"Setting the goal of energy independence, along with a gasoline tax, could help to solve so many of our problems today — from the deficit to climate change and national security." [→ READ ]
Thomas Friedman reawakens my on-again, off-again vision-and-hope machinery:
If Bush wants to make anything of his second term, he’ll have to do his own Nixon-to-China turnaround, reframe the debate and recast the priorities of his presidency. … And what should be the centerpiece of a policy of American renewal is blindingly obvious: making a quest for energy independence the moon shot of our generation.
Yes. What have we done instead? Consumed at a record pace, destroyed God’s creation — human and nature — at a record pace. Indebted ourselves at a record pace. Borne false witness, sown strife, division, rancor, violence, death. Queued up deadly consequences for years to come. For what?
What if instead, as Tom imagines —
Imagine — I know it is a stretch — that the president announced tomorrow that he wanted an immediate 50-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax — the “American Renewal Tax,” to be used to rebuild New Orleans, pay down the deficit, fund tax breaks for Americans to convert their cars to hybrid technology or biofuels, fund a Manhattan Project to develop energy independence, and subsidize mass transit systems for our major cities.
I used to dream like this. I used to expect our elevating people of character to important public offices like president, people of integrity, maturity, wisdom, judgment, and above all, people of vision.
And imagine if he tied this to an appeal to young people to go into science, math and engineering for the great national purpose of making us the greenest nation on the planet, to help liberate us from dependence on the worst regimes in the world for our oil and to help ease the global warming that is heating up the oceans, making our hurricanes more intense and our lowlands more vulnerable. America’s kids are hungry to be challenged for some larger purpose, which has been utterly absent in this presidency. …
A most precious commodity is hope for the future, the knowing we can recover, that we can get better again. If you have this hope, this knowing, even a tiny flickering flame of it, you are a vessel of extreme value. Nurture yourself, protect yourself, keep the pilot light lit.
Heroic deeds of community like evacuating children and the elderly from hospitals, rescuing people stranded on rooftops, distributing food and water to hungry and thirsty people and animals, like first responders of any stripe to an emergency, like doctors and firefighters and utility linemen and carpenters and care workers and volunteers and givers of all kinds — all these kinds of commitment and action are important, crucial, vital.
And alongside — because “where there is no vision, the people perish“ — keeping hope alive, keeping the vision, is important, crucial, vital, too.
I can do that. We can do that.
(Not all of us all the time, of course. I imagine all goes dark with the death of a child in war, or the destruction of a coastal community around you. But at any given moment, surely there’s a critical mass of us who can step up to the plate.)
Man, revisiting Proverbs 29 (the source of “where there is no vision”) is a revealing exercise:
A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes
will suddenly be destroyed — without remedy.
When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;
when the wicked rule, the people groan. …
By justice a king gives a country stability,
but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down. …
The righteous care about justice for the poor,
but the wicked have no such concern. …
If a ruler listens to lies,
all his officials become wicked. …
When the wicked thrive, so does sin,
but the righteous will see their downfall.
A man’s pride brings him low,
but a man of lowly spirit gains honor. …
What jumps out at me is these verses define “righteous” by example, and the examples turn the prevailing [Religious Right] understanding of “Who is righteous? Who is wicked?” upside down.
The righteous detest the dishonest;
the wicked detest the upright.