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The Outrage

“A threat to your children.”

Where did that quote come from? To what does it refer?

Was it spoken by George W. Bush on the subject of terrorists? Or was it how Al Gore described global warming?

“It is not a question of left vs. right; it is a question of right vs. wrong.”

How about that one? Was it said in reference to doing anything necessary to win the war on terror or to save the planet?

“I worry about it, because I don’t want to die.”

Those words were attributed to a nine-year-old who had heard one of the two messages: was she terrified of al Qaeda or sweeping climate changes?

My friend Carly, of “Ellipsis…Suddenly Carly” is one of my longest-running readers. Carly has stuck with me — at times put up with me — from the earliest days of the original version of this journal over at AOL. She may not have been my very first reader, but she was definitely one of my first five. And she’s probably one of only about two of those first five who are still reading today.

After I wrote the post entitled, “Top Priority,” about Al Gore’s refusal to endorse any presidential candidate who didn’t place global warming as the number one campaign issue, she began her comment with this:

“With all due respect, I am not sure I understand your outrage here.”

When I read that sentence, I stopped for a minute. I chuckled. Outrage? Was I really outraged? At least, I didn’t think so at the time.

Then I thought more about it.

The nice thing about having a reader stay with you so long, even when you often find yourself at opposite sides of an issue, is that they come to understand how you think. Maybe, just maybe, I began to realize, Carly saw a level of anger that I hadn’t realized I had. If that’s true, then the least I can do is to figure out why I’m so angry about Gore’s statement.

I don’t doubt the existence of global warming. I think it is a legitimate phenomena, and I think there is plenty of evidence to prove that we humans have not taken good care of the planet, and that our boneheaded decisions are causing lots of damage to plants and animals alike. Eventually, I am convinced, Mother Nature will decide she has had enough of us.

Apparently, many years ago, the dinosaurs did something to royally piss her off. And she got even. Boy, did she get even! At the end, she was the one left standing.

And just like what happened to the dinosaurs, when we get her riled up enough, she’ll come along and clean house again. The way your mom threatens to do when you refuse to straighten up your room. You know, no matter what she does, you won’t like the way she’ll do it.

So if I believe all of that, why aren’t I applauding Al Gore’s courageous stance?

Because it isn’t courageous. It’s cowardly. He is taking the easy way out, choosing to resort to the same tactics his followers routinely condemn the conservatives for: fear-mongering: Global warming is going to hurt your children if we don’t do something right now. Why, Gore and Bush could almost exchange quotations and still be delivering the same message!

Gore said that many of the candidates had good things to say about global warming. But he gave up the opportunity to highlight who was saying what. He gave up the opportunity to go case by case, to talk about the people who recognize the dangers to the environment, to show what some actually are willing to do, to prove that some are willing to say something of consequence and take action.

He gave up those opportunities so that he could draw his line in the sand. It’s either his way, or no way.

“You’re either with us, or you’re against us.”

He did not say that; we all know where that little pearl came from. But Gore might as well have, since he couldn’t bother to lend any real praise to anyone who is at least willing to acknowledge the importance of the message.

What’s worse, he (and his cause) may have lost serious points with those middle-of-the-road voters who are just coming to realize that there might be something to this global warming talk, after all. For each of them who may have just started to come around, his extremist, “top priority” demand may have been just the trick to have them shake their heads and stop thinking about it. For every person who disengaged from the discussion because they thought Gore was being unreasonable or going overboard, it was a missed opportunity to keep the discussion moving forward.

And if fighting the threat of global warming is that important, then we can’t afford those missed opportunities. We need everyone on board, in agreement, and ready to do their part.

Let me give you another example of what I’m talking about. Back in February, a dear friend of mine wrote a column for her neighborhood newspaper about Black History Month.

Sort of.

It was actually a column reminding people that it was Black History Month, despite what they might be led to believe by watching the news media’s constant coverage of the blond celebrity du jour. She complained that there was so much attention focused on the Brittneys and Parises and Lindsays that there was nothing to indicate that February was the month set aside to honor the cultural contributions blacks have made to our nation.

A perfectly valid point. Except for one thing: she spent the entire article bemoaning how the media was wasting its time covering these unimportant, overpaid brats at the expense of people who had made a real difference in history. She did so when she should have devoted but a paragraph on that criticism, and the rest of the column to the story of a black American you should have been hearing about, but probably hadn’t.

