to the madman on the streetcorner
From the 10-19-2003 Daily Sparks, Nev.,
And the 10-23-2003 Comstock Chronicle
I sense a certain burned-out tiredness to this flaming Nevada fall. The high desert's long hot summer began in May, scorching the frail waif of spring before she could tease a toehold out of Mother Nature. Perhaps dear old mom was sending a warning. If so, it fell on deaf ears.
Proving that we see what we expect to see and believe only what's popularly acceptable, a majority of respondents to the Reno paper's unscientific Internet poll last week stated that they believe they will not witness the effects of global warming in their lifetimes.
Tell that to the disappearing snows of Kilimanjaro.
Maybe wiseman George Carlin was onto something when he theorized that perhaps mankind has served its purpose. Maybe God wanted plastic and dropped us here to make it. Now that we have the earth plus plastic, we can gracefully go away.
It's as good a script as any for the concrete cartoon of murder, mayhem, birth and death with which we primitives have plagued the planet.
Just how primitive are we? We figured out how to produce and distribute electricity more than a century ago, but we're still stringing wires on sticks. They go down, we go down. People die without the magic wands purveyed by the likes of Sierra Pacific.
Between the pedestrian pedagoguery of our educational system and the garden variety superstition peddled by professional preachers, we have evolved into a nation of fat sheep available for shearing by whomever produces the proper television image.
Unless what you say and think is acceptable to goodly numbers of conservative status quoters, not even something potentially lifesaving can be promulgated. Louis Pasteur was trashed for asserting that surgeons should wash their hands before cutting into some poor lout.
The fight against any new facts has not changed.
A few years ago, an admirable Australian doctor courageously infected himself with the bacterium now generally accepted as causing a large percentage of digestive tract ulcers. He cured himself with antibiotics and has been honored for his discovery, but was first ridiculed for even proposing what he proved to be true.
All you need do is look around you to find a latter day Copernicus or Galileo. Do not discount the madman preaching on the corner or the homeless person grinning a wizened smile behind dirty whiskers.
Like cats and dogs, perhaps their eyes see the world differently and may not only sense dangers but also impart wisdom.
Alas and alack, just as the Trojan royal family refused to listen to Princess Cassandra's warnings, we usually ignore the eccentrics, whistleblowers, blowhards and bastards until it's too late.
Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor in the United States, shucked her way into med school by applying as "E. Blackwell." She was almost expelled when she asserted that one of her prestigious professors should wash his hands and boil his instruments before surgery.
The penitent doctor saved her career after his patient died exactly as Blackwell had predicted. She had read Pasteur, he had not.
Such heretics usually get burned at the stake, either figuratively or literally. Dogmatically status quoter conservatives refuse to believe the facts at hand until the meatballs are bombing Pearl or the second jetliner has gutted the World Trade Center.
Afterward, we offer worship to some tired, fictionalized god and vow revenge in his or her or its name. (Beware anyone who says he or she speaks for God.)
Meanwhile, the madman on the streetcorner still issues his rants and raves his warnings but just doesn't smell good enough or dress well enough to be credible on Larry King Live.
As e.e. cummings once wrote, "pity this monster mannunkind."
Pity, indeed, a creature whose answer to suffering is to promote more suffering, $87 billion and counting.
Perhaps a creatively benevolent madman or crazywoman will one day by accident attain credibility or political power.
Given the constantly improving implements of murder and mayhem all about us, can putting someone certifiable in charge make things much worse?
Next time you see an eccentric preaching on a streetcorner, listen to him or her. The voice of God is often delivered in strange packages devoid of bumper stickers.
Be well. Raise hell.
Copyright © 1982-2003 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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