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I watched the first installment of the gloriously filmed and narrated Ken Burns series "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" last night. As a major supporter of the National Parks system, I have been eagerly awaiting this since I first learned of it.

NOTE: Here's a link to last night's episode HERE. Thanks to icebergslim.

From taking my four-year old son backpacking in the Smoky Mountain National Park to proposing to my wife in the Nordhouse Dunes National Wilderness Area and from getting married on the shore of Lake Michigan in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to spending our five-year anniversary in the Grand Island National Recreation Area, I have literally spent many of the best moments of my life in these bastions of socialist beauty.

At a time when we're discussing health care and it is being framed as a horrible government takeover, a terrible socialist experiment destined to bankrupt our grandchildren, Burns's epic is perfectly timed to show us all that when we work together collectively, ALL Americans can benefit.

Cross-posted at Eclectablog.

Here's Burns on the Rachel Maddow Show talking about why the parks are so important:

(Sorry, couldn't figure out how to embed the video. You can view it HERE.)

Ken Burns: You know, building human happiness, that's what governments are supposed to do. We're now in an argument that government is essentially bad. There was a time when government stepped in and made things better in every single way.

and

Rachel Maddow: One of things that think is interesting about the reception of this documentary of yours as compared to the other ones is that people are reading an ideological text into this and it's because we've very much romanticized this, we've sort of come up with this great fable that we tell ourselves about how we can pursue our own happiness and our government should not restrict us from that. But the other part of the American Dream is that government policy can advance human happiness.

Burns: It always has! The Homestead Act. The Land Grant College Act. These National Parks. This was an activist government not going in and intruding on individual rights but expanding them. And that's what the Parks tell us about.

What a great conversation to be having at this moment and what a great way to put the whole idea of joint ownership and joint responsibility into a context that removes it from the realm of fear and scaring people. Rather it puts it into a comfort zone for people where we might perhaps talk about being Americans and caring for each other and leaving a legacy for future generations that is positive rather than shameful.

Okay, here are some obligatory National Park shots. Many of the best photos are by my wife and you can see more of her stunning work at her Flickr page. Please fave often!

Us on North Manitou Island in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Another on North Manitou.

South Manitou sunset.

Ghost forest on South Manitou. These trees are hundreds and hundreds of years old, ancient cedar trees that were covered as the sand moved east across Lake Michigan. They are now being revealed as the sand continues to move east. What you see here are just the tips of monstrous cedars buried under the dune.

Esch Beach in the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Mainland dune in the Sleeping Bear Dunes in the winter.

My lovely wife cross country skiing on the Sleeping Bear.

Just married! In view of the Manitou Islands, Pyramid Point and the Sleeping Bear.

Celebrated our 5-year anniversary in the Grand Island Recreation Area and camped here, in the Little Duck campground on Lake Superior.

My friend, Lars Clausen at the beginning of his world record-setting unicycle ride at Crescent Lake in the Olympic National Park.

Nordhouse Dunes National Wilderness Area.

A shot of the Sleeping Bear with one of my favorite quotes from author Tim Cahill.

And finally, let's not forget this most special National Park, the National Mall (during President Obama's inauguration).

As Pragmaticus points out in the comments, the National Mint will be producing a series of quarters based on the National Parks. They'll start being released in 2010.

Yes, yes, I do so love the National Parks. Thank you, Ken Burns.

I'm just sayin'...

UPDATE: The website for the series is HERE. This is a 6-part series that runs for two hours every night this week at 8 p.m. ET/PT, ending on Friday. You can check your local listing HERE. You can watch each episode online the following day. You can purchase the DVD, companion book, soundtrack and other goodies at the PBS online store.

Update #2: Also, one more plug for my wife's photography. She has a GREAT interactive panoramic image from the top of Pyramid Point in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Go to HER WEBSITE, click on "panoramas" then "travel & tourism". The pano is the third one down in the right hand column. Once the pano opens, click on "FULLSCREEN" and use your mouse to revolve all the way around and up & down. You'll see Lake Michigan, the Manitou Islands and the forest from a very grand perspective. The panoramic image on the home page is from atop the Sleeping Bear Dune itself.

Originally posted to Eclectablog - eclectic blogging for a better tomorrow on Mon Sep 28, 2009 at 04:23 AM PDT.

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