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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Entry 21: All The Power Lines Go East

August 5, 2014

Dear Friends

Re: Entry 21
Once upon a time, I was asked to speak at a conference on gas drilling.  Well, to put it more correctly, I was asked to fill in for someone who was asked to speak at a conference on gas drilling.  To the extent possible, I prepared, practiced and otherwise readied myself for the encounter (“the extent possible” being defined as that amount of content I could congeal from Wikipedia and Google while eating a Wal-Mart yogurt about an hour before the gathering. Of course, I jest). All went well, I spoke a bunch of words in a string that at least sounded coherent, no one seemed to be paying much attention until I asked for questions. To my utter surprise, about a dozen hands shot up, the sight of which caused me to vibrate with glee.  I selected an older women dressed in what appeared to communal-type clothing with a few buttons on her Chairman Mao blouse (“Impeach Nixon”, “Don’t Trust Anyone over 30”, “McCarthy”, and so forth).  She proceeded for the next 10 minutes to use my questioning period to lecture the crowd, me, the people on the panel, the hot dog guy in the hotel lobby and Curtis, the guy who hangs around outside, on the very evils of capitalism and gas drilling and all sorts of mean and nasty things (I actually kept thinking “this is Alice, from the Restaurant, in the song”—a very obscure reference that you should look up now!).  She was followed by several other commune types until I said, “If there are no actual questions, thank you very much”. The crowd sputtered some applause, mostly in relief, and I stumbled back to my seat.  This is where the real fun began.

I was approached by a rumpled –looking man who asked, politely, for a moment of my time (“Great” I thought, “Amway…”).  But no. He understood that I was a cog in the system, asked where I attended University (that is how he said it), and proceeded to berate me, my education, my dachshund, and so forth, on the lack of understanding on global warming.  I listened, until I had an opening—remember I had the advantage of being perceived as an idiot, not wholly implausible mind you, but an advantage nonetheless—and I said: “how did you get here today?”  He stopped and looked at me and said “what?” I repeated the question.  He said “Oh, I know what you’re getting at, that is the fallacy in the system, they cause us all to be prisoners to the corporate machine, but while you want to burn your fossil fuels and blah, blah, blah (fill in the blank, as you all have heard this self-righteous crap for 10 years now)…”. 
I leaned in and, almost at a whisper said.  “I’m a Christian.  I believe in faith brother, and I believe in the Gospel.  And what you seem to have right now is your very own gospel. And I’ve got to tell you, it’s more fundamentalist and more dogmatic—and tolerates less dissent—than the smallest backwoods country snake-handlers.  I know one thing about a gospel that if you believe it, if you preach it— Live it! (At this point, I was talking at a level that several around me stopped to hear what I was saying). Before you want to tell 3 billion people in the world that they can’t have electricity and all that it provides so that you can sit here in the United States and drive your hybrid car, and measure your carbon footprint and surf the internet and play pretend farmer—Live it!  You don’t like coal, which is 40% of our electricity in this country, go to your breaker box today—today brother!—and turn off 4 out of every 10 breakers.  Having surgery? Let’s hope you have it at Hospital (my phrase, now) where the power is renewable.  And no antibiotics, and no internet and no….toilet paper (I ran out of things at this point).  What you preach is bitter gall to the millions in poverty that you pretend to care about, this is the problem with your theology, and that is what it is, theology.  So before you go trying to proselytize me, give me the keys to your car, I’ll use it, you should walk home in the good conscience of the righteous man that I know you to be.”

He actually looked like he admired what I said, for a split second, and then he walked way, mumbling something about ignorance.  Apparently, I had given him my card at some point early in the conversation, because a week later I received a 14 page letter that was about as incoherent and ranting, but devilishly exhaustive, as a Unabomber manifesto.  I keep it still.
Now, you can choose to figure out how much of this was true and how much I embellished.  The fact is that we live in a country, in a part of that country better said, where we are as close to energy independent as anywhere in the world (and curiously, all the power lines go East).  In the mean old days, before we were led by these enlightened better-dressed hippies who believe in love not war, and peace at any cost (even the cost of your soul), energy independence meant security.  Countries once and still do go to war for energy, and yet our ruling classes, our government, weaken us by its adherence to a theology as strict, as intrusive, as intolerant as the Inquisition.  God save us all from the fools in charge.

Now don’t go all wobbly on me.

I remain


Fessler