Time flies when you’re having fun, yes? Here we are, closing in on Spring of 2014 with a ferocity that makes 2012 seem like gentle and kindly tales from the good old days. The disruptive elections of 2000 and 2008 seem as distant in near-memory as text in a worn history book. Looking back, it seems to me that we hit the new century running, only to meet a wormhole that sent us into a parallel universe ruled by illogic and superstition.
Remember when starting a war without taxing to pay for it was called kicking the can down the road to victimize our grandchildren? Remember when starting a war required dire provocation? When making no attempt to perform one’s duties as lawmaker was considered a near-criminal act of irresponsibility? When scamming the public — even if it took ages to get past legal obstructions as it did with “Kenny Boy” Lay in the Enron scandal — landed someone in jail? And remember when rule of law really meant something, rather than law that had been quietly tinkered with behind our backs to remove public protections and shift power to the elite?
I suspect you’ve discovered, dear reader, why “May you live in interesting times” is considered a Chinese curse. As each day plays out, those of us watching the global screen are both mesmerized and repulsed by the seeming witlessness and chaos we’re witnessing. If we had a magic wand to right a wrong, mend a rip in the fabric of civilization, where might we start? If a genie gave us just three wishes, how could we optimize our ability to turn things around, find our way back to square one and the root of our problems?
I would dearly love to make some headway on the issue of guns, for instance, gone completely out of control thanks to the stubborn refusal of the NRA and its followers to consider sensible gun law. The margin of error in firearms accidents is unforgiving, and since Murphy’s Law seems to apply doubly when faced with lethal outcomes, despite Pub objections to the contrary, it’s reasonable that intelligent people would build in some kind of regulation and legal prohibition to stop the mayhem.
We might insist that all gun owners take a mandatory safety class, for instance, and not just in using their weapons but in securing them. A four-year old in Arizona fatally shot his Dad this month, while a four-year old in Detroit killed her four-year old cousin with a loaded rifle found under the bed. Statistics are perilous for America’s children, but even adults with proper training must be careful with a weapon designed to produce death. This week a gent accidentally killed himself before a horrified audience while demonstrating gun safety. Bet they won’t forget THAT life lesson.
Florida has disappeared completely into alternate reality, of course, giving over control of the asylum to the inmates. A legally blind man in Orlando received Stand Your Ground immunity for killing his buddy after a night of heavy drinking followed by a quick morning trip to the liquor store for another six-pack. The man, named — get this — John Wayne Rogers, perceived his friend as a threat at some point and went for his assault weapon, killing him dead. Rogers has a long record of violence due to a (no pun intended) hair-trigger temper but since his friend was on his property, that was moot.
Under the law, Rogers was exonerated and even received his weapon back, although the judge seemed reluctant to do so, saying, “I have researched and haven’t found case law to say otherwise.” In this alternate state (of universe and reality), even criminals who have been denied weapons can plead Stand Your Ground when they illegally use one. And again, this defense seems unflappable most often if one is white.
I suppose we could make all guns disappear with three wishes, but that’s kind of like taking away scissors so nobody can run with them. At some point in the learning process, maturity, accountability and good sense are supposed to kick in. Planet Terra isn’t a kindergarten class, for goodness sakes, even if it’s currently behaving like one!
Perhaps we could use our three wishes to replace the leadership of various nations, but another regressive personality would likely step up to replace — let’s say — Putin, in his push for return to yesteryear. And if L’il Kim were gone today, China would have to appoint a new Kim to take his place. The North Koreans, bless them, have existed in the hinterland so long it will take a generation or more to heal their wounds, bring them into modernity, and break their dependence on Dear Leader to direct their every move. The Chinese won’t jump in to the rescue, they would argue that they have enough mouths to feed as it is.
Here at home, we’d have to be prudent with our wishes, finding the right place for them. As messy as it seems, civil liberties are actually in a muscular process of change and don’t need our wishes. Gender equality, issues of race and financial inequality, even the so-called war against women, have an established platform for progress, even if it seems painful and slow. What catches the public’s attention is already in “group mind,” gathering energy to advance itself. Those projects need our commitment and activism in order to change a regressive sub-culture that attempts to block progress, but the coming months will find more of us involved as the 2012 energies make these issues more personal.
We might use a wish to improve the economy or restore the crumbling infrastructure, but a more mature and less punitive understanding of substance and manifestation would take care of that. Repairing the infrastructure, as Obama wishes to do, could provide some of the jobs we long for and improve the economic situation, but not if they’re just “make work” programs. We need real changes for a 21st century culture, aligned with the technologies that will create a sustainable future. We can’t do that until we come clean about our unsustainable lifestyle.
The obscene use of corporate money and influence, of plutocratic leverage and influence-buying, could use a wave of the wand, but that’s also a matter of consciousness. Pity that evolution is a journey and not a destination, at least in the short term. We desperately need a return to a reasonable universe, we need a leap of consciousness.
Not every billionaire wants to turn the entire world into a machine feeding their coffers, although many do and the Kochs, financiers to righty regressive causes, can’t seem to help themselves. They have the money of Midas and they’re using it to try to buy this year’s election as we speak. It’s something of a moral dilemma, is it not, to insist that a corporation has the rights of a citizen? That a donation is the equivalent of “pay to play?” That a for-profit organization can take a planet hostage? And all legally?
