Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Bone To Pick

(Note: the following is an open letter to our new president. It should be noted that I have no illusions Mr. Obama will actually read it, but I have a bone to pick and I intend to pick it.)

Mr. Obama,
Congratulations on your new job. I hope you are enjoying living in the White House. Has the reality of your new life set in yet? If not it should be soon. I am writing this letter in the vain attempt to help you see the light on the topic below. I know this attempt will be futile, but I have often been described as a ‘rat terrier with a bone’ when I get an idea into my head. So here goes.

First, let me say that I voted for you. Twice, in fact. Once in the primary and then again in the general election. This was not because I am enchanted with you, as so many are, but because I felt you were the best choice among the candidates. I will be the first to admit that I do not have high expectations of politicians. In fact, I have only three. I expect all politicians to breathe, take up far too much space and resources, and lie. I fully expect you will do all three during your tenure in the White House. That comes with the territory. Despite my low expectations I have decided to give you a chance and see what comes of your time in office before judging you. You certainly have gotten off to a better start than the shrub you replaced. I still intend to give you a chance but this does not mean you are going to get a free pass from me. Hardly. I will look at everything you do and scrutinize it. And I must say I have all ready found something that has caused me serious annoyance. More than annoyance; it made me downright angry.

I am not talking about those of your cabinet picks that have terrified so many liberals and progressives. I am not talking about your stance on Israel. Nor your stimulus package. Nor am I speaking of the new head of the Department of the Treasury. I am not happy about a man who could not pay his own taxes being put in charge of the IRS, but it was not my call. I presume you are intelligent enough to know that placing a man like Geithner at Treasury is akin to putting a fox in charge of guarding the chicken coop. I am also assuming you are wise enough in the ways of the world to know that there will be many Americans who are tired of paying taxes who look at this and think if he does not have to pay his taxes, then they should not as well. I also assume these people will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, unlike Geithner. Such is politics and life in the current climate.

No, I am not talking about any of these things. The issue on my mind goes back to your inauguration. You made a speech that day, one that was very good overall, but there was one line in that speech that just does not sit well with me. Even after a week, I still can not swallow it. That one line is the entire reason for this letter. The line was this: We shall not apologize for our way of life, nor waver in its defense.

Mr. Obama, this line irked me for one not-so-simple reason. You see, what you and many others fail to grasp, is that the way of life you were talking about –that prevalent in America today –is the problem. I know that you may not understand why I say this so please bear with me for a few moments.

I will admit that this way of life has produced some incredible things. We put men on the moon, for the sake of the one we both claim to hold most high. (That we call that one by different names hardly matters; I should think whatever is out there is big enough to encompass all of our different viewpoints.) Antibiotics were an incredible invention. Compact discs are amazing. Open heart surgery, organ transplants, all these are great.

But any open accounting must consider both sides of the ledger, and when you apply that to the lifestyle you refuse to apologize for, the picture darkens considerably. Our planet is warming, Mr. Obama, and is becoming increasingly inhospitable to human life. This is a direct consequence of America’s way of life. Ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising. Check out this video from Antarctica: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1_8pG53-eM

That way of life you are so proud of has caused the deforestation of vast regions of the planet and the extinction of countless species. Over 200 hundred species go into that dark night every single day. Entire mountains have been leveled to power our ‘non-negotiable way of life’. The waste from nuclear power plants will be with us for the next 100,000 years. Iraq and Afghanistan are covered with depleted uranium shells. That is a really great gift for the coming generations.

Our oceans are slowly turning to plastic, and marine life is dying in droves. Speaking of which, have you seen the warnings about overfishing? The last ever order of fish and chips will be served during our lifetimes. Pollution has increased to the point where comparisons to the past are no longer valid. Expensive water treatments are now absolutely necessary in many areas of the world, including here in the U.S. That Blackberry you are so proud of? It will last a few years and then spend the rest of eternity leaching heavy metals into the environment and poisoning people who live downstream. The creation of that little device also had a heavy impact on the area where it was created and the parts where mined, and that will go on for the next, oh, umpteen generations.

We are having problems finding places to park our garbage. The entire world is on the verge of a freshwater crisis. In a few short years there are going to be wars over water. Over water, Mr. Obama. There are dead zones in every major ocean. Our topsoils are washing down rivers. Do you know how important topsoil is? Try eating without it.

Every bit of this horror show is a direct result of our way of life. But it gets even worse. The obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer epidemics in this country are also direct results of our lifestyle. Our overconsumption of resources is also keeping resources from other areas of the world, causing much suffering and even death.

This does not paint a pretty picture. But it gets even worse if you stop to think about it. No matter how hard we try or how hard we work, we can not clean this all up. Not in our lifetimes. Not in our children’s children’s children’s lifetimes. Cleaning up this mess will be the work of many, many generations.

And that, in the end, will be the final legacy of this way of life you will not apologize for: we will bequeath a hot, hungry, thirsty, depleted and very dirty world to our descendants for the next hundred thousand years. That’s one hell of a legacy, Mr. Obama, and not a good one.

Maybe there’s a good reason you won’t apologize. If you started, how would you ever be able to stop?

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Blogger SoapBoxTech said...

Very well said.

The only part I would debate is the hot world part. I think it more likely that it will slip back into ice age for a hundred thousand years.

However I suppose there's little point in debating which extreme will reset the whole shooting match.

Once again, thank you RAS...if only more had your soul.

1/27/2009 10:11 PM  
Anonymous murph said...


Good letter and good summation. Indeed when the whole ledger is accounted for, do we come out positive or negative in balance? For Americans, it has decidedly be mostly positive, but not for long. The bill is overdue and foreclosure not far behind.

1/28/2009 7:13 PM  
Anonymous freeacre said...

Wow, ras! That was great! I hope you are forwarding it to change.org or somewhere that Obama can see it.

1/28/2009 7:13 PM  

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