There are two political issues that keep left and right fighting. They help keep the national divide deep and wide. The political imperatives of both of these things force us into positions that are sometimes simply weird positions to defend.
Those two issues are: abortion and climate change. These are issues that polarize people in ways they actually shouldn’t. What do I mean?
First, they are both rooted in our better selves. Pro-lifers advocate for a culture that respects and protects children in the womb. I like that. We do all sorts of pre-natal care and we put warning labels on tuna for pregnant women and give them preferred parking spots at malls. We help them up and out of chairs, hold doors for them and let them go to the fronts of lines. We should absolutely do all of these things. Inherently, we’re all pro-life, whether we vote that way or not. We have an instinct to protect our unborn. We have an instinct to protect the expectant mother. Those are good instincts. I like humans. I hope they stick around for a while. Otherwise, I’d have nobody to argue with on face book.
The climate change people are also operating from the depths of their better angels. Protecting our home is a good instinct. We literally got no place else to go if the earth fails to yield its bounty. I’m all for keeping Gaia clean, well-managed and properly maintained. The instinct to protect mother earth is not that far removed from the instinct to protect her offspring. I wish we could all understand that these instincts we have are not in conflict, but in harmony. We kinda all want the same thing.
But when these issues get couched in politics, people square off against each other and forfeit the high ground. It’s kind of a vicious cycle. But here’s the thing …
Where these issues reside politically and where they reside in PRACTICALITY are often worlds apart.
Believe it or not, my views on abortion were changed by two leaders: Bill Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Both men are on opposite sides of the political spectrum but they share the same view on this divisive issue. The truth is you probably actually do too.
When I heard Bill Clinton say in a speech how he despises the very notion of abortion but doesn’t want to see young women going to prison for it, that rang true with me …even though I personally find him to be a questionable human being. Giuliani said the same thing as a Republican and it probably cost him a national political career.
But he lobbied to get more pro-adoption legislation passed as mayor of New York City. And guess what? Abortions went down …a lot. So he achieved the stated goal of the pro-life movement without spending his time in the weeds of getting legal decisions overturned or trying to get over-reaching, punitive laws passed.
If you make something ILLEGAL, anyone who breaks that law would have to be punished …would they not? And the truth is, we don’t really want to start sending girls who have abortions to jail. At least I don’t. In practicality, working to end abortion – and not being in favor of imprisoning someone who gets one – can live in the same philosophical universe.
My daughter, who is missing a piece of a chromosome, would not be able to carry a child to term without it endangering her life and the life of the unborn child. In fact, it would probably kill them both. If she were to be raped and become pregnant, my wife and I would be faced with a nightmare of a decision. And I would rather not have to make that decision under the weight of laws that might send one of us to prison.
The subject of climate change is no different. The absolute belief in the current narrative about climate, becomes a litmus test for whether or not you are truly part of the informed intelligencia or if you’re a mouth breathing flat-earther. The climate change debate makes my eyes roll so far back in my head I can see my sinus infection. Because NONE of it really matters …in practice.
Is man affecting the climate with “man” activity. Of course he is. So is the whale and the dolphin and the spider and the chimpanzee. Anything that takes in air and blows it back out is always affecting the planetary balance. It’s a certainty and it’s okay …really …the world can take it.
The objectives of climate change politics are noble. But, in truth, the practicality comes down to this one question: how much of your lifestyle are you willing to give up to affect future hypothetical weather? If I could prove to you that all of us getting off face book or getting rid of air conditioning or just stopping all air travel would decrease the warming of the planet by 10% …would you do it? How about 5%? How about 80%? The truth is I would not change my current lifestyle to affect that number no matter what that number was. I wouldn’t change travel plans. I don’t set my thermometer in my house based on it. I don’t limit my computer time based on it. And neither do you. Every person on earth has to ask themselves the same question. But think of it this way …
If I could prove to Seth Myers that everyone turing off their televisions and viewing devices at the exact time he went on the air, and keeping them off until 8 am the next morning, would affect the climate in a positive way, and I then went on to insist that he give up his show and time slot, would he do it? Of course not. He would argue the premise and challenge the science …as well he should. Because that’s a pretty big assertion to make and it affects the lives and jobs of thousands of people. I would also be making an existential conclusion about human activity, on the 24-hour clock, that is utterly ridiculous and straight out of the third grade mind.
But what if I could just start a campaign …a movement (if you will) that demonized Seth Myers because of his obstinate position on climate change? What if I could turn him from a good-natured, talented comedian into a greedy, science denier …JUST because he (very correctly) challenged my premise?
The issue is, that while my assertion is probably based in some abstract fact, it is completely untenable as any sort of real remedy for the problem in question. I suppose if we ALL turned off our electricity at 11 pm every night – ALL OVER THE WORLD – it might make some difference in our collective carbon footprint. But that is simply not going to happen. It is literally impossible to make it happen. So, is Seth Myers part of the climate change problem? Well …technically, yes. But practically …no. Because if you are living and breathing, you are technically a part of the problem. But if we (humans) all went away …who the hell would care if the climate is changing in the first place?
Carly Fiorina actually articulated my position on this perfectly. The basic gist is this: we have to be stewards of the planet. There is no doubt about that. But translating stewardship into sweeping government programs, tax hikes and thick, global bureaucracy probably doesn’t do as much to save the planet as it does to build more government infrastructure …that must be housed, heated and cooled.
Most of our innovation in technology that reduces bad stuff and increases efficiently comes from the private sector. The innovators and the geniuses who make us more efficient and “green” are not going to be duly elected officials …they’re going to come from a free market incentivized to do so. Because even evil capitalists have to breathe air and drink water.
The county in Tennessee, where I live, is one of the most politically conservative in the state. It’s also the county with the highest rate of recycling. That activity is not mandated here. The government doesn’t show up and collect it. To the contrary, our county (as well as many grocery store parking lots) decided to provide a host of recycling options. And a TRUE conservative will be conservative in their trash production. We also happen to be one of the counties with one of the highest adoption rates in the state. Two political objectives being achieved without political shots being fired. Basic incentive can go a long way.
Does this save the planet? Does it stop abortion? I don’t know. But it moves in the right direction.
Every person reading this wants life protected. Of course you do. You also want the planet we live on to be protected …of course you do. All of us want these things. But the ways we actually GET there might be at odds with our own political dogma.
My opinion is most people are probably, actually, Libertarians at heart. They just don’t know it.
And the Libertarian says …let people work it out on their own as long as they can, without the government stepping in. Sometimes they surprise you and do the right thing. Some times they don’t.
But when you get the government and law-making involved, you’re talking about something the state either punishes or rewards. Climate change and abortion might just be two issues we’d be better off solving on our own, without bothering the people in Washington …who we claim to be sick of anyway.