And I don’t mean that as a compliment.
There is so much I would hate to try to have explain to an alien about our politics. Same with a human five centuries from now – it’s just that I’m not so sure there’ll be any.
In America, a regressive majority of one on the Supreme Court disappears a whole clause from the Second Amendment in order to interpret it favorably for an industry merchandizing mass quantities of small death machines. Thirty or forty thousand of us are swept away every year by these killers, but few find the coincidence of that fact with their ubiquitous presence – by some estimates, there is nearly one gun for every American nowadays – somehow noteworthy.
One president has oral sex in a private consensual relationship and lies about it, so right-wing freaks spend $40 million to investigate this most heinous of crimes and bring impeachment charges against a president for only the second time in American history. Meanwhile, one of their own admits to trashing the Constitution at every turn and isn’t even investigated, let alone impeached, let alone removed from office.
This same president plunges the world into war on the basis of non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but couldn’t be less concerned when North Korea actually goes nuclear on his watch. This president goes to war to bring democracy to the Arab world, but can’t even be bothered to pressure Egypt or Saudi Arabia to move a tad in that direction. This president uses an attack on the US to justify international belligerence and mass human rights violations, but doesn’t seem very interested in even attacking, let alone vanquishing, the supposed perpetrator.
The list of these political out-of-body experiences is as endless as it is absurd. I may not speak Martian very well, but even I can tell you what the look on the face of that little green feller with the antennae means. He’s thinking, "Wow, you humans are the strangest freaks in the galaxy, man!"
Well, actually, it’s not so much the entire species, but mostly just us especially twisted sisters manning the bridge over here in the, uh, world’s only superpower. Bad coincidence, eh? Even we wacky Gringos know that weapons and criminals make a bad combination, as do weapons and lunatics. So, what fool handed us the keys to this planetary oil tanker? Shouldn’t, like, um, the Swedes or the Norwegians be the world’s superpower? They seem harmless enough.
Yep, we could go on and on detailing the ludicrous inanities of American politics in the age of Bush (himself Exhibit A), but really my favorite has to be the case of global warming. In a society devoted like no other to the politics of fear, we have somehow managed to forget the one thing we should probably fear most.
Imagine if there was a meteor headed toward our one and only planet, with the potential to do devastating and possibly lethal damage to the planet. Imagine that we had the technological capability to divert the course of this weapon of the massiest mass destruction, and all we needed was the will to do so. And imagine that we chose to focus our society’s energies instead on ... gay marriage. Or illegal immigration. Or premarital sex.
Not only would we screw up all of those policy areas, but we be toast anyhow, along with all our unmarried gays, undocumented workers and ‘virgin’ teenagers (who, have you seen, just become experts at anal and oral sex in order to avoid the forbidden standard kind?). Good lord, this is a society which desperately needs medication! Or maybe that’s the problem, and we desperately need to ditch all the brain-benders of every sort that we imbibe like candy.
Remember Dick Cheney’s ‘one percent doctrine’? He argued that if there’s even a one percent chance of a terrorist attack, you have to go on the offensive. Of course, reality external to the Vice President’s secret location tends to be a bit more nuanced than that, but that’s why everyone calls him Dick, I guess. Anyhow, there’s this little thing called cost-benefit analysis that seems to have gone sorely missing over the last, er, eight years or so. It was last seen flowing down the sewers of Baghdad. It would argue, for example, that yes, you should take threats seriously, but that if the solution to a one percent probability of danger that could threaten the lives of a thousand people is to adopt a policy which definitely kills 100 million of your own citizens, that’s probably a bad plan. Costs and benefits, you see. I mean, people can differ on this, of course, but I’d vote to take the one percent risk in such a case. At a minimum I’d certainly argue that we ought to weight the costs along with the benefits every once in a while. Admittedly, though, that’s not so helpful when you’re in the middle of trying to scare the hell out of people so they’ll vote for you, or acquiesce to your destructive policies.
But I digress. There is a monstrous catastrophe not only headed our way, but actually already here. I’m not a climatologist, but my sense from paying attention to media reporting on this issue over the last two decades is that there is not only a one percent chance that global warming is both real and anthropogenic, but rather a ninety-five percent chance. Perhaps ninety-nine. Yep, sure, there are a few scientists out there still making the opposite argument. Probably some of them even aren’t on oil company payrolls! But the vast majority of reputable climate scientists now agree that this is happening, that we are making it happen, and that the results will be catastrophic. This, after ten and twenty years of a (somewhat) healthy scientific skepticism about those claims, which only further underscores the validity of the findings.
So what will they say about us five centuries from now – those very few, very toasty, remaining humans, living on mountain tops, the only dry land to be found? What they’ll say is probably unprintable in any family newspaper, that’s for sure. But in-between the expletives I think you’d be likely to find words like ... "unconscionable" ... "breathtakingly stupid" ... "astonishingly selfish" ... and, "If you weren’t already dead I’d kill you!"
Last week we had James Hansen reminding Congress, twenty years after originally doing so, of the gravity of this situation. One of the top scientists from one of America’s premier science agencies – who was told, by the way, to shut the hell up by the Bush administration – was reminding us yet again that we are facing mass species extinctions and ecosystem collapse among the lovely perils awaiting us if we continue in the current direction. Assuming, that is, that it isn’t already far too late to turn it around now.
Think about that for a second: Mass extinction. Ecosystem collapse. Meteor. Ninety-five or better percent chance.