Sunday, February 15, 2004

The Warning We Got in Boone

Last Friday, David Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College in Ohio, spoke at the First Baptist Church in Boone on the topic "The Corruption of Patriotism and the Environment in the Age of Terror," talking-points extracted from his new book forthcoming in April from Island Press, "The Last Refuge: The Corruption of Patriotism in the Age of Terror."

It was a sobering talk, even for 2 o'clock in the p.m. in the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church.

Dr. Orr opined that this year's election is not just the most important of our lifetime. He feels it may well be the most important of our entire national history, because at no point in our previous 200+ years has the Constitution been under such threat from radical forces which will do anything to maintain and enhance the unprecedented power they have already amassed. The presidency, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, the Judiciary, all under their sway ... and mass media too, which is corporate to the core and therefore does nothing but skate happily across surface events without ever bothering to ask probing questions about why we're being distracted by the trivia that fills our lives ... who's boinking whom, who's flashing what, who's wearing what designer's outfits?

During the Q & A session which followed his talk, one young man in the audience questioned Dr. Orr's admission that he would be voting for John Kerry, if Kerry turns out to be the nominee, even though Kerry would not necessarily be Orr's first choice. The young man, representing Boone's nascent Workers Socialist Party, said something to the effect that philosophical purity was more important than expediency.

To which Dr. Orr responded, "If Bush and Company win in November, don't you understand that there will be no progressive movement in the United States? They won't continue to allow it."

A conclusion not lost on those of us old enough to remember the McCarthy witchhunts and the John Birch Society ... but something that did not impress the young purists in the audience, who are just waiting for Ralph Nader to declare, so they can be sublimely pure and participate unwittingly, we guess, in the Final Solution for Democracy. It's awful, but I understand entirely where they're coming from. Understand their frustration while rueing their need to be ideologically pure at all costs. Life -- especially now -- is just too short.

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