We are a beautiful, terrible breed of critter. Like every other Earthling
with a cerebral cortex
and a cable connection
, I've been burdened with the task of making sense of a senseless scene. My conclusion is that the human imagination is limitless and our unique gift is the potential to bring every thought to fruition, no matter how grand or horrible. The menace we face now is the one that we've always faced as a species; our startling potential is held hostage by the lowest common denominator
Send your child to the best private schools and one little puke with a bad attitude can clear the halls with a bomb threat. Build a spectacular edifice of fine oak and lovingly carved mahogany and watch it fall in hours to one idiot with a match. Chaos is easy, pedestrian and always attributable to the least among us. Our first impulse is to squash the idiot and we find that it's easily accomplished but hopelessly ineffective. No sooner is the ne'er-do-well identified and defeated than another sprouts over night, like a dandelion in a well-manicured lawn. The entire day is spent yanking weeds without a moment's peace to sit back and enjoy the yard that we fought so hard to defend.
Life on Earth has always been this way but our fertile imagination demands that every deed be done on a grander scale to either advance the species or work toward its demise. We imagine that we are hurtling toward a great Armageddon where all that is good meets all that is evil, presumably because we believe that good will triumph. With so many people secretly wishing for a climactic end game, I’m afraid that we’ve insured its inevitability.
Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick told us a pretty lie when they said that we'd confront our logical conclusion in the serene vacuum of space, to the sophisticated strains of Thus Spake Zarathustra.
I'm not proud to be an American
and I cringe a little when people say that they are. I didn't play an active role in America's creation so it doesn't seem appropriate that I should be boastful about my membership. Not being a religious sort, I have no fear of pride as a mortal sin
but my intellect tells me that, along with its handmaiden envy, unfounded pride will serve our undoing. My specific citizenry, like most Earthlings, was an accident of birth, a toss of the dice in a cosmic crapshoot
. I have as much right to be proud of my nationality as a twelve-year-old Rockefeller
has to be proud of his wealth.
I'm proud to be an Earthling. As a sentient human being I help to define my species with every thought and refine it imperceptibly through every act of self-improvement. I'd bet you a paycheck that this is the best of all possible worlds and that Homo Sapiens is the grandest species going. In the space of a few minutes on the geologic clock we've gone from cave dwelling brutes to sub-atomic architects. You could argue that a few of us remain brutish and that fewer still comprehend quantum physics but we are, overall, a most impressive race.
Nationalist fervor resembles religious fervor in its well-intentioned assault on reason and the impediment it places in the path of our progress. The fiery patriot and the dogmatic zealot are equally divisive and should be shunned by right thinking Earthlings everywhere. When the human family is viewed properly, as a single organism, the prospect of any one lymph gland or mole declaring autonomy is absurd and counterproductive. The comparison would be laughable were it not for the fact that many of us will succumb to malignant moles and renegade lymph nodes.
Professor Stephen Hawking recently proclaimed that human beings must colonize space to perpetuate the species and I congratulate the good doctor on his firm grasp of the obvious. Extinction trumps evolution every time and if the super flu doesn't get us, the asteroid will. Our differences of opinion over national boundaries and spiritual righteousness will appear properly trite when the true enemy becomes obvious.
The defining moment in the September 11th crisis was on Flight 93
, from Newark to eternity
, when the spectacle was confronted with its own irrelevance. The logical response to the suicide mission was yet another suicide mission and the bleak cycle was betrayed in all of its inanity. The small miracle of cell phones exposed the passengers to the certainty of their fate and having nothing to lose, they took matters into their own hands. The full measure of their heroism is difficult to determine because of their qualified success. The result was the ultimate political threat realized, mutually assured destruction
in microcosm, madness defined.
One of the passengers, who apparently subdued the terrorists and drove the missile from the sky, grew up down the street from me, in Bloomington, Minnesota and the odds are better than even money that I've bumped into him at a bar or a golf course. If I did cross his path and failed to recognize his heroic aura, it is only because he looked just like everybody else. He was an ordinary Midwestern American husband and father who would likely have thought himself incapable of such an act as he boarded the plane that morning. In such a dire circumstance I presume that many of us would react the same way, killing dozens to save hundreds, or hundreds to save thousands.
The stinging irony is that the terrorists must have thought themselves uber-heroic, killing thousands to save millions.
Because our antagonist
chants the name of his God
as he leads his minions we assume that we are engaged in a religious conflict. Make no mistake that this hostility stems from the perceived misuse of our prosperity and the near total absence of their own. When you come across someone who is willing to trade in this life for the flimsiest promise of another, you can assume it's because, for him, this life is lacking. Demagogue
s are like hypnotists in their ability to read a crowd and gauge gullibility. A hypnotist
will look for tattoos, a sure sign that the bearer is subject to the power of suggestion. A despot looks for poverty
People who got through college on Cliffs Notes or skim-read history texts will tell you that religious fervor triggers war. They'll tell you that short of divine intervention, theological differences are indelible and conflict a given. These people are ill informed. Collapsing economies trigger wars of conquest and starving men will always kill for food, looking to incendiary rabble-rousers for guidance. I shudder when I hear our President refer to the current enemy as evil personified because it only lends credence to his delusions of grandeur. Humanity's most recent foe is a wealthy troll with a yen for self-aggrandizement and a hungry flock, nothing more.
A full belly for all concerned is and always has been the only defense against such nonsense.