one in 1966. We gave my grandmother one of those albums for Christmas.

I can imagine how excited my grandmother would have been to get a call from the U.S. Senate, and maybe her favorite senator – who we called her “boyfriend.” Little did she know that her youngest grandson would be publisher of the paper in Dirksen’s home town of Pekin, Ill., for 13 years. Dirksen at one time had a private office upstairs in the newspaper building.

That was then. This is now.

These days, with the miracle of caller ID, a call from the U.S. Senate is little more than a nuisance call. We never even bother to pick up.

“It’s those pests from the U.S. Senate again,” we say when they call at about 5:20 p.m., while we’re trying to get dinner on the table. If you make the mistake of picking up, it is some phony baloney “town hall” event to keep support ginned up in Wyoming for our Senate delegation, which is just as Republican as Percy and Dirksen were in Illinois. The calls are no doubt intended to goose donations to the Republican Party

They used to send us fund raising letters, with “survey” questions like this: Are you aware that Nancy Pelosi is the spawn of Beelzebub and is bent on enslaving your cute little grand daughter and ending life as we know it in the United States? Stop her by sending $100 to the Republican Party before dinnertime tonight!

I finally scrawled this on one letter and sent it back: “Stop sending this crap! Republicans need to become actual conservatives before they get a dime out of me. Have you guys ever heard of a balanced budget? You’re as bad as the Democrats! Take me off your mailing list.”

I don’t need a town hall meeting, or a fund-raising letter, to know my senators are Republicans, and conservative basics ought to be obvious without my input or cash. You know, obvious stuff like lower taxes, fewer regulations, strong military, no doing number two on city sidewalks, and that famous chant from Rick Santelli that spawned the Tea Party: STOP SPENDING!

A key problem, however, is that the U.S. Senate is so out of touch and rude that it calls us at dinnertime. If they want my attention, they shouldn’t call when I’m setting the table, chopping salad and popping the Shake n’ Bake pork chops in the oven.

I mean, really. How obvious is this?

OOPS: When the kids were growing up, we always ate dinner at 5:45, always ate together, and if they kids’ little friends called while we were eating, I’d do a not-so-slow burn. I was a real grouch about it.

Then one night, during dinner, the phone rang and I went into my rant. One of the kids picked up the phone.

“Who could be so RUDE as to call while we’re eating dinner?” I demanded.

“Your circulation department down at the newspaper,” my daughter replied. “They want to know if you want to subscribe!”

Hoist on my own petard. Coup-fourre (which Mille Bornes fans like me recall meant “counter thrust.’)

In true Saturday Night Live Emily Litella fashion, I sheepishly replied:

“Never mind.”

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Mike Moser & Chris Brown: Controlling What We Can In Uncertain Times

in Chris Brown/Column/Mike Moser
5099

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Controlling What We Can In Uncertain Times

Wyoming’s hospitality and tourism industry is the state’s second largest industry.  In 2019 we welcomed 9.2 million overnight visitors that spent $3.95 billion in our restaurants, retail shops, drinking establishments, lodging properties and main street businesses.  This visitor spending generated $203 million in local and state tax revenue and supported 32,750 full and part time jobs.  

Enter COVID-19.

We are now half way though 2020 and our businesses that rely on a booming visitor economy are now struggling for their very survival.  Occupancy and average daily rates for lodging properties are well below that of last year. 

Wyoming’s cities, towns and counties are seeing lower tax revenue to pay for essential services, restaurants, bars, and clubs are seeing lower volumes of customers, employees are seeing reduced hours and all have to adapt to health orders that limit operations in ways that we have never seen… or could have imagined. 

To add to an already uncertain horizon, states like Arizona, Texas, New Jersey, Washington, California and Florida have all taken steps backwards by re-closing (or keeping closed) bars, gyms, movie theaters, etc, after significant spikes in COVID-19 cases.  We cannot let this happen in Wyoming.

In a time when it’s easy to be overwhelmed by what the future may hold, there are commonsense steps that establishments and patrons across Wyoming have been and can continue to take to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep our businesses open.

Restaurants and drinking establishments in Wyoming should please consider the following steps.

·      Emphasize the importance of employees staying home when sick.  This will help other staff members from being exposed and being quarantined if the illness is COIVD-19.

·      Screen employees for illness before each shift. Employees reporting illness should not be allowed to work, to prevent exposing other employees and customers.

·      Follow physical distancing guidelines among customers and staff.  Develop systems for staff to remain 6 feet away from each other as much as possible, including during breaks, will limit the number of employees exposed should one of your staff develop COVID-19.

·      Ensure the use of face coverings among staff members.

·      Utilize proper sanitization practices.

·      Encourage customers to wear face coverings inside your establishment when away from their table or the bar

·      Follow all state and county health orders closely.

Patrons visiting their favorite establishments should please consider the following steps.

·      Please respect business practices meant to encourage physical distancing. This not only protects you as a customer but protects other customers and their staff as well.