As a columnist, she is part of the media she criticized. And by focusing all of her space on the celebrities she’s tired of hearing about, she’s guilty of the very problem she was describing to begin with!

Meanwhile, George W. Bush wants you to believe that there is nothing more important than winning the war on terror. Many of you believe that this is true, even if you suspect that it really isn’t possible to win a “war” waged against something as vague as “terror.”

On the other hand, you may think that the mess in Iraq is a separate issue that is more important than fighting terrorists, or that fixing the former will radically curtail the latter. To those people, Bush’s assertion that you must think the way he does seems ridiculous. It turns people away from putting priority to it at all; it even makes them want to ridicule the whole idea: how many blogs have you seen that turn the Department of Homeland Security’s current terror threat level into a gauge populated by Muppets?

Winning the war on terror and reducing global warming may both be in your top five big concerns for the next administration. (I hope they are.) But you may also be facing a major illness with insufficient insurance. Health care, therefore, may be your number one concern, regardless of what Bush or Gore want you to think. If you die because you can’t afford a life-saving medical procedure, what difference will it make to you if we’re still at war in five years or if the polar ice caps melt in ten years?

My outrage comes from the fact that we are constantly facing people who want to twist our arms behind our backs and make us scream “Uncle!” and believe exactly what they do. The Republicans do it. The Democrats do it. The religious do it. The non-religious do it. Every group has its own agenda, and they all want us to side with them and wear their gripes on our sleeve with as much fury as they do.

It’s no longer enough that we agree with them that their points are valid.

My outrage comes from the lack of an answer to these simple questions: Why can’t we have several key issues at the top of the agenda? Why can’t we say that there are so many things wrong that we have lots of work to do and fast?

And why does it have to be either/or?

(Incedentally, for those keeping score, the first quote was from Bush talking about the terrorists. The second quote came from Gore on the subject of global warming. The third quote, from 9-year-old Alyssa Luz-Ricca, also referred to global warming as well.)

5 Comments

  1. Patrick:

    Al Gore has been repeating these words for a very long time, going back to his service as our Vice President. He disagreed, and literally (voluntarily) separated himself from his own party due to his convictions concerning this single issue. He told the DNC a very long time ago that he would not endorse any candidate who did not set global warming as a principal issue in their platform. He refused to run for the office this cycle because of his convictions regarding the imminent danger we face as a species. What you call “fear mongering” I see differently. I see passion and conviction, just as many Republicans view President Bush’s determination to “stay the course” for seven long years.

    Apathy abounds, although I am pleased to say I do see a few signs of life on the monitor. People are becoming engaged, albeit involuntarily, because of the issues that matter to them. When it comes to the environment, I would find myself hard-pressed to find three people who did not almost immediately think of Gore when having a global warming debate. He is not “Chicken Little”, and the documentary he espouses has sufficient documented scientific evidence to literally scare the pants off even the most casual observer.

    I don’t want to trade scenarios. His is his passion. Others have theirs. I have a terminal disease, and no health insurance. I’m rather a fan of Michael Moore these days. Not because of what he says nearly so much as the fact that he just won’t shut up about it. I don’t take issue with our President over what he refuses to stop saying. I have many issues with the constant harangueing of “We don’t know when, or where, or how, or when, but…” ala Secretary Chertoff today. But, I do listen closely to what they say.

    It is we, the voters, who have in the greatest measure required such diatribes. We indicate our unwillingness to listen, discuss or care about virtually any issue put before us. Fear, like it or don’t, seems to be the one stimulus that will elicit a response from the voters. Can we really blame both sides, and any given issue, for that?

  2. Hi Patrick 🙂

    Thank you for the kind words. 🙂 Of course I am still reading you, you are my friend, and the stuff in the past is just that… the past. Now, with that being said, and with all due respect, I just don’t feel that Al Gore is committing “fear mongering,” when it comes to Global Warming. Too many species are disappearing, the temperatures are rising in the earths oceans and so on. I see what he is doing as raising awareness, and at times, having a good time doing so, like with the recent concert. I ate lunch yesterday, at an all green restaurant, and it felt good to know that.

    Passion for a cause can seem overwhelming, but he sees some pretty scary facts and figures on Global Warming change… often. I don’t know. I guess when I think of “fear mongering,” I think of George Bush, who waved the “be afraid, be very afraid” banner in front of us whenever he wanted his way. And the latest “I have a GUT feeling” from HLS chief Michael Chertoff is another example of “be afraid… be kinda afraid.”

