Misdirection: Frogs, Mosques, and Octopi
The classic misdirection employed by most politicians, and with shimmering expertise by the ruin-sewing GOP, seems to be working. I fell soundly into the camp of those attracted by the boldest headlines and the loudest voices in the polarized debates surrounding the Cordoba Center construction in lower Manhattan. The reminders of what matters, at least with regard to public policy and the perpetuation of life, came from a television series and a cartoon. Really.
First, courtesy of Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich:
I appreciate the joke and I’m a fan of the maybe inaccurate anecdote about a frog’s acceptance of water slowly brought to boil, which is now commonly used in discussions about Global Warming. The point, of course, being that the current mosque maelstrom concerns individual prejudice, wounded egos, and ideological schism – all petty in the grand scheme of things. Whereas the future of our planet rests rather (un)comfortably as the most pressing issue conceivable. If you’ve got time, Michael Tomasky posted yesterday at the Guardian a history of the mosque madness that illustrates how its prevalence is an obnoxious, absurd, and assuredly insidious tactic of the GOP. Luckovich did an early cartoon saying something similar, minus all the words:
The second reminder that this is sensationalist and bigger than it needs to be (not to diminish the rights of religious practice and the need to underline moments of pronounced prejudice) came courtesy of the impossible talent at the BBC. Again and again they bring together mind-blowing filmmakers, scientists, explorers, and the endlessly charming David Attenborough to bring the depth and breadth of the planet into our living rooms. The first episode of the series “Life” presented the challenges for different species, the remarkable and admirable struggle to survive and to guarantee a fighting chance for the next generation. There was a real emphasis, amidst the most stunning footage you can imagine, on the sacrifices made by parents in the wild. The North Pacific Giant Octopus carries her fertilized egg (some 100,000) into a cave, secures them painstakingly upon the walls, and then sits vigilant for six months. During that time the mother never leaves her young, not even to eat. At the end of her life, starving and exhausted, she uses her final breaths to blow water over the eggs and help her octopi hatch. And that’s it. She’s a real heartbreaker. Watch it. Track it down and experience a great confluence of art, science, and wonder.
Seeing that essential function of a parent, there made pure and dramatic, I began to wonder if the wealthy elite that do their damndest to hold America under water have any concern for the future. I know that they don’t. Not in any real, selfless way. And that suggests that you can’t be a good parent and subscribe to the dogma of conservative politics, which further suggests a self-perpetuating circle. But the current renaissance of party politics and demagoguery seems likely to consume itself and die by its own reckless hunger, to profane the air with condemnation so great that it can’t recover and its dwindling progeny will just rage into oblivion. One can hope. In the meantime, it’s worth remembering that it’s getting hotter and hotter, weather is becoming more extreme and erratic, and that we’re just at the edge of a very slippery slope.