A glass half full

By Larry Ferro

From time to time, we’ve all pondered this question: is the glass half full or half empty? If you are unfortunate enough to possess only AM radio, the answer is clear: the glass is half empty. If you’re uncertain on this matter, Rush, Beck, Levin and company will give you the low down.

Richard Larsen, in a recent column says, “what is happening to America is not just unacceptable, but it’s evil.”

It’s hard to say how much of this despairing outlook is owed to the “D” behind the name of the man on Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s natural to blame the world’s woes on the other party. When W was in charge, I must admit, I did the same.

But obviously, there’s more to it; apparently, we liberals are ruining everything, making the world, “evil”.

When I was a kid I listened to our parish priest rage against a certain manufacturer of cologne. From the pulpit, he held up a bottle. “Look at this,” he said. “It’s disgusting. Don’t tell me they designed this bottle accidently”. The bottle had a rather suggestive, phallic look to it but it was mild by today’s standards. The rest of the sermon was devoted to these themes: morals are decaying, the Day of Judgment is near, pray for redemption. That was forty years ago.

Fast forward to the eighties; Madonna struts her stuff on MTV and again, the voices of virtue proclaimed the death of it. Miley Cyrus has the spotlight now. In twenty years, be assured there’ll be plenty more Miley’s and Madonna’s, all twerking their way to the top.

I don’t like these publicity stunts anymore than anyone else, but I’ve yet to find any proof that the generations that grew up with Donna Summer or Madonna are any less moral than those that grew up with Marilyn Monroe or Betty Grable. How soon we forget that the fictional Walton’s lived when the Klan roamed freely, families regularly went hungry and gays didn’t even think of coming out. If those were moral times, I’ll take today and tomorrow, any day.

Aside from cultural degeneration, government is, of course, the other favored whipping boy among our right wing friends. Mr. Larsen states that, today, we have, “a fiercely potent centralized government . . . a fascist police state that, regulates, coerces, bullies, and spies on its citizens.”

It’s hard to express my bewilderment with this statement. To get a handle on it, I have to imagine a hypothetical day in the life of a hypothetical guy named Fred who is NOT Mr. Larsen but someone who fully epitomizes the far right.

When the sun rises, Fred heads to the local coffee shop where he discusses politics with his buddies. To a man, they loudly complain of bloated government and out of control entitlements. He leaves, cashes his social security check, his farm subsidy check and picks up his Medicare-paid-for prescriptions.

The President’s in town. Fred figures, now is the time to get some answers. He races across town, elbows his way to the front and peppers the President with a barrage of uncomfortable questions. Having never actually threatened the President, Fred’s not arrested.

He sees an abortion clinic, takes out his sign and begins to protest. Tired, he rest under the shade of a billboard he’s personally paid for. It proclaims green energy to be a rip-off. Rejuvenated, Fred rises and begins distributing leaflets urging everyone to take an oath to defend, not the constitution but some harebrained manifesto he’s just made up. Fred chuckles at the ability to do such things.

As the day wears on, Fred goes to the gun range but not before detouring to the gun shop where he picks up the AK-47 he ordered and the box of armor piercing bullets. At the range, he mounts, on distant targets, a few pictures of a certain president he dislikes, takes aim and chuckles still more.

Home, at his desk, he writes out checks to the Heritage Action group, the American Family Association and Freedom Watch and a few other tax free organizations with apple pie names and, because he’s rich and wants to drive his philosophy home, he makes them out for a million or two. This, he does, anonymously, (because he can).

Finally, Fred goes to bed but before doing so, he reads the story of Chang Song-thaek of North Korea who was recently executed for his political views. “What a schmuck,” he thinks. Fred turns out the light and curses the government for making him use an energy efficient light bulb. Pity poor Fred, the oppression is horrible.

My grandmother use to say, never fear the future but plan for it. Herein lies my greatest frustration with the far right. They complain, they obstruct but they never bother to inform themselves enough to become part of the solution. You won’t find them arguing the finer points of a scientific paper on global warming, homosexuality, income inequality, woman’s rights or education. You won’t find their numbers filling up seats on the National Science Foundation. Instead, they are content to form their opinions from people who make money by stirring up their emotions. It’s no coincidence that the AM dial is saturated with ads for gold sellers and bomb shelters.

My glass isn’t half empty and I don’t think the world is ending soon. Society isn’t plunging into a free fall. Every preacher since biblical times has been telling me that and two centuries from now, they’ll still be at it. The world’s changing, that’s certain, but it’s only our fear of that change that we really have to fear.

Larry Ferro is a chemical engineer living in Pocatello.