Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

One of my passions is astronomy. From the time I was a little kid, I loved looking up at the planets and stars, and pondered what lay beyond. As an adult, I’ve bought a couple of good telescopes and became active in the local Colorado Springs astronomy club. I’ve spent many hours gazing up at the wonders to behold, filled with awe about the magic of science we see in the night sky.

There are many wonderful things about Colorado, and for me, one of the best is our relatively dark night skies. The darker the sky, the easier it is to see dimmer and dimmer objects. Happily, there is a really cool place close to the Front Range that you can visit when our club hosts a star party there monthly, and which is wonderful to visit any day at all, except now you can’t.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is a wonderful bit of Colorado history, and you should definitely get there to stare in wonder at the magnificent tall fossilized stumps of giant Redwood trees that flourished here 35 million years ago. You can look upon one stump with an old saw stuck forever in it, a leftover from a decades-ago effort to cleave off a portion of said stump. You should absolutely go there, except now you can’t.

They have a delightful visitors center with very smart and kind park rangers to answer any question you may have, about fossils big or small and the wonderful history of our Colorado. The gift shop is very nice, with great gifts for young and old, and you should shop there, except you can’t.

The reason that the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is not there for you right now is the simple fact that the gate is closed – padlocked and secure, because our president decided to shut down the government, then claim that other people did the deed.

The modern Republican Party (or should I call them the “Republic Party” to mimic the crime against grammar that they commit when they call the Dems the “Democrat Part.”) once was an organization filled with people who believed in the principles of small government and limited spending. Those republicans would not recognize the party of today. If the anointed saint of the GOP, Ronald Reagan, ran for office today, he’d be decried as a “libtard” due to his support of amnesty for immigrants (remember when he did that?), reducing government spending, and raising taxes.

Which brings us to last week, and the president’s unfortunate habit of watching Fox News.

You may recall that before the shutdown, the Dems and the GOP had agreed on, and passed overwhelmingly, a continuing resolution (a CR for short) that would have kept the government up and running into February. Nearly everyone agreed, and GOP leaders assured the nation that the president would sign the CR. Everything was on track until, well, Fox News. It seems Mr. Trump tuned into his state television network and found many of his acolytes upset that he didn’t get all the funding he wants for his silly wall (pre-angry letter rebuttal: border security is important, but a one-size-fits-all wall isn’t a smart solution). Ironically, months ago, he could have gotten even more funding than he is demanding now, if he had simply been willing to compromise on the Dreamers.

And so, Mr. Trump declared in a White House meeting with congressional Dems that he would shut the government down, for a long time, and would take all the responsibility and (in his mind at least) the credit. No flood of misleading tweets can undo the reality of that video and the completeness of Mr. Trumps ownership of the shutdown. His 38% core supporters will likely accept his most recent lie about responsibility, but the damning video is no less real for his denial of it. Mr. Trump owns the shutdown and seems to have no problem asking the TSA workers to keep us safe over the holidays for no pay.

Anyway, back to the Fossil Beds. 

There is one object in the night sky, the Whirlpool Galaxy, that I love to show visitors to the Fossil Beds Monument, because it is about 35 million light years away. When people gaze through my scope at the Whirlpool, I remind them that the light striking their eyes left that far-off galaxy when the massive and silent stumps surrounding them were live Redwood trees 300 feet tall. Amazing and wonderful, and I’d love to show that to all of you.

Except I can’t, because they are closed. 

Thank you, Mr. President. 

Merry Christmas.

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

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