I had a somewhat entertaining conversation last night with my aunt’s neighbors and good friends, who happen to be Fox News programmed conservatives. I don’t go around picking fights with people with differing political views, and most of the time I won’t even be baited into it. But these guys were pretty relentless.
As best I can tell from the talking points they were throwing at me, they’re small business owners who are pissed about increased insurance premiums due to Obamacare (or at least that’s their perception, which may or may not be accurate).
They proceeded to quiz me on how much I really knew about what happened in Libya. Did I know 20% of the population is on food stamps and the U.S. government is funding radio ads in Mexico encouraging people to come to the United States and go on welfare. Oh, and my favorite, Obama and Jay-Z used Twitter to steal the election.
I told them, as a father of two boys under 4 and primary breadwinner of my household, I didn’t have time to really gather all of my liberal talking points, and that I wouldn’t be a very fun sparring partner. I could gather up all the zingers and comebacks, but essentially I don’t have time or interest.
You’re actors, reading a script. You’re repeating the nonsense you’re being fed. That’s not thinking, and I don’t really want to learn my lines representing the other side, which are also occasionally unsubstantiated bullshit as well.
Eventually they stumbled into environmental issues, and I had to chuckle a little. They’d made some statements earlier about how they’re worried about the world their children and grandchildren would inherit — what kind of world will be left when gays can marry and the government can limit our rights to assault rifles?
Instead, I’d worry about what kind of world our grandchildren will inherit if there are no more intact native ecosystems. I worry about the lonely world we’ll be left with as habitat destruction collapses species diversity. Extinction is a one-way street, and wildlife management without habitat is a fools errand.
Please view exhibit A: A time lapse animation of logging on Oregon’s Siletz River basin since 1984. You can’t create more old growth habitat. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
Here is exhibit B: My friend with a beautiful wild chinook salmon, caught in a small river drainage that depends on big mature trees in that rainforest.
My aunt had given me a birthday present, a copy of the Gary Snyder Reader, and in the forward Jim Dodge wrote “Nature bats last.” Eventually we’ll do something stupid and wipe ourselves off the map and nature will eventually rebound in some kind of new form.
But until then, I want to protect and honor what we have and try to pass some of it down to my sons.
Barry Lopez (paraphrasing here, as I don’t have it in front of me…) had written that in indigenous Arctic cultures, the state of happiness was defined as being in the presence of an abundance of animals. I can get with that.
My youngest son and I recently visited a friend and poet Maj Ragain, and we talked a bit about an environmental project I’m working on and he talked about the Buddhist concept of katannu-katavedi. Katannu is a debt, and katavedi is how you pay that debt. Gratitude for everything we’ve been given, all these animals and diversity of beautiful living things.
I guess I’ll spend the next several months with that Gary Snyder reader, and have something wiser to say next time they want to play act and read from their scripts.