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Photo by Bob Gentry 2001 Stanyan Entertainment

A Thought for Today

April is the answer to the unasked question: Will things always be and stay the same? For better and for worse - they will not.


Sunday was April Fools day, but it wasn't very funny if you bothered to thumb through your Sunday Paper. Still, based on a sampling of newspapers in Washington, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Oakland, Seattle, San Francisco and Miami there seemed to be little doubt as to who deserved the title "King of the Fools."

I took a lot of heat for being "too political" during the last presidential election. No problem, I'm old enough and my hide thick enough to take whatever anyone dishes out. Lots of people think I shouldn't be political at all, but to be a poet and not care about your country makes no sense and would break an age-old tradition of poetics and politics being branches of a single tree.

It didn't start with American and British poets and it goes back further than the philosophers of Greece and Rome, the seers of
The Middle East and the ancient Chinese and Japanese prophets and poets.

So, I don't in any way apologize for interrupting your flight plan with the following by no means minority opinions, one from each coast.


By MAUREEN DOWD The New York Times, 
Sunday, 1 April 2001

Being witty about poisoned drinking water isn't easy. It requires a certain obtuse savoir-faire. Our president gave it a go Thursday night at a press dinner here.

"As you know, we're studying safe levels for arsenic in drinking water," he told the crowd of radio and TV correspondents at the Washington Hilton. "To base our decision on sound science, the scientists told us we needed to test the water glasses of about 3,000 people. Thank you for participating."

I guess a guy who can yuk it up about a woman he has executed in Texas can yuk it up about anything.

But it was a creepy moment.

It worked for Erin Brockovich to joke about the carcinogens in the water enviro-villains were sipping because she wanted to get the poison out. W. wants to keep the poison in - to help the enviro-villains who contributed to his campaign.

Forgive me, Al Gore.

I used to think you were striving too geekily to be Millennial Man. The Palm Pilot on your belt. The Blackberry. The Earth-cam you dreamed of. Citing "Futurama" as your favorite show. The obsessions about global warming and the information highway. Boldly choosing the first Jewish running mate.

But now I'm going hungry for a shred of modernity. Bush II has reeled backward so fast, economically, environmentally, globally, culturally, it's redolent of Dorothy clicking her way from the shimmering spires of Oz to a depressed black-and-white Kansas.

With the guidance of his regents, the Duke of Halliburton and Cardinal Rumsfeld, W. has set off the specter of a mushroom cloud of carcinogens and carbon dioxide emissions, nuclear power and "China Syndrome" fears, rapacious drilling and retrenchment on women's rights, the missile shield, spy tensions and the cold war.

The son has become what the father used to privately deride as an "extra- chromosome" conservative.

W.'s press conference on Thursday boiled down to one exhortation: "Let's hear it for corporations!"

This administration is so hawkish that Colin Powell is cast as a
sandals- and-beads peacenik. And John Ashcroft threatens to fry the F.B.I. spy.

The Clinton team wrestled with the messy grays of a post - cold - war world. The Bush team decided it was easier to bring back the cold war.

"These guys are linear," says a top official from Bush I. "They have to have black and white. They have to have bogeymen."

One veteran cold warrior who served under several presidents told me he was shocked that Bush II had refrozen the cold war.
"They've turned the clock back to 1983," he said. "It doesn't make any sense to slap the Russians around. They're already on their knees. We don't have to humiliate them. We need to use some finesse, to allow them some dignity.

"The thing I always hated about Clinton foreign policy was they seemed to be making it up as they went along. But these guys seem to be doing that, too. They are negative toward old policies, without coming up with anything positive."

The regents moved quickly to cast the administration in the gray-flannel image of their salad days. (One Republican says that Henry Kissinger once called Mr. Rumsfeld the most ruthless man he knew, all global despots included.)

Not satisfied with smacking around the Russians, humiliating Christie Whitman, downsizing Condi Rice and brushing back Colin Powell, the Cheney-Rumsfeld axis has no patience for the plaints of health-conscious yuppies, either.

You can just hear Rummy, slugging back a Scotch with Cheney in the Oval after they've put the Kid to bed, grousing about the gazillion dollars' worth of investments he has to sell to avoid a conflict, and growling: "Real men can drink twice that much arsenic. And how soon can we get some lead back in the lousy paint?"