·      Wear face coverings when inside an establishment and away from your table or the bar.

·      Stay home when you are sick.

·      Wash your hands frequently.

·      Avoid shaking hands.

·      Avoid gathering in large groups when inside the establishment.

·      Follow all state and county health orders closely.

The Fourth of July is this weekend. As we get ready to celebrate our country’s independence, focus on the things that are within our control. Let’s enjoy the holiday and the summertime traditions that we look forward to all year, in a safe manner that protects our freedoms and will keep Wyoming open for business.

Chris Brown

Executive Director

Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association

Mike Moser

Executive Director

Wyoming State Liquor Association

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Bill Sniffin: Covid Destroying Wyoming Traditions

in Bill Sniffin/Column
5088

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Bill Sniffin, publisher Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming, in several ways, has been forever changed.

The new systems and techniques put into place during the last 100 days, will continue on into the future, I predict. Biggest things will be state wide meetings being held with Zoom, distance education, and telehealth medicine.

Wyoming people drive more miles per year than people in any other state, on a per-capita basis.  We have good roads.  We are small in population but almost desperate to get together for meetings, it seems.

For 50 years, my typical Wyoming day might mean driving three hours to Casper or Rawlins or Rock Springs or Jackson or Cody or Pinedale for a two-hour meeting and then driving three hours home.  In the summers, we even would make the 4.5-hour trip to Cheyenne for a meeting and then drive back home in the same day. 

Not anymore.

Some of the most impressive folks in doing these state meetings are members of the Legislature, who travel from one end of the state to the other for committee meetings. I have even attended legislative meetings in some of our wonderful towns like Newcastle and Evanston.  Both are four hours plus for me and eight hours apart from each other.

Our legislators have been meeting almost non-stop by Zoom and I predict that whenever this darned pandemic ends, that option will continue.  The computer-generated meetings are not as comfortable as in-person meetings but they certainly work better than anything else I have ever seen.

Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) showed me his calendar. It was crazy nuts with these remote meetings. We need to applaud our hard-working legislators for the time they are devoting to our current issues.

Years ago, the state created their own closed circuit TV system as a way to eliminate the need of all that driving.  The system was doable but way more cumbersome than Zoom. You would go to a centralized location in your county and watch other folks on this big old TV.  There were always bugs with it.

There is even a new phrase called “Zoom casual,” which means you can wear some kind of presentable shirt or even a sport coat and tie from the waist up.  If you have your boxers or pajamas on the bottom, well, it doesn’t matter.

Another tricky thing with Zoom is now you can put a scenic photo behind you, so it looks like you are out in the mountains somewhere. Nice touch. But I digress.

Secondly, Wyoming has built billions of dollars in new school buildings.  They have sat idle for the past three months, in most cases, and it can truly cause a person to wonder if they are needed? We had over $100 million in new schools built here in Fremont County over the past few years. They are impressive and I think they are great. But would they have been built in the wake of a COVID-19 crisis when the state is facing a $1.5 billion shortfall? 

Distance learning has affected just about every student.  Today’s kids are computer fluent anyway but now 95% of the students have the ability to stay home and take their classes.  What effect will that have on education planning going forward?  You can anticipate that members of the legislature are looking for places to cut expenses and the state’s big education budget is a looming target.

Thirdly, Telehealth is fantastic.  With modern cell phones, laptops, tablets and even smart watches, people are able to monitor their health from a distance. It is not as good as in-person, but health appointments will never go back to the old way. A frontier state like Wyoming is ideally suited for such a system.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 situation just keeps getting more interesting. 

Wyoming’s coronavirus numbers just blow my mind.

As I write this on June 28. 2020, here are some numbers to ponder:

Wyoming population – 550,000.

Folks tested – 42,402.

Tested positive – 1,112.

Probable’s – 296.

Deaths – 20.

Persons sick now – 343.

Recovered – 1,057.

The stats show 7.7% of the Wyoming population has been tested with just 1.7 percent of those testing positive and dying.  

Outside of Alaska and Hawaii, Wyoming appears to be the safest place in the USA if you do not want to die from the coronavirus COVID-19.  Alaska has 12 deaths and Hawaii has 17.  Wyoming is sitting at 20 deaths.

I now fear we are living in a time of great over-reaction.  As I wrote in an earlier column, when we watched those scenes of emergency rooms in Italy and New York City, well, it just scared us to death. Most everyone wanted to shut things down to protect folks.

Original estimates of deaths for Wyoming were over 150.  Did our social distancing really save us from that number? There are a lot of doubters here.

The Cowboy State is now facing its biggest test with 6 million tourists headed our way.  One Yellowstone employee told me recently that very few of the tourists are wearing masks.   That will tell the final story.

As the state opens up, are we looking at a surge in cases? How does the virus fare in Wyoming’s windy and hot wide-open spaces that tend to be very, very dry?

Answers to the COVID-19 questions are still waiting to be known.  But we are learning more each month as the days march on.

Stay tuned.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

1 7 8 9 10 11 33
Go to Top