Dear President Biden,
I am happy to inform you that Laura’s COVID test came back “virus not detected,” which while not as satisfying as a straightforward “negative” is overall a very, very good thing. I wish way more people were as fortunate.
To celebrate her certificate of current good health, Laura went with a friend on a grueling 9 mile out and back hike up Granite Mountain where the elevation gain is 1,000 feet per mile over much of it. She came back a very tired, very dirty, and very hungry thing. Personally, I was very grateful that I didn’t get a notion to go with them since it sounds like it was an epic challenge between the non-stop biting flies and mosquitoes, the heat (95° at the trailhead – and you can get the nifty degree symbol on a Mac by pressing option+shift+8), the aforementioned elevation gain, and the poor trail condition, which consisted of copious very dry, very shifty dirt and a gillion large and small rocks. Laura said it was one of those hikes where one has to stay focused on the trail right in front of you so as not to trip, slide, or turn an ankle.
Uhm, no thanks. A nice stroll on pine and fir needled carpeted trails shaded by evergreens that provide the carpeting is way more my speed.
I got to take such a walk (can’t in good conscience call it a hike) this morning during a meeting where I could be adequately “present” by phone and it was lovely. I headed south through the neighborhood and then spent most of the time in Ravenna Park, or as we generally call it around here, “the ravine,” which is heavily treed and much, much cooler than the city streets.
On my way back I found one of the quarters in the America the Beautiful series – this one is a 2020 coin honoring the US Virgin Islands. The front is the usual George Washington head and the “tail” has an engraving of a red mangrove tree from Salt River Bay, a National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve and “living museum” on St. Croix. The other four US territories and Washington DC are all represented in the series and I think maybe all the states are covered now; five new coin have been released every year since 2010.
Of course I had to learn something about the US Virgin Islands since all I knew before was that Democratic Impeachment Manager, Stacey Plackett, is their delegate (which was actually quite a cool thing to know). The Wikipedia entry very matter-of-factly shares that the Islands were inhabited as early as 1,000 BCE and that they were passed around between the Spanish, British, French, and Danish over the 1500s to the 1600s before being purchased by the US in 1917 (we paid $25 million for the territory). This whole section reads as though the Virgin Islands was an inanimate object rather than a landmass occupied by sentient beings. To pile on, the entry also said that VI has been repeatedly devastated by hurricanes and tsunamis, and reading between the Wikipedia lines, it also appears that the environment there has been tanked by the longstanding presence of one of the world’s largest oil refineries.
The final bit to leave you with is an argument by John Caves III from last July in The Hill about how in addition to DC needing to be granted statehood, so does Puerto Rico while the other territories (US Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands) should together be granted a voting delegation in the House of Representatives. He correctly (to my mind) argues that taxation without representation is not an ethical or sustainable situation. He also had the grace to close with:
“Congress should start exploring options, starting with testimony from the territories’ people. For, along with Washington, D.C., their representation is a logical next step towards achieving a more perfect Union.” (emphasis added)
May we all be safe from imperialism.
May we be willing to enfranchise all of our people.
May we trust that we are strong enough to handle a much more perfect Union.
May we accept that our best solutions will come when we listen to those on the margins.