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Older–er, more seasoned–readers will recall iconic commercials of Smokey Bear shedding a tear over forest fires.  These days I suspect he’s shedding more than a single tear over the cruel abuses of National Park Service gray-shirts.

Be sure your blood pressure medication is up to date, and read this–about the abuse of an elderly tour group–from Allahpundit at Hot Air: 

The bus stopped along a road when a large herd of bison passed nearby, and seniors filed out to take photos. Almost immediately, an armed ranger came by and ordered them to get back in, saying they couldn’t ‘recreate.’ The tour guide, who had paid a $300 fee the day before to bring the group into the park, argued that the seniors weren’t ‘recreating,’ just taking photos.

She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,’ Vaillancourt said.

The seniors quickly filed back onboard and the bus went to the Old Faithful Inn, the park’s premier lodge located adjacent to the park’s most famous site, Old Faithful geyser. That was as close as they could get to the famous site — barricades were erected around Old Faithful, and the seniors were locked inside the hotel, where armed rangers stayed at the door.

‘They looked like Hulk Hogans, armed. They told us you can’t go outside,’ she said. ‘Some of the Asians who were on the tour said, ‘Oh my God, are we under arrest?’ They felt like they were criminals.

Other sources report that minutes before each eruption of Old Faithful–about 90 minutes apart–multiple federal SUVs would rush to the geyser and encircle it so that no tourist might draw near or get an unobstructed photograph.  But hey, we have to protect these precious national resources for future generations.

Let’s take a minute to visit the invaluable Mark Steyn’s take on this public relations debacle, which draws on a radio interview of one of the tourists:

There was a large group of Asians there. Not many spoke English… They said, ‘Are we under arrest?’ I mean, they were fearful. I mean, it looked like we were inside a prison. There were two large guards doing a walk up and down in front of the doors, so people felt like they were in prison. And the Australians said that would never happen in their country. Never never never.

Oh, get over yourself. Consider yourself lucky Obama didn’t just drone your tour bus.

These Australians, Europeans and Asians paid huge amounts of money to fly thousands of miles to see America’s natural wonders. What do you think they’ll be telling their friends back home about ‘the land of the free’?

I was about to say that at times like this, I’m ashamed to be an American, but the reality is I’m ashamed that people like Barack Obama and the petty bureaucratic tyrants willing to work his will like this claim to be Americans.  Steyn concludes:

Oh, and stay tuned to the end when she recounts how the Park Service, on the two-and-a-half hour bus journey out of the park to Checkpoint Charlie at the Yellowstone Wall, forbade the seniors from using any of the bathroom facilities en route. If you did that to foreigners you’d captured on the battlefield, it would be in breach of the Geneva Conventions. But, if you seize them in an American park, you can do what you want.

David French is right. This is bigger than the boring process stuff – will Boehner get a deal? (yawn) – that so obsesses the cable yakfests. This pseudo-‘shutdown’ is about the convergence of the party and the state. For the moment, it’s mostly petty despotism. But despotism rarely stays petty for long.

It’s a shame that the decent men and women of the NPS, and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that most are, are the recipients of a swelling reservoir of distrust and hatred that will take generations to dispel, if ever.  Mr. Obama obviously doesn’t care what we think about the NPS or any federal agency.  Perhaps at least some of those that work there do.

If Republicans do not harp on this and similar incidents for every remaining day of Barack Obama’s final term, if they don’t paint Democrats with this ugly brush from now into eternity, they deserve to lose.  Unfortunately, we don’t deserve any of them, but God help us, we voted for them–all of them.