Our Supreme Court is taking a look at this question in a case insiders are calling Citizens United, Part II. In an unprecedented incident, a representative of a group called 99Rise infiltrated the oral arguments in McCutcheon vs. FED this week. The gentleman rose to object to the Citizens United ruling, et al, and even got a clip on camera, verboten in Supreme chambers. Expanding corporate influence through spending is a worrisome prospect, given the explosive amount of money being spent within the political process already.
A billionaire has been in the headlines recently saying that one should be entitled to as many votes as the number of dollars one pays in taxes. When money is interpreted as speech and influences the vote, then what shall we make of the Koch brothers’ contribution of $67,042,064 to groups denying climate change since 1997? To some of us, that could be interpreted as a threat to national security. To all of us, it should be considered the worsening of our global emergency.
Think not? Have you met the winter storm, aptly named Titan, that could be causing you grief as you read this? Al Roker, weatherman to the nation, says it’s a monster. Well off the coast of California today, 30 to 40 foot waves have gathered under driving rain. The Sierra Nevada mountains are receiving significant and welcome snow, while the parched state itself is getting a drenching. Good news for a region in dangerous drought, you say? Something to balance out the dire predictions of abandoned cities and tinder-dry forests and limited food production in the nation’s greenbelt, bringing water levels closer to normal?
Well, good news and bad on that front. Yes, it’s much needed water, but we haven’t invested in technology to take advantage of it. Now it’s flooding and here come the mudslides. And normal? Not even close. In Azusa, homes built in a cul-de-sac below a hilltop found a giant boulder had slipped during the night, rolling down the hill and exposing smoldering embers from a burn that had caused emergency fires over a month ago. Santa Ana winds fanned the spark and now it’s burning again, despite the pounding rain. Homes have been evacuated, and this has been chalked up as one more wildly improbable and bizarre weather event.
As we come to the crux of the gathering 2012 energies, pulling the trigger on another round of Pluto/Uranus transformative power, it seems clear that tyrants du jour — like Putin and the pudgy, despotic North Korean Kim, as well as demagogues like Ted Cruz, amping up his apostolic fear-mongering preacher of a father on a pre-election speaking tour — are just localized enemies of progress and civilization. Climate change, and our brain-dead denial of its harsh reality, is the real fire-breathing dragon endangering our continuance.
There is more hope from the bottom up than the top down, although Obama seems newly willing to risk the advancement of environmental progress. And developing nations seem to be much more willing to work toward environmental stability than the U.S., with 62 of 66 nations making significant progress on climate law last year, according to the Globe. Meanwhile, wind and solar are beginning to make solid inroads into the energy mix, welcomed by a public demanding options to rising energy costs.
Unless we are able to solve this fundamental challenge of energy production at the cost of the environment, we cannot project a vibrant future at all, so this is where our study of wishes ends. This may not be the single existential problem that caused our wonky behavioral shift in these last decades, but it is surely the emergency that rightfully deserves whatever magic and miracles we can bring to recreate nature in some semblance of balance. Until and unless we can get a grip on this situation, we’re simply whistling past the graveyard. And until we can sway this situation on a national and international level, we must put our best foot forward at the local level, identifying and supporting local movements, such as this hydroponic community garden.
The 2012 energies are gathering to slap us up-side the head, to get our attention in a big way. Where those energies flow will give us a good look at what’s important in the coming years, where change must take us. The Russians are sucking up the available air at the moment but that’s not the crux of our global dilemma. Our politics are ridiculous and toxic, our economics depressing, the job market less than robust, but none of that trumps the importance of our ability to deal with climate change.
The national mythologies of a bygone era have begun to fade, without much of a whimper. The proposed whittling down of the military has been met with hysteria on the right but a sure sense of pragmatic purpose by the rest of the nation. American superiority is no longer the thing we’re most anxious about. Economic issues preoccupy us, and it’s clear that food, heating and cooling costs, energy and travel issues, are directly impacted by climate concerns. As long as this radical weather keeps blowing up our skirts, a potent reminder of all we cannot control, our focus will continue to narrow until it comes down to the essential truth of a new era, flipping us out of that wormhole to face reality.
I remain hopeful that the severity of our challenges will strip back the layers of self-protection and malaise that we’ve wrapped around ourselves, and bring us to a renewal of common cause as we gather to meet local needs. If I had three wishes, they would all be that we cared so much about one another that we would no longer allow these inequities to stand, that we would do all that needs doing to ensure our global future. That we would stop letting children kill children, that we would stop allowing deniers to kill our planet with their ignorance and murder our chances for a sustainable future.
As ever, politics is personal. The cup of tea we offer our neighbor is a kind of political interaction, the combining of energies to become a larger communal entity, able to influence for good. As we link, one to another, to make our way through such a global challenge as weather emergency and turn back to the natural order, let’s remember that it’s our job to bring healing and sanity back to this little universe we share. There is nothing so personal as our communal well being and very little so important as meeting that challenge with willing hands and an open, loving heart. And the first step is facing the truth.