What's next? Asbestos, DDT, bomb shelters, filterless cigarettes? Patti Page? Rummy griping that Laura Bush is too assertive? W. never seemed happier than he did on Friday at the White House, surrounded by the old-timers from the Baseball Hall of Fame, basking in memories of his beloved 50's.

He is only our second boomer president, but his White House needs Geritol. He seems older than his sprite of a father. He goes to bed early and, except for sports, is oddly disconnected from the culture. He seems to have no engagement with contemporary America, except by virtue of being the president of the United States. 

The New York Times, 2001


By JOHN BALZAR, The Los Angeles Times
Sunday, 1 April 2001

Just over a century ago, the historian Frederick Jackson Turner described America's dynamic in a word.

"Westering," he called it. 

Turner saw that the country was distinctively flavored, not just by the origins of its people, but by their encounters with the frontier, the land, the open space and the restless experience of migration. 

Modern historians may fault the old Harvard professor and Huntington Library researcher as too Euro-white, too simplistic. But he was not wrong. 

"We must feel it under our feet because we raised ourselves upon it," philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset said about the past. 

Americans cut their teeth on the frontier--both the Americans we call native and those we do not. Our mythology walks from the shadows of the forest, through box canyons of the deserts, across prairie grasses, past tumbling streams and over wind - blown summits of purple mountains majesty. These are wellsprings where we draw measures of our self-image. 

The story began in the West, back when the West was everything beyond Plymouth Rock. Actually, it began earlier but we have no record. 

Today, the long-running tale is perilously close to the last
chapter. Of all the vast wild West, shockingly little remains up for grabs. We argue over remnants of our legacy. 

Barely 1% of our forests stand untouched and roadless in the lower 48--7% if you include Alaska--according to the World Resources Institute. 

Naturally, argument over the forest gets more strident as the old trees vanish. Hungry people do not fight at a feast. Panic comes with the realization that there isn't enough to satisfy everyone. Panic is now. 

November's election may have doomed the larger share of what has not already been divvied up from these mythic forests, never mind that the forests received little fair discussion in the campaign. 

The self-proclaimed healer shows himself to be a Trojan Horse just as conservationists warned. Only a fanciful optimist can believe that George W. Bush will not somehow see to the reopening of 58.5 million acres of national forest that Bill Clinton finally set aside as roadless. 

The cruelty: Protection can always be undone while development cannot. 

Bush's go-go profiteers have no mandate for this decision to suspend roadless protections on these public lands. His election was not the result of a wane in conservation sensibilities but a surge in them. 

Have you hugged a Ralph Nader voter lately? 

Clinton's roadless designation was to take effect in March. Bush deferred implementation until May. Timber interests want to rush it even faster. Backed by the state of Idaho, they filed for an injunction against the Clinton protections in a federal court in Boise, Idaho--where judges are likely to share local prejudices, and where the reigning prejudice is to clear-cut and drill and mine and four-wheel-drive down to the last dollar. 

Oral arguments were delivered Friday, and the judge promised a speedy decision. Perhaps the court will do Bush's dirty work for him. Just bring on the bulldozers. 

But this is not a matter for local choice. These 58.5 million acres belong not to Idaho or Boise Cascade but to us. Each American holds equal trust deed to these lands. That's why they are called public. 

Why not argue the fate of the forests before a jury in Los Angeles or New York? You know why. 

True, not all Americans value their heritage equally. The music of the trees, said conservationist Aldo Leopold, is "by no means audible to all." Doesn't matter. Lots of good people hear it in their hearts. A majority of people, if counted by votes. 

Clinton had the right to protect these lands. He was right to do it. As it stood, his decision was a compromise, and barely enough. His error was to wait until the end to strive for a legacy. 

Bush won't make that mistake. He's jumping claim on his from the start. Call it, the end of Westering. 

Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times

Are the above articles frightening? You bet. And, I'm sure
there were opinion pieces just like them in your local newspapers Sunday as the 'petrol president' continues his nearly daily insults to the environment and shows his complete disdain for human welfare. Did I warn you about all this back during the presidential campaigns? I did, but there is no joy in I told you so gloating while the country and the people I love get scrubbed by The Shrub.

Can anything be done about all this? Here are some thoughts by a noted author.


A letter by Barbara Kingslover

Okay, I'll admit it, I spent the inaugural weekend in denial. (He's not my president. Most of us didn't actually vote for the guy ... ) Ignored the smarmy front-page photos of parades and balls, skipped straight to Section B to look for coverage of the protests. But the fact is, we now have a new administration that's hostile to the things I love most: human kindness, the dignity of diversity, and the wild glory of life on earth. It's time to move on from denial to the next stage, which would be bitter cynicism or action.