    At least with the warnings coming from Gore, comes examples every day of what we are facing, where we are facing it, and how it will eventually kill us. The enemy in this case, is all of us. I can’t do anything about all the other things on my top five list of national priorities. Hell, voting this past autumn didn’t even really do much good because the “decider” says so, but I can continue to look for new ways to take care of the environment. It’s the one issue everyone has the power to do something about. The one issue we could all come together about. I simply can’t get angry, at a man who tries to unite this country as opposed to polorize it… no matter what the issue is. 🙂

    Have a good week nice man. 🙂

    Always, Carly

    PS My meme is up on Ellipsis, come by when you can. 🙂

  3. On this one, I’ve pretty much gotta side with Patrick. I don’t think I’ve seen any candidates out there that aren’t above using fear as a marketing ploy to get votes… and global warming, no matter how serious you regard the threat, is just a convenient issue for some of these candidates. I do think Gore’s concerns about global warming are sincere, but in this case, I think he’s just using it as an excuse to avoid backing a losing candidate for the Democratic nomination. Let’s face it, he’s going to vote for (i.e. support) somebody. Odds favor he already knows who he’s going to vote for, too… so why would he hesitate to say it? He’s covering himself now, so he won’t be on the outs with whoever wins. It’s as simple as that.

    Politicians know the buttons to push when it comes to elections and lobbying, and there are so many things I watch every election that just irritate me. I am constantly amused when the Democrats and Republicans go back and forth accusing each other of the exact same tactics, as if either group really has any moral high ground on any issue… whether it be global warming, racism, welfare, education, terrorism, etc.

  4. ….don’t you get it? Global warming could end life as we know it.

    Despite the inherent fear-mongering in that sentence, Dave, yes. I do get it. I said in the post that I agree that it is a legitimate problem that we must address.

    Gore isn’t saying your top priority must be global warming, Patrick.

    Gore said that he couldn’t endorse any candidate for president because none has made global warming his or her top priority. He then added that by the time the election rolls around, he is convinced that global warming will be the number one issue. Period.

    A shoddy health insurance system leads to thousands of deaths each year; global warming, if left unchecked, threatens to wipe humans–and a lot of other species–off the planet for good. Big difference.

    Of course there’s a big difference there, Dave. That isn’t the point. I’m talking about the millions of people who have had it up to “here” with Bush’s tactics when it comes to the war on terror, who have grown weary of the constant, “You must think exactly the way I think or you aren’t on my side” mentality and see it as a turn-off and a sign to get as far away, politically, from these people as possible.

    The same people who hear a statement like that from Gore could now laugh at the problem because to them, it isn’t a problem, yet. Surely you understand that there are hoards of people who refuse to accept that global warming exists, right? And surely you would agree that there are far too many people who think that it is a real problem but that there is nothing they can really do about it, just as there is nothing they can really do about Iraq. They’re concerned, but they’re also complacent because they can’t yet get their minds around their own potential for helping the situation get worked out. These are the people who are likely to be even more convinced now that their doubts and suspicions have been right all along. That should make you mad as Hell, Dave.

    And let me ask this: which has a bigger impact on global warming yesterday: the kitchen light that I accidentally left on last night, or the explosions in Iraq set off by terrorists that sent fireballs and clouds of black smoke into the air in the past 24 hours?

    Global warming is part of multiple issues, but you can’t fix it without fixing several problems at the same time.

    A candidate who places global warming as the top priority? I’m happy to vote for one who’s willing to commit to dealing with it, even if it is #3 or 4 on their list. What if failed diplomacy or the situation in Iraq results in a nuclear bomb blast? I imagine that will have a tremendous impact on the environment, too, right?

  5. Patrick,

    I’m no fan of Gore’s, but don’t you get it? Global warming could end life as we know it. We’re talking about possible human extinction. That’s not fear mongering. That’s reality. Some things in life are scary.

    Gore isn’t saying your top priority must be global warming, Patrick. We must all push for universal health care in this country, but the national priority should be global warming. That doesn’t mean that other issues aren’t dealt with. It’s about prioritizing resources and time. A shoddy health insurance system leads to thousands of deaths each year; global warming, if left unchecked, threatens to wipe humans–and a lot of other species–off the planet for good. Big difference.

    dave

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.