Google Doodle Celebrates (Closed) Yosemite Park’s 123rd Birthday

By Eric Johnson

Oct. 1, 2013—Google launched a “Doodle” honoring Yosemite Park’s 123rd birthday just after midnight today, at the exact moment that the government shutdown took effect, shuttering Yosemite and all US national parks. According to reports, Google insists the irony was a coincidence—the ad was not intended as a political statement. And yet …

Let’s take this opportunity to recognize that our government — scorned by the politicians who forced this shutdown — can do some pretty cool things. There is absolutely no doubt that without government intervention, Yosemite Valley and the park surrounding it would not be the spectacular, soul-stirring marvel that it is today. That’s why John Muir, patron saint of Yosemite and all of the national parks, fought for most of his life to protect it by appealing to the federal government—winning his battle after spending three nights camping with Pres. Teddy Roosevelt in Mariposa Grove and then on the rim of the valley.

Today, it's worth noting that Roosevelt, inspired by Muir and mostly by the landscape to create Yosemite National Park and four more national parks during his term in office, was a Republican. Of course the radical Republicans who forced Yosemite to close on its birthday bear no ideological resemblance to Roosevelt, a true conservative. This shutdown had less to do with Obamacare than with the Tea Party wing's fundamental revulsion with government. They would no doubt "primary" anyone who supported an idea like national parks.

The national parks may be America’s Best Idea but not its only great idea. The list is long, but for today let's just celebrate ... oh ... the moon landing. That was cool too, right? I only bring it up because, in a related bitter irony, today is the 55th anniversary of the founding of National Aeronautic and Space Administration. (See Happy 55th birthday, NASA! To celebrate, 97 percent of you get an unpaid vacation.