I'm opting for action, because I don't really have a choice. Looking out my window right now I can see my two girls outside under the mesquite trees in this precious riparian woodland where we live, and my heart starts to break for all the beautiful things they'll never see if I allow unchecked Bushwhacking in the next four years. Civil rights and reproductive choice I suppose we could win back in time (though not the lives lost along the way), but the waters and wild lands devastated will never come back. So I've taken a vow to spend at least some part of every week protecting the truths and places I treasure.

Part of that commitment involves this letter asking you to do the same. I'm fairly confident you'll agree with my concerns, because we're the majority. Not only did most of us not vote for the guy, we also-by a handy majority, the polls say-oppose the assault he and Gale Norton hope to launch.

To choose an urgent example, their plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is hugely unsupported by U.S. citizens, and has even met some opposition from his fellow Republicans. Most of us want the Arctic Refuge to remain pristine and untouched-and we feel this way in spite of current energy worries and the fact that this magnificent birthing ground for Arctic wildlife is, for most of us, a place we've only imagined.

The widespread reputation of Americans for selfishness notwithstanding, we are wise and generous enough to care about lives and places beyond our own backyards.

Starting today, if you haven't already, I hope you'll do a handful of concrete things including these: Post the addresses of your legislators somewhere where you'll see it, and make a habit of writing them weekly to help guide their decisions about social justice and the environment. 

Think of the California energy crisis as an opportunity to institute, in your home and your conversations with friends, a policy of conserving resources that will provide the only long-term solution. And get involved with your conservation community, locally and nationally.

A step I recommend is the Internet activist campaign called
SaveBioGems (http://www.SaveBioGems.org). 

When you visit this site, it will take you only about ten minutes to send faxes to politicians and CEO's to voice your interest in protecting places like the Arctic Refuge, Greater Yellowstone, the Macal Rainforest of Costa Rica and Red Rock Wilderness of Utah. If you register there, the Natural Resources Defense
Council will send you email alerts every so often (while also respecting your privacy) asking you to return to SaveBioGems to participate in a crucial fax or email campaign.

These things work. Every kind of communication adds up, and web activism is a new force in the political landscape. Lots of effective campaigns have made good use of the internet, such as the one against Nike, and it was web activism that recently helped NRDC to prevent the Mitsubishi corporation from destroying birthing grounds for the Pacific Grey Whale in Mexico. But it only works if we all care enough to get involved.

I believe the Bush administration has happened to us for a reason. Setting aside election fraud, family connections in Florida, and the fact that Republican districts almost everywhere have better voting machinery, the reason is complacency: too many people must have assumed that the things we cherish are permanently protected. We underestimated the power of wealthy corporations to put a petroleocracy into the White House. Now that it's there, it's our obligation and our right as citizens to drown out its awful agenda with our voices. We have majority support, now we just have to use it.

Please take a minute to visit http://www.SaveBioGems.org and if you agree with me, please extend this invitation to your friends and family. Thanks-our kids ask the world of us, and my greatest hope is to give them one, intact. Truly yours, Barbara Kingsolver

(Barbara Kingsolver is a well-known animal behaviorist/biologist and the author of "Bean Trees" and "The Poisonwood Bible.) The above letter was forwarded to me by "Pat."

                                       RM 4/2/2001

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Rod's random thoughts Balance is everything. Instead of adding more fuel, take away a little fire.

Everything comes together in the spring.

All life is imagery, but imagery is seldom life.


Another field of April snow
The sun begins to slice
each knoll or tree
that blocks it's view
until it strikes a lake
and falls from sight.
I mourn its going
as I mourn the now gone day.

The birch so straight and strong
will not let the wildest storm
bend it to its knees.
One in every hundred hundred
is uprooted and falls down
and only then by accident
or God's design.

Birds and beasts and man
standing in a line
waiting for the thaw.
No sign as yet that April
will be anything but echoes
of December's past.
This Winter's been the longest.

Let the snow make up
new rivers not yet named
or reinforce the old ones.
Let the green come sneaking
down the hills again
and climb the pines.
April, be not March or Monday.
Be yourself.

                   - from "Book of Days and a Month of Sundays", 1981

1970, 1981, 1986, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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