Tuesday, August 16, 2005

American's need for war

I’ve spent much of the past three weeks working feverishly on When Towns Had Teams. Yesterday, at 2:15 pm, I sent my pre-press materials via file transfer to my printer. Now, I can finally exhale, as a large weight feels like it’s been lifted from me.

Over this period of 16 to 18 hour days, it was hard to focus on much of anything not directly related to the book. Making lists, checking off items, and creating new lists of things that had to be done, occupied most of my waking hours. I’ve read very little in the newspaper, other than a cursory glance through the front page, on most days. This enforced period of work had me tunneled deeply into my project.

Occasionally, I’d allow myself a brief respite from my labor. One of the few sites I’d bother to check out was Jim Kunstler’s site. If you read my blog, you’ll know that I’ve mentioned him numerous times, of late. The reason why, is that he seems to have an ability to cut through the fog of narcissism and self-interest that envelopes American culture.

Last night, I had to return some software that I had purchased over the weekend, thinking I would need it to complete my file transfer. Happily, I didn’t need to use my $300 Adobe Acrobat, instead, finding the ScanSoft PDF-Professional adequate for my needs, at 1/3rd the price. On my way home, I stopped at a eating (and of course, drinking) establishment in Yarmouth, Grill 233. In the mood to celebrate a bit, I had dinner at the bar and enjoyed a couple of Bluepaw Wheats, courtesy of Sea Dog Brewing Company.

While sitting at the bar, I was able to catch the evening news on CBS. As someone who rarely watches mainstream news programs, I still was drawn to the screen, like a moth is to flame. Listening and watching the shallow analysis that passes for news, particularly on a story involving rising fuel prices, was maddening. When I asked the bartender if he knew much about peak oil, he got that glazed over look that I see often when I speak to people about the subject. He obviously didn’t know about it, and was looking to blame oil companies for the rise in prices. While Exxon, Mobil, Shell and others aren’t without blame, the issue is more complex than the talking head with the nice head of hair was able to articulate in his staccato soundbite pops of information.

Back to Kunstler and his recent post on the war. If you don’t know it, I’m a registered Independent. While I succumbed to some degree to the insipid “Anybody but Bush” thinking during the last presidential debacle, I recognize that both parties are leading us over the cliff with their policies that continue to enrich the wealthiest, at everyone else’s expense. Liberals are death merchants in their own ways, with their flawed thinking and morally-superior attitudes. As a matter of fact, I can’t say that I’ve met too many true liberals that I liked much better than the most rabid members of the right-wing.

Kunstler, riffing about Harry Shearer, he of Le Show fame (on NPR), hits some of the issues that I have with liberals, squarely on the head. Take for instance their opposition of the war. While there are those who deplore war in any form, for many, I think it’s about their antipathy for George Bush. If their man (Kerry, Clinton, or whoever) were occupying the West Wing, they probably wouldn’t be offering a peep of opposition.

As Kunstler writes, regarding Shearer’s recent program, where he was speaking about his opposition to the war in Iraq.

“This, of course, is the predicament of the Democrats, my own party. They have no interest in modifying the nation's suicidal suburban sprawl lifestyle either, only in the easy pretenses of political correctness. Instead of twanging on WMDs and the depravity of the war in Iraq, I'd like to hear someone like Harry Shearer (or John Kerry, or Nancy Pelosi, or Harry Reid) stand up and pitch for restoring the US passenger rail system. I'd like to hear some of these assholes propose some meaningful changes that Americans can make in behavior so we won't be so desperate to engage in military contests over the oil we need to drive for sushi in Los Angeles."

Despite rising gas prices, hardships and difficulties facing the poor and elderly this winter heating their homes, and the continued escalation in consumption of petroleum in places like China and India, Americans refuse to consider modifying any of their “drive everywhere we go” behavior. Even if some of us would like public transportation options, in a state like Maine, there are virtually none. I’m afraid we’re in for some difficult days ahead.

While getting the hell out of Iraq would be nice (and I’m certainly for it), I also recognize why we’re there, as does Kunstler, as well as a few others. You can’t allow destabilization of a region that controls much of the world’s oil, particularly when you need so much of it to fuel one’s multiple car trips to Wal-Mart (and Staples, in my case).

War certainly isn’t the answer, but until we find some way around having to drive everywhere we go, it will continue to be part of the equation.


weasel said...

Nicely put. The problem as I see it is that there aren't enough nerds in DC from either party- its a sad state of affairs when the rule of the jocks and the cheerleaders doesn't stop at graduation but continues ad infinitum. And as we all know, jocks and cheerleaders love trucks and jeeps...

I don't think its gasoline that will be Maine's #1 problem when the oil collapse comes; its going to be heating oil. Although gas will be a close second as the EMTs figure out how to fuel their ambulances to get frozen granny to the hospital.

ChefDunn said...

Jim, next time you need some software let me know. I have everything you need right here. You're welcome to borrow anything I have. One thing about being a computer geek, you never have a shortage of software. When I was in college I was purchacing software left and right. With the student pass I can buy the student and teacher editions at 1/3 the price of the standard versions.

Jim said...

I like the "jocks and cheerleaders" comment.

I just ordered my wood for the winter and the price is downright scary. I understand the price increase, as the wood dealer (a local guy I've bought from for 15 years) is being squeezed by the demand, as well as competing w/ large buyers, such as paper mills.

Likewise, I'm concerned about heating oil, particularly for the elderly in the state. Maybe Baldacci will let them move in with him at the Blaine House?

Richard S. said...

I'm such a nerd, I never even learned to drive (and I'm 43 years old). I travel most places where I need to go by train and/or ferry, only occasionally accepting a trip in a friend's car. And, because I do night shift temp work and live in a poor neighborhood, I'll accept cab rides that are provided by the law firm or printer now and then. (I actually was skipping this option for a while, but that changed last year, when I got held up at gunpoint.) If someplace is less than a mile or so away, I'll almost always walk the distance. Sometimes, I'll walk three miles. Of course, this is all more possible in New York City...

If I were suffering some medical emergency, I'd probably try to take a bus to the hospital, or try as much as possible not to go to the hospital at all, because I have no health insurance.

I don't think I benefit much from the hypercapitalist, war-mongering strategies of those who hold wealth and power. While there are things I might do to make my own lifestyle a little less wasteful of the world's resources, I do think I'm a world away from the lifestyle of the people who have the power to actively pursue, and benefit most from, these strategies. That's one reason I can no longer accept having the word "we" applied to me in a reference to things that "America" does. I've done everything I could to oppose those policies (which, admittedly, most often just amounted to futile writings and participation in futile protests), but I have no say in the actions of "our" government, and I have nothing to do with the ruling class or even the occupants of the suburban sprawl. I refuse to pretend that I somehow share equal collective responsibility in the actions of "America," when we talk about what "America" is doing around the world, or that I have much to do with "America," period.

P.S. Couldn't agree more with the comment about liberals...