By Other Words
By Donald Kaul
I generally make New Year’s resolutions in hopes of becoming a better person — more disciplined, healthier, or, at the very least, less pathetic. Some of these resolutions last until nightfall. Some don’t. None ever sees February.
This year, I’m taking a different approach. I’m going to concentrate on giving up things. Not things like smoking — been there, done that. I mean giving up on ideas I have pursued through the years into one blind alley after another.
Ideas like climate change, for example.
You and I both know that the earth is heating up, right? Everybody knows that, with the possible exception of oil executives, the owners of coal mines, and Republican politicians.
Yet no number of hurricanes, droughts, floods, wild fires, melted glaciers, or columns by granola liberals like me has inspired a somnolent Congress to confront the problem.
Why? Money, of course.
If money is the mother’s milk of politics (and it is), then the oil and coal industries are the biggest mothers on the block. They own our political system lock, stock, and sleazebag.
As a result, our energy policies are crafted largely by the extraction industries, which care little if at all about global warming, clean water, or breathable air. Meanwhile, the Earth’s poorest nations, who sat back for 200 years while the countries known as “the West” burned forests, polluted the air and water, and made a lot of money, now want their turn at the trough.
It’s hopeless. Even if we suddenly got serious about the issue, it’s probably too late. We’ve reached a point where the warming already out there is producing a dynamic that will produce more warming.
So I’m giving up on writing about climate change. You can start the next oil spill without me.
I’m also giving up on gun control.
Over the years, I’ve written I don’t know how many columns urging that some control be placed on the sale of weapons that go bang. Dozens probably, possibly even scores of them.
Every time some clown would go berserk and mow down a baker’s dozen of his fellow citizens, I would deliver a rant about the idiocy of our failure to do something about the proliferation of guns in our society.
Did it do any good? Even less than my global warming columns. There are more guns out there now than ever, and states have grown increasingly permissive about where and how people can pack heat.
In other words, the battle has been lost. The absurd arguments of the National Rifle Association and the Merchants of Death lobby have carried the day.
Why? Money, of course. Too many politicians have learned that to deviate even the slightest degree from the NRA’s absolutist positions is to invite a truckload of money into your opponent’s campaign, ensuring your electoral defeat.
The argument I find most absurd, by the way, is the constitutional one. Yes, the Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms. But “arms” back then had as much resemblance to modern weapons as an 18th-century schooner has to a nuclear submarine.
Do you think our founding fathers would have looked at an assault rifle that can fire at a speed of 400 rounds a minute and said: “Oh yeah, that’s a good thing to have around the house”? Or “Everybody should have one”?
Get real. The Constitution is a wonderful document, but it’s outmoded in many ways. Consider the preposterousness of North Dakota having the same number of senators as California. But it’s not going to change any time soon, at least not for the better.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Forces of Darkness are in the saddle, and they’re wearing spurs.
OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.