Thursday, May 28, 2009
In college a friend had a motorcycle which I rode through the Berkshire mountains a few times, having a blast. The machine was strong but quiet; I didn't need to spew sound at the sunset to feel good. Near our house there's a long steep grade. Riders on Harleys flog their hogs up the hill, rattling windows for miles. Why, I wonder?
Approaching our home there's a two-lane road that merges into one. I move over early. Always there are people racing up the right side, forcing their way in a few cars ahead, cutting ten seconds off their commute, avoiding eye contact.
Can there be anyone -- especially people able to afford road tanks -- who doesn't understand the critical relation between oil imports and security? And yet there are people driving around in Hummers; alone, usually. And a Republican Senator, in response to President Obama's demands to increase gas mileage, said people have a right to drive a gas guzzler if they want to.
The time has come for a paradigm shift. For some, thinking about the other guy, not using more than your share, seeing yourself as part of something more than yourself has been a way of life. For others it never has and, sadly, probably never will. But here we are: we're running out of oil, polluting our planet, ignoring our bridges and dams, straining our grids, shortchanging education; and still, for some, it's every man for himself. All for one, and one for one. Muffle my bike? Hell no. Settle for an equal portion of the road? What if I don't want to? Think about collective needs, planetary good, plan for the future? Consider others? Sacrifice a little? For better mileage? Help pay for the future? What am I, some sort of liberal?
In college I drove my V-8 Mustang on gas that cost twenty-five cents a gallon, except when there were price wars between stations, and then it was nineteen. Fuel economy mattered not to me, not to anyone; nor did the source of the fuel. Before I had the car (senior year only) I hitchhiked all over the East Coast, fearlessly. Now if I did, I figure my thumb might be the only thing they'd find of me.
I think a lot of the denialism of the RWS™ and of people like several who comment here, is as simple as unwillingness to face unhappy facts. (And, as I've written and as we see in those comments, conservatives, when presented with facts that disprove their beliefs tend to believe even harder.) They'll take the opinion of a right-wing British commentator about whom they presumably know nothing, and, of course, of people like O'Reilly and Hannity and Beck, whose statements are disproved within hours of utterance, while happily and insistently denying and ignoring expert and factual commentary, no matter how clear. (The LA plot WAS discovered before KSM was tortured. Torture DID force falsehoods which were used to justify invading Iraq. Carbon dioxide CAN be dangerous even though we exhale it. A mere four years ago, Republicans DID say judicial nominees shouldn't be filibustered...)
And who can blame them? How much simpler it was back then; how nice to fill my tank for three bucks, which I could make in an hour of washing dishes in Valentine Hall. For if you accept global warming, or the oil/security nexus, or that unfettered free-markets no longer work these days, you must also accept certain responsibilities, internalize connection to your fellow man, your planet. Accept rules of behavior and laws of the land. Be willing to pay more in taxes (but less for health care.) How depressing is that? Our mythology says we were built on rugged individualism. Can't wishing and ignoring (and lying) bring it all back?
It's toxic, when the stakes are so high. And, most clearly, when backed against a wall, the urge to deny is even stronger. Facts fall by the wayside like litter from an SUV.
In what way does a person on quiet bike differ from one on a Harley? Is raising the middle finger really more satisfying than raising consciousness? What does the one who drives a Hummer lack that can only be fulfilled by consuming gallons of gas and taking up two spaces? (For the record, I'd be embarrassed to drive one, yet my penis is no more than average size.) Consumption at the rate we now employ it is unsustainable. Taking without paying for it, as in the Bush tax cuts, is too. It's past time for the paradigm shift. What I do affects you; what you don't do affects me. It might not have been true a few decades ago. It is now. We're stuck with each other.
Problem is, some made the shift long ago, or were there in the first place; and the ones who haven't by now probably never will. Like Tom Coburn, and the beloved anonymi who troll these waters, they want their metaphorical gas hogs. They want to do whatever they please, whenever and wherever; and screw you for saying otherwise and don't bother me with facts.
There seems, quite literally, no way to convince them. Ironically, what they're implicitly counting on is that the rest of us will do what they're unwilling to do. They need us; and we can do without them. Funny.