Four Corners

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Shoreline near the Swinomish Reservation in northern Washington.

Shoreline near the Swinomish Reservation in northern Washington. I spent a fine afternoon here with friends and colleagues. And found a Fox Sparrow.

I was talking to a friend last night about how when I watched the Flagstaff 4th of July parade from my little spot along the parade route, I witnessed a huge Tea Partier celebration each time a right-wing float cruised by. Made me a little jittery. “Oh no,” Kate said. “Where I was sitting, it was the lefties getting all the applause and the Tea Partiers getting booed.” She’s a math teacher, and she plans to use our little vignette to discuss the concept of sample validity.

The U.S. is a big country, and a mind-bendingly diverse one. One writer, journalist Colin Woodard, has divvied us up into 11 separate nation-states.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/11/08/which-of-the-11-american-nations-do-you-live-in/

Such diversity of political thinking has always been our way, since before George Washington insisted on a strong central government while other founders pushed for more state primacy. Washington won that one, though you wouldn’t know it by reading the papers.

All this got me thinking about the nation’s four corners, each of which I’ve been fortunate to visit recently. Today I’ll leave the politics (mostly) out and just show you some random images, two from each corner of the U.S. An invalid sample, for sure, but then, math was never my strongest suit.

Docks alongside the Washington town of LaConner.

Docks at the Washington town of LaConner. On the far shore, which marks one edge of the Swinomish reservation, shade structures designed to look like traditional Swinomish hats grace the tribal park. Some still wear the hats. If I had one, I’d wear it, too.

Harbor seal, one of dozens who congregate along a tiny stretch of shore in LaJolla, CA.

Harbor seal, one of dozens who congregate along a tiny stretch of shore in LaJolla, CA, and put on a show for ecstatic humans who congregate around them.

Weathered cliffs at Torrey Pines State Natural Area, S. CA.

Weathered cliffs at Torrey Pines State Natural Area, S. CA. An odd place, Torrey Pines—part natural area, part golf course. Talk about a union of opposites.

Gazebo outside Key West Botanical Gardens.

Gazebo outside Key West Botanical Garden. Great place to spend a fantasy afternoon.

Fig at a state park in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

A massive Fig at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. For me, a real Avatar moment.

Washington Monument in the nation's capitol.

Washington Monument at the U.S. capital. George Washington famously said, in so many words, that if you’re counting on the innate goodness of individuals to guide their actions, you’ll be disappointed–it’s pretty much about self-interest. A cynical, battle-hardened fellow doing maybe the most difficult job any U.S. leader ever tackled. He did okay, I think, though some of his original notions could use a little polish-job these days. For one thing, he insisted that Indian tribes be regarded as sovereign nations and that their land be treated as sacrosanct. And then his fellow settlers rolled right over him.

Thomas Jefferson, one of my heroes. Back then the lines between left and right were seriously blurred, but he came down mostly on the side of equal treatment for all. When his nemesis Alexander Hamilton developed a system to consolidate and pay the fledgling nation's onerous debts, Jefferson decried the scheme as a plot to turn the nation over to the bankers. How little we've changed over the centuries.

Thomas Jefferson, whom I admire despite his sometimes libertarian bent. Back then the lines between left and right were seriously blurred, but Jefferson came down mostly on the side of equal justice for all (although…he was a slave owner, if a guilt-ridden one. Lots of scale-balancing to do when looking at the founders). When his nemesis Alexander Hamilton developed a system to consolidate and pay the new nation’s onerous post-war debts, Jefferson decried the scheme as a plot to turn the country over to the bankers. Same as it ever was.

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