Thursday, January 14, 2010


Atheists have no shortage of formative influences these days. Perhaps they are moved by Darwin’s theories explaining the flow of history “naturally” and not as a result of conscious agency. Or maybe they’ve been moved by Marx’s view of religion as the “opiate of the masses,” or Freud’s idea that religion is an “illusion … that … falls in with our instinctual desires.” Then again, they could be students of the Holocaust, who look with horror at the depravity of man-on-man violence, and question how a God that is good could ever cause such suffering to “His Chosen People,” or any other one for that matter.

Yes, atheists have plenty of material on which to draw. But before there was Darwin, or Marx, or Freud, or Hitler, there were earthquakes. And it is arguably with the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 that the fire of modern atheism was fueled.

Just think back to Voltaire’s Candide, and how he mocked his Leibnizian character, Pangloss, for thinking that this is the “best of all possible worlds.” Leibniz spoke for most of the 17th century when he uttered those words about God’s creation. But after Lisbon, it was hard to take that statement seriously, at least in Europe, where Enlightenment thinkers were facing the reality of roughly 50,000 deaths and not one human being on which to place the blame. If ever there was an “act of God,” it was an earthquake. And yet that act of God whisked away saint and sinner alike in magnitudes that can only be described as “Biblical.” For Voltaire and other free-thinkers, it was high time to either give up traditional theism or the devotion to truth. One simply couldn’t have both.

Well, that was then, and this is now. Here we are, 255 years later, and how should our new year start? With another earthquake that has apparently killed roughly 50,000 people and surely destroyed the lives of countless others who survived. Most of us hardly needed this reminder that no benevolent, superhuman consciousness is pulling the strings around here. But I’ve been starting to wonder if people had forgotten that the world we inhabit is fragile and deadly. Perhaps if there is a silver lining in this awful Haitian catastrophe, it’s that we truly did need a wake-up call – not this much of one, mind you, but some kind of lesson -- about what will happen if we continue to blow off our environment. I’m not saying that because I’m a prophet. I’m saying that because I’ve seen “An Inconvenient Truth” …. or more to the point, because the climate change in this world is palpable and increasingly scary to anyone who doesn’t have a hard-right agenda.

Candidly, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the GOP is fighting Barack’s efforts to declare war on climate change. Once the Democrats took the lead on that issue, the GOP became duty bound to obstruct any kind of progress on the issue by denying that the issue even exists. “Forget the melting of the ice of the Arctic,” they’re essentially telling us. “This global warming is a purely cyclical phenomenon, and before long, the polar bear will be the luckiest species on the Earth.”

Yeah, I expect GOP push-back on climate change legislation and am counting on another 60-40 party-line vote in the Senate on that topic, just as we had on health care. But what I didn’t expect was to see people like Rush Limbaugh politicize the issue of Haiti relief. Since when were earthquakes political footballs? I don’t recall Al Gore focusing on them in his crusade against climate change. So why then did Rush say that because the U.S. Government will be paying $100 million to help with the Haiti earthquake relief, we American citizens need not pay any of our own money? To quote the Mouth himself, “We've already donated to Haiti. It's called the U.S. income tax." He also claimed that the earthquake would enable the President to emphasize his "compassionate" and "humanitarian" credentials and "boost his credibility with the black community.”

And all this because as the President of the United States, Barack Obama decided to spend roughly 30 cents of taxpayer money per American to help minimize one of the greatest disasters in recent memory. Do the math, folks – the $100 million in federal aid amounts to 30 cents a person, or in the case of my family of four, a buck twenty. Does Rush really think that’s all the charity we need to give to address such an extreme humanitarian crisis? Can anyone listen to that guy and possibly call him a Christian?

I’m still shaking my head that one of our two political parties has been hijacked by such a bastard. And the tragedy is not just that many Americans will follow his lead and refrain from giving the people of Haiti the funds that they need (and deserve), but that many American LEADERS have been so intimidated by Rush that it when it comes time to stand up on climate change legislation, you can count on them to vote no. Hell, you can count on them to filibuster it. At that point, you see, Barack will be asking for a lot more than 30 cents per American. Climate change legislation, if it is to be meaningful, could have far-reaching economic implications. But for this cause, it’s time to open up the wallet. Gas tax? Check. Major federally-funded investment in green technology? Check. Subsidies for people who buy the “right” kind of vehicles, or cut down on their home energy bills? I support that as well. And really, why wouldn’t everyone support those measures?

The next time you hear Rush question the value of climate-change legislation, just remember – this was the same ass who scoffed at the idea of providing more than 30 cents an American to help a nation that is either buried in concrete, mass coffins, or grief. And the next time you hear a politician question the value of climate-change legislation, ask yourself – is he afraid of antagonizing his base, which has become dominated by Dittoheads?

Barack should ask the GOP for their support on this legislation and see if there are any who unabashedly say – like the Republican Governor of California – that they are with him on that issue. But he need not ask twice. We spent most of last year dithering on health care. When it comes to climate change, we don’t have time to dither. The Democrats might have to get this job done by themselves. As W liked to say, “Let’s roll.”

And by the way, let me please urge my readers to stick it to Rush in the best way possible. Don’t just give to Haiti relief. Give now, and give a lot!

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