Grin and Barrett 

The turning up of the screwball

On this day, I set aside my volume of Henry James in order to alert my brothers and sisters in our dear, doggedly persistent Idaho chapter of the Wacko Enviro Club—known in more sophisticated latitudes as the vast majority of Americans—to the sad reality that no matter how many losses, foul-ups, humiliations, false assumptions, historical perversions and laughable antics those funny little gnomes on the right manage to pull out of their hats, they continue to insist that other people listen to them.

I know how absurd that sounds, as this warning would not even seem necessary on a national scale where the Right as a whole is staggering about, slipping and sliding in its own filth like one of those tragic Holsteins in the last stages of Mad Cow. Certainement—and without even considering the level of artifice and contrivance it took to stage that pitiful "tea bag" side show last week—every time a GOP leader parts his (or her) lips, Comedy Central gets another week's worth of material. Michael Steele ... John Boehner ... Sarah Palin ... and what about that Michele Bachman? Laudy, isn't she just the bestest thing to come along since Roseanne Roseannadanna? Certainly, with talent like that speaking for latter-day conservatism, I predict the tiller of our great land will be in the comforting hands of Democrats until Sasha and Malia are helping pick out a puppy for their own grandchildren.

But let us here in the local chapter be reminded that, when it comes to goofs, galoots, gushing rhetoric and gullible followers, no state in the union is going to out-shine Idaho. Not only do we continue to be one of the few remaining concentrations of gullible Republican galoots in North America, but for every Minnesota Michele, we've got a barrel full of our own gems, every one more goofy than the last. And in Idaho, by my calculations, there is at least an even chance they will all, at some point in their lives, serve in the state Legislature.

Take Lenore Barrett ... if you would. Lenore hails from the mountainy asylum of Challis, is of course a Republican, and in recent weeks caught our attention with a guest op-ed (Idaho Statesman, April 7) in which she laid out her mountainy argument as to why it is so dreadfully wrong to compromise with us "Wacko Enviros." In fact, the piece was titled, "We must stop collaborating with Wacko Enviros." (The capitalization of "wacko" and "enviro" is my doing. I am so honored to affiliate with the Wacko Enviro Club—or the BPOWE, as we think of ourselves—that I simply cannot bear to see it vulgarized with regular-sized letters. I can only hope Ms. Barrett excuses me for tinkering with her efforts.)

In said op-ed, Ms. Barrett takes the Owyhee Canyonlands Initiative to task for further eroding the manifest destiny of the United States, which put simply (according to Ms. Barrett—who seems to excel at putting things simply) was, for the nation's first century and a half, to transfer public lands into private hands. She goes so far as to assert the original colonists and, indeed, the Founding Fathers themselves had first and foremost in their concerns when they cobbled together the country the "unalienable rights of an individual to own and control the use of private property."

We may assume that Ms. Barrett does not include the Choctaw and Cherokee, the Mohegan and the Iroquois, et al, in the sharing of those specific "inalienable rights."

In Ms. Barrett's version of events, everything was proceeding swimmingly until sometime in the 1930s, at which point that old devil Roosevelt put an end to the grab bag policy of passing out public lands to any timber baron, railroad muck-a-muck or mining magnate with a hungry look to his face. (She conveniently skips over FDR's distant cousin, Teddy, the Republican president—and with the exception of Ike, the last decent one—who rather got the ball rolling on the conservation front, ce n'est pas vrai? But then she also fails to mention by name that man who midwifed the Canyonlands bill in Congress, Mike Crapo. At some future time, perhaps she will make clear whether she considers Sen. Crapo one of the Wacko Enviros, or just a Frenchified collaborator.)

Things proceeded rapidly downhill as the 20th century rolled on. Ms. Barrett notes, " ... radical environmentalists were the driving force behind the 1964 Wilderness Act," indicating her conviction that Frank Church and Lyndon Johnson belonged to our club long before we even had a club, and in reality, approximately a decade before the word "environmentalist" had joined the common lexicon.

Toward the conclusion of her little essay, she tosses in a theme borrowed from the late, lamentable Helen Chenoweth, who more than once accused our Wacko Enviro Club of abandoning the Lord of laissez faire to worship at the golden calf of Unindustrialized Nature. "Idaho's congressionals (sic) should concentrate their efforts on restoring Idaho's resource industries, and stop 'collaborating' with the environmental pantheists [italics mine] who destroyed Idaho's rural economy."

One is left to wonder what the doyenne of District 35 abhors more: the actual preservation of these remarkable Idaho lands and waters, or the delicate compromises and admirable concessions that brought the Canyonlands bill to fruition. As the dear and adorable Deanna Darr described in this very paper not so long ago ("Unlikely Allies," BW, Jan. 28, 2009), it took eight years to fashion the coalition of ranchers, recreationists, tribal interests and, of course, Wacko Enviros that eventually came to approve of this measure. But even as most Americans—even most Idahoans, certainly—would applaud both the efforts and the results, Dame Chatter from Challis is reduced to chewing at the people who sat down with the evil WEs and crafted the protection.

We find this common among people of her ... ahem ... caliber: they will remain perpetually peeved with any and every thought, action or motive that doesn't conform precisely with what goes on in their own diminutive understanding, even when the issue belongs—as do our public lands—to all Americans, wherever they may call home. It is for this reason the WEs must cease considering them part of the national dialogue, no matter what that dialogue concerns. As Ms. Barrett illustrates, one can't compromise with her sort and one can't satisfy them. We are left simply to go over, around and past them, and pray that someday, they leave their refuge in their fevered imaginations and join us.

And if not ... no big loss.

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