It’s getting harder and harder to talk to you about how great the stock market is doing and how unemployment is a thing of the past (especially among black people), and how America is almost energy independent — because I can’t see you around all these damn gorillas in the room. Each one weighs 800 pounds, and every time I think of another way America is doing great, another gorilla comes in and sits down. And we don’t talk about them. We certainly don’t Tweet about them. You’d almost think they weren’t really there.
Here’s a recent arrival — from Iran. We’ve all been talking about Iran lately, since people there started taking to the streets in protest last month. We’ve been talking about how they’re tired of their government and their religion and their leaders, and how they love democracy, and want to be more like us. Which is awkward, because our Twitterer-in-Chief seems to want to go to war with them.
But we’ve been talking around the gorilla in the room; the years-long, brutal drought — the worst in nearly a thousand years — that has driven millions of farm families off their parched fields and into the cities, to look for work, to try to survive, to lose hope, to swarm and festeer toward protest, violence and revolution when nothing else is left.
There’s another gorilla here from Syria, and others from Afghanistan, Yemen, Nigeria, and Somalia. Oh, and this just in: Vietnam is now being stalked by its own gorilla, a migration of a million people away from the increasingly dessicated agricultural hub of the nation, the Mekong Delta.
It’s getting and harder and harder to discuss geopolitical checkers without looking any of these gorillas in the eye, harder to prattle on about hegemony over this and a sphere of influence over that, about how our enemy is religious extremism and the only hope for the world is our kind of democracy.
The world is being stalked by an enemy whose power and lethality exceeds that of any principality or empire that ever existed. It is turning our farms to deserts, our oceans to dead zones, our rivers to memories, it is smashing our cities with howling winds and submerging them in raging waters. And we created it. Yet to our talking heads and political leaders (is that an oxymoron?) it’s just an 800-pound gorilla in the room, never to be mentioned.
Perhaps people can be forgiven for shallow thinking about foreign countries (although not really, when they are living large on the oil and other resources being torn from those countries’ grasp). But there are people standing up to their you-know-whats in rising sea water in Miami and Norfolk and Texas and Louisiana, who won’t look at the gorilla, or say its name. “Frequent flooding,” they call it, “unusual weather.”
The current president of the united states is an expert at distracting people from gorillas by shouting “MOUSE!” From a forthcoming compendium titled “The Wit and Wisdom of Donald J-for-Genius Trump,” here is a meditation on climate change he delivered just the other day:
“There is a cooling, and there’s a heating. I mean look, it used to not be climate change, it used to be global warming. That wasn’t working too well because it was getting too cold all over the place. The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records. They’re at a record level.”
He didn’t go into his climate theories the other night in his State of the Union address. In fact he did not mention climate change (neither did Joe Kennedy in the Democratic response). He just prattled on about how great America is again, happily accepting the fawning applause of those who could move their arms, jostled as they were by the swarm of gorillas in the room.