Parade of Coffins

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to support a bill that would impose a ban on some assault weapons along with other measures aimed at reducing the likelihood of another tragedy like Sandy Hook. That bill, in all likelihood, will now die in the Senate. Even if it somehow survives the Republican tantrum that will inevitably come, it has zero chance of passing a House of Representatives held hostage by rabid constituents and lobbyists like the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre.

I struggle to find words to capture the abiding sadness of this state of affairs. Each new massacre seems like it must be the final straw — that at last, we will come together and decide that even if we cannot agree on the exact prescription, something must change. Instead, we just watch a parade of coffins while we salivate over every twisted detail of the lives of the monsters that fill them with children. And when those lives have vanished into the dirt we do nothing but shout at each other as we buy even more weapons of war for our personal collections. We debate the mental status of the Aurora shooter while we do nothing and expect different results — the very definition of insanity.

Of course he was insane, as is any person who buys his 15 minutes with the blood of others. But at this point, who are we to judge? So we trot out poor Gabby Giffords, applaud her condescendingly and then ignore the plea that she has no choice but to deliver in simple, difficult bursts because the bullet hole through her head robbed the former Congresswoman of her power of speech. Continue reading

Fighting Climate Change in Your Own Backyard

My last column talked about divestment — how I believe that it has powerful symbolic value but that it must not be used as a substitute for personal or community-level changes that would directly reduce the amount of carbon emissions for which we are responsible. Although I appreciate Hannah Bristol ’14.5’s response, I can’t help but feel as though she missed the point entirely. Tellingly, she does not offer a single solution to climate change beyond talking to “folks.” At this point, education is not enough.

I am fully and painfully aware that we cannot solve global climate change by turning off our lights. But we also must not forget that those choices do have value. When I drive from my apartment downtown to Proctor dining hall in the morning, or crank up the air conditioning on a hot day or fly halfway around the globe to Australia, I am contributing to the problem of climate change by releasing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and increasing the demand for fossil fuels. That round-trip flight alone sent more carbon aloft than the annual car use of entire American families. Such choices should hardly be dismissed as trivial; to do so feeds into the gloomy fallacy that we are helpless against global warming.

I worry about the push for divestment or the protests against the Keystone pipeline not because they don’t have value, but because in these causes I see an unwillingness to accept personal responsibility for climate change. It’s not enough to point at others and cry “stop tempting me with this sweet, sweet gasoline.” Oil and coal companies are not forcing us to buy product that we do not want. I am the cause of climate change. You are the cause of climate change. Al Gore and George W. Bush, Bill McKibben and Rex Tillerson are all the cause of climate change. Continue reading