Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What good is it?

A long time ago, I heard a saying that I've tried to take to heart ever since. "No one is totally useless who can at least serve as a bad example." Lord knows we've got more than enough of those examples these days. I bring this up because this morning I was caught up short by this Tweet from the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, "What good is it?"

I'm embarrassed to admit I've asked that question more than once, particularly about creatures such as ticks. I'm struggling these days with how Leopold's perspective applies to invasive species and Republicans. In fact, it's not all that long a stretch to argue that, since man is part of Nature, the disruptions we create must also be "natural." Think about now melting glaciers which, about 10,000 or so years ago, were growing and scouring the countryside down to bedrock. What good were they? They created "pristine" landscapes for life to use and lowered sea level to ease travel.

One of the major differences between (many of) Nature's changes and those we humans induce is the timeline we follow. Leopold's wonderful perspective that "Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf." is a far, far cry from the rate at which we try to impose our will on the world around us. As I look about at the efforts of a president, and Republican legislators at the federal and state level, the following three thoughts come to mind:

  1. Don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you've got
    Till it's gone
    ” - Joni Mitchell

  2. Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.” - Aldo Leopold

  3. At the rate we've been going, our democracy had become taken for granted, I fear, by too many of us. Perhaps now we will learn what good it is or we'll lose it. That might be an example of what good could come from the current administration.
I suppose, if we find what good Republican legislatures and the current administration may bring, there may even be hope for ticks. On the other hand, we can try to talk more with Republicans. No so ticks. Is it possible that our road to restorative development needs to start with restoring civility to our politics? Is that possible? It has to be.

Democracy


When you’re cold—November, the streets icy and everyone you pass
homeless, Goodwill coats and Hefty bags torn up to make ponchos—
someone is always at the pay phone, hunched over the receiver

spewing winter’s germs, swollen lipped, face chapped, making the last
tired connection of the day. You keep walking to keep the cold
at bay, too cold to wait for the bus, too depressing the thought

of entering that blue light, the chilled eyes watching you decide
which seat to take: the man with one leg, his crutches bumping
the smudged window glass, the woman with her purse clutched

to her breasts like a dead child, the boy, pimpled, morose, his head
shorn, a swastika carved into the stubble, staring you down.
So you walk into the cold you know: the wind, indifferent blade,

familiar, the gold leaves heaped along the gutters. You have
a home, a house with gas heat, a toilet that flushes. You have
a credit card, cash. You could take a taxi if one would show up.

You can feel it now: why people become Republicans: Get that dog
off the street. Remove that spit and graffiti. Arrest those people huddled
on the steps of the church. If it weren’t for them you could believe in god,

in freedom, the bus would appear and open its doors, the driver dressed
in his tan uniform, pants legs creased, dapper hat: Hello Miss, watch
your step now. But you’re not a Republican. You’re only tired, hungry,

you want out of the cold. So you give up, walk back, step into line behind
the grubby vet who hides a bag of wine under his pea coat, holds out
his grimy 85 cents, takes each step slow as he pleases, releases his coins

into the box and waits as they chink down the chute, stakes out a seat
in the back and eases his body into the stained vinyl to dream
as the chips of shrapnel in his knee warm up and his good leg

flops into the aisle. And you’ll doze off, too, in a while, next to the girl
who can’t sit still, who listens to her Walkman and taps her boots
to a rhythm you can’t hear, but you can see it—when she bops

her head and her hands do a jive in the air—you can feel it
as the bus rolls on, stopping at each red light in a long wheeze,
jerking and idling, rumbling up and lurching off again.



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