Okay, it’s time for me to say something. We both know that it’s very seldom that I make any sort of political comment. In fact, I think this will be the first time I make one here.
I saw An Inconvenient Truth in biology class. It struck me as rather astoundingly good and I figured that one of the main reasons people are doing so little about global warming is that they know so little about it and they think it might not even be happening or that it’s a trivial little thing (1.7°C – it sounds so meaningless!), and then I figured that if people watch this movie they’ll finally be educated, and that’s the first step to solving the problem. That’s what Al Gore was thinking when he made it.
So I encouraged Mom and Dad to watch it. The results were less than spectacular, but enlightening in a couple different ways. To begin, Mom rented it as a one-night rental at about 2300. Dad refused to let us use the living room TV on the pretense that he was currently watching Romancing the Stone (which, not more than half an hour earlier, he had called a “throwaway movie”). I plugged the external DVD player in anyway and it started playing. He said: “Unplug the fucking thing and let me watch the movie. Now.” Mom, Micah, and I watched it in Micah’s room on a small television in a cramped space.
Over the next few days after the viewing, Mom and Dad did all they could to refute all of Al’s points. Dad was the most diligent at it. He pointed me to a slideshow (to see: click on “view slideshow”). In the interest of impartiality, I’ll tell you a few things the slideshow got right:
It admitted that global warming is happening.
It pointed out a couple graphs that Al Gore cut off before 1947, making them misleading.
It noted that the international science community says Al is overstating things a bit. (This does not mean that it is a trivial problem. It means that Al overstated it a bit to make it even bigger. It’s possible to overstate even very large problems: for example, I could say, “Global warming will cause the earth to collapse in upon itself and become a black hole, and any spacecraft escaping from the planet will not be able to get far enough away and will be sucked in and destroyed.”)
But, let me quote myself here. When I finished reading the slideshow, I told Dad: “There were two or three good points, and the rest was BS.” He said, “Yes!” trimphantly. I had to inform him, “I was talking about the slideshow, not the movie.” Here are some problems.
Right off the bat, it suggests that global warming is actually a good thing! Think of how much better all our trees will grow with all the extra carbon dioxide in the air! This completely misses the point that there’s more carbon dioxide because (partially) there are too few trees to use it! And it reminds me of the premise for the Colbert Report’s “The Convenientest Truth”, although I didn’t watch that (I read what the premise was online).
It misses the point: “There has been no increase in the rate of warming since the mid-1970s.” But there is warming!
It tries to make things that are bad sound less bad. It criticizes Al for describing a breaking ice shelf as being “the size of Rhode Island” because it sounds scary, and then says that’s only 1/246 the size of the sheet it’s part of. 1/246 is rather a lot, all things considered, and that is one heck of a big ice sheet that broke off.
On page 40 (my favorite page) it forecasts doom and death for the whole world if the United States isn’t allowed to burn fossil fuels like crazy, by implying that our carbon dioxide emissions are the only thing that enables us to be a force of good in the world. “Without our CO2 emissions, the world would be poorer, sicker, and less free.”
It ascribes scientists’ viewpoints solely to their desire for money (on page 42).
It’s overall almost totally inconclusive, picking on little bits of the movie and failing to discount the main point. I’ve taken the time out to criticize this to show how much some people – in this case, Dad – will seek out and believe in the name of politics. Let the record show that I believe as much as the next person that Al Gore is something of a joke. Look at his personal emissions, for instance; he uses I think 30 times more energy than the average American. But this does not mean that he’s wrong about everything; just that he’s hypocritical there. Dad thinks it does mean he’s wrong about everything. Actually, he thinks Al Gore is wrong about everything because he’s a Democrat. And that is the point of this story.
Why do politics turn people against each other so viciously? Dad now won’t hear a word said in defense of anything Al Gore says or does. Gore is a godless, nonscientific Democrat. Dad has a deep loathing of Democrats as people, as far as I can tell. He’s not the only one. I was recently in his truck and got the treat of listening to talk radio spouted forth by Rush Limbaugh. Talk about a man who can’t stand Democrats. Anything a Democrat says, for him, is instantly wrong; his callers who try to tell him something from an opposing viewpoint are “idiots” (though it doesn’t help that many of them actually are, such as the woman who called in to protest clubbing baby seals and then admitted to wearing leather and couldn’t, despite all efforts, be made to see the conflict of interests). What must it be like to be so deeply prejudiced, have such an all-consuming hatred, for something like half of America? How can he walk in public – is he afraid he’ll breathe air that Democrats have breathed? Is it like being a member of the KKK? Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, George W. Bush, and an extensive list of others. It’s incredible, to me. It’s incredible how blind a person can be if there’s an opposition of principles, even if the principles are irrelevant to the issue at hand. It’s incredible how nitpicking differences in principles can drive two sane people to hate each other so completely. I will not join a political party. George Washington knew the dangers of parties, but nobody wanted to listen. I will, at least.
