Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Colestin Countdown 2016

It's that time of year when the Colestin Camp Out blog finally turns its attention to the Colestin Camp Out. We're 10 days out friends! August 5-7.  Very exciting.  And yes, the rumors are true: Miz Kiva and Mr. David are getting hitched in the meadow on Saturday afternoon, the first wedding in Colestin Camp Out history.

Here are a few things to know for 2016.

Wedding - The wedding takes place on Saturday, August 6.  I suspect the ceremony will start around 5:00 p.m. Colestin time, which is, as we all know, fluid. This is definitely not a black tie affair; the mother of the bride may wear tie dye.  Be sure to complete your ensemble with comfortable shoes. I also suspect that the ceremony will be short and sweet. Everyone is welcome to attend, even if you don't know the bride and groom.

Weather -  It is hotter than the hinges of hell in southern Oregon this week.  The long range forecast shows no rain, but a slight cool down in temps, which would be a blessing.

Fire - With this hot weather, the fire danger is extreme. I'm sorry to say that we will NOT have a campfire this year, it's too dangerous. Scoutmaster Sequoia will make a game day decision about rigging up some kind of contained burner.

Road Work.  The I-5 overpass in Hilt is under construction.  It was supposed to done by August 5th, but that seems doubtful. Thus far, they have only closed one side of the overpass at a time.  If the construction isn't finished, you may possibly have to take one of these  two detours:

  • I-5 south from Ashland, take the Bailey Hill Road exit, 3 miles south of Hilt. Cross the freeway and take the I-5 north entrance. Adds 5-10 minutes to the trip. 
  • I-5 north from California, take the Siskiyou Summit exit, one mile north of Hilt. Make a U-turn and return back across the freeway onto I-5 south.   Adds 5-10 minutes to the trip. NOTE: The official detour sign directs you to the Mt. Ashland Ski Road, 5 miles north of Hilt.  Siskiyou Summit is the "locals only" shortcut and much faster.
Here's hoping the work is finished before the wedding.

Food - We will grill a large fish on Friday and red meat on Saturday, make a big salad, and buy a keg.  The bride has requested Lowell's Tangy Noodles. Contributions of meats, salads, sides, bread, corn, potatoes, fruit, desserts, hot dishes, cold dishes and drinks are greatly appreciated. We can always use more ice.  Charcoal grills and a propane burner will be available. There is usually too much food.

The Usual - Come for a couple of hours or stay the whole weekend. Family, friends, kids and dogs all welcome. Breakfast and lunch are on your own, potluck dinner is served around 7:00.  Disc golf usually tees off around 10 a.m. We play music all hours of the day and night, bring an instrument and sing along. There is an outhouse near the meadow and indoor plumbing at the house, about a 10 minute walk up the hill.  Expect bugs, snakes, stickers and cold nights. Smokers, please be extremely careful with your butts!  Finally, and most importantly, D.I.Y.

Colestine or Colestin? Both are correct. I use them interchangeably just to keep y'all on your toes.

Surely I'm forgetting something. Camp Out vets, weigh in if you think of anything.

Mazel tov campers!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

July 4th

I just finished reading Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, which I might not have picked up were it not for the musical Hamilton.  After visiting Philadelphia, I realized how very little I know about the American Revolution and the early history of the United States. Plus, I do love a good biography.  This one is a ripper, an 800-page beast of a book and a real page turner. Hamilton was a fascinating cat, no doubt, a rare combination of genius and will power, of brilliant mind and astonishing work ethic. He was probably a little unstable and more than a little manic (I mean, come on, the dude died in a friggin' duel with the friggin' vice president), but the great ones often are.

In reading the book, I was struck by the fact that America's partisans fractures were baked in right from the very beginning of the republic. There were those who advocated for a strong, central government and universal human rights and there were those who advocated for states rights and individual liberties. Sound familiar?

Hamilton and the Federalists were proponents of a strong central government with taxing authority, a central bank, national currency, and a standing military force. As a result, they were characterized as covert Monarchists who secretly plotted to elevate George Washington to the status of King. When I was growing up, I was taught that Hamilton was a ruthless capitalist and cultural elite, the very essence of what we now call the one-percent.  I was taught that Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton's political foe, was the democratic ideal, the man of the people. And yet, Hamilton was born a penniless pauper and a bastard to boot. He was an ardent abolitionist and fiercely meritocratic.  He engineered his rise in the world with nothing but his considerable talents and charm. He sought to establish an orderly, fair system of governance, knowing that peace and prosperity are the best guarantors of liberty and justice for all.

When I was growing up, I was taught that Jefferson, the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was a democratic genius, a real man of the people. In reality, much of Jefferson's political philosophy was designed to protect his life, his liberty, his property.  Jefferson was born into wealth, owned huge tracts of land and dozens of slaves. Jefferson didn't just inherit slaves, he traded in slaves, kept a slave-concubine and allowed the children he sired with her to remain in slavery. When he died, he did not free his slaves in his will, they were sold at auction.

Jefferson despised the very idea of a central government and vehemently opposed the establishment of a national Constitution and Bill of Rights. He believed in life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but only for white men with money.  He helped to pass a law proclaiming slaves to be 3/5ths of a human being; not human enough to qualify for basic rights or dignity, but human enough to be partially counted in the census, thus increasing southern states' representation in Congress.  He is remembered as the genius who engineered the Louisiana Purchase, but no-one remembers his intention to convert that vast tract of land into slave-holding states. Throughout his career, Jefferson's chief political concern was to protect his right to hold slaves and profit from their labor.

Hamilton was the self-made man who is remembered as an elitist. Jefferson was an obscenely wealthy and unrepentant slaver who is remembered as a man of the people. Fascinating.

The Jeffersonians were right about at least one thing: strong central governments do tend towards tyranny. Police shootings on the street, the prison-industrial complex, drones indiscriminately raining death from the skies above Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, all are strong evidence of the tyranny of strong central governments. Even something as petty as opacity and impenetrability of government bureaucracies, even that is a form of tyrany. Like everything in life, there is no black and white. Where do we as a society draw the line between between freedom and security?

The question of strong, central authority versus individual liberties has been much on my mind lately as I've watched the rise of Donald Trump, a billionaire blowhard who styles himself as avatar of the common people. I don't believe he has the least interest in the common people, or in anything at all other than himself, but apparently many of my white, working class brothers and sisters do. He is a demagogue who appeals not to the better angels of our nature, but to our basest fears and prejudices. Trust me, I know Trump is nothing like Jefferson; for all his faults, Jefferson was a great intellect and no-one has ever said that about Trump. But, Trump is smart enough to take a page out of Jefferson's playbook.

Many of Trump's supporters live in mortal fear of a strong central government, which they equate with tyranny. A strong central government gave us things like the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Clean Air Act, protections that we now take for granted; protections that make us a better  people and this a better world. However, a strong central government also gives us things like mass incarceration and police brutality.   It's ironic to me that Trump's mostly white, middle class, male supporters are terrified of tyranny and yet they make up a majority of police, prison guards and military personnel.  Who is tyrannizing whom?

The world is full of assholes. The strong will always prey on the weak, the many will oppress the few. Which is worse? The tyranny of the one percenters or the tyranny of the masses?