Let’s leave that melancholy subject and go on to a different one. I turned 18. And it was great.
Mom and Dad and Micah and I and (I tried to stop it, but still) Micah’s friend Tyler went up to Oxford. Grandma took us to Hueston Woods. I decided to hike barefoot. This is a new thing that I’m all enthusiastic about. I like to go around barefoot, even in places where most don’t think it’s really okay. It is okay. For one thing, there is no law that you have to have shoes on in any establishment. The Health Department doesn’t care. As for broken glass, well, it’s very little danger if you use your eyes (so that’s what those are for!). Feet are also much more resilient than most people think. I didn’t sustain any wounds during the whole hike. I was walking on all sorts of terrains: Straight dirt at first, but then I got in the creek. And it was really slick, but, with my keen sense of balance, I managed to stay approximately upright. I finished crossing the creek and I was on low-growing plants in mud. I continued along the creek and found Tyler and Micah behind a few trees. Tyler had lit up a cigarette. I just pulled it out of his mouth and chucked it in the creek. I know it’s littering, and I wish I’d done it differently, but it was sort of necessary. Micah got defensive (the best defense is a good offense?) and said, “You know those things cost money?!” I said, “Yep.” And without a word we continued walking. I stayed in the creek sometimes and on the bank sometimes. The creekbed is rocky. The rocks are all slick, but I found I could walk with nearly normal stability if I didn’t try to stay on the higher ones close to the surface but rather walked indiscriminately on the bottom. I came to the bottom of the cliff, crossed the water, and climbed the cliff, which is made mostly of mud and gravel-type rocks. The cliff affords a disorienting and very pretty view. I met Grandma at the top and kept walking now with her instead of Micah and Tyler. The trail got muddy – that thick black mud that’s mixed with leaves. I enjoyed every step of it. We finished the trail and walked back to the van.
And we had dinner: pork roast, mashed potatoes, gravy, broccoli, bread, and salad. Afterwards I had my birthday cake (angel food with white icing). I’m now 18. Can you believe it? Yeah, so can I. But it’s an innovative concept. I can now do things minors can’t do: withdraw money from my own account (balance: $32), cash checks, stay out after 2300, sign stuff with an official signature, enter strip bars. Now, society regards me as a sovereign entity, though an irresponsible one. It makes you think.
On Sunday I went to the Symphony for the first time (not that I couldn’t before I was 18, but I never had), and they had the biggest chandelier I’ve ever seen. It was about fifteen feet across and must have weighed at least a ton. It was also suspended about 50 feet above the floor seats, and Mom and I tried to figure out how they change the light bulbs. I finally worked out that they must be able to lower it. The music was also fantastic like a majestic river running through the countryside (that would be Smetana’s The Moldau), fantastic with the best piano playing I’ve ever personally seen from Piotr Anderszewski (Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3), and simply fantastic (Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique).
And on Monday, I had a couple friends – Matt and Aaron (Keith was invited, but he got grounded) – over to LaRosa’s, and we amused ourselves finding strange words in the word search, some of which took some doing and considerable rule-bending to get to. That wasn’t all we did, of course: that would make us extraordinarily lame.
Another item is colleges. My letters are coming in from the colleges I’ve applied to. I got one from Carleton last week. Something happened that I wasn’t expecting: they won’t let me in. Neither will Kenyon. I’m still waiting for Grinnell’s answer. I expected to have to make a difficult choice between fine institutions. I didn’t expect the choice to be made for me. But there it is, all at once. It happened pretty quickly. And it didn’t strike me until later the full scope of it. Mom had to convince me that I should be upset before I realized I was. I had envisioned my coming years on a quiet, green campus with a small amount of dedicated students. Carleton. Pine forests, cool weather, Minnesota winters, freezing lakes, “Minnesota Nice”. Kenyon. Old friendly buildings, rolling green quad, relaxing air, calmness from being well-established. I realized. Their doors are shut to me for at least another year. They won’t let me in. Even if I ask nicely. It’s a pretty depressing thought.
But I’m resilient. I can’t stay very sad for very long. Now I have left Miami and maybe Grinnell. Miami doesn’t have the relaxed atmosphere and peaceful green campus of Kenyon; it won’t have the great winters or two attendant lakes I could have looked forward to at Carleton. But it’s not without merits. Its programs, of course, are one. It has a new writing school, just now made with a donation. I can major and take classes in all sorts of things. And Oxford is a nice town. My grandparents found it agreeable enough to live there or forty years so far. Grinnell is still a possibility, too, and it’s a good school too. Depending on whether I get in and how much money they give me if I do, I might end up going there. It’s certainly a great little place.
That’s all I’m going to write for now, except for this: I’ve made a couple new shirt designs, and I’m Commanding you to go look at them here. And feel free to check out my other two stores Maybe you’ll actually buy one. They are exceedingly nice and well-designed shirts. You coud do a lot worse, if I do say so myself.