Slower down the mountain

Several years ago, I was somewhere in Colorado (more than likely Copper or Breckenridge) and standing at the bottom of a run with several friends. We stood in the mountain air and worked on getting some oxygen back in our system. After we’d caught our breath, we looked around and realized we were one person short.

“Where’s Su?” somebody asked.

Uncle Brian (not really our uncle, but really named Brian) snorted. “Su is slow. She has to stop and hug the trees on the way down.”

That was the dynamic in my college years. I surrounded myself with hippies, unabashed conservatives, punks, stoners, anarchists, Vegans, carnivores, rednecks and just about every other kind of world view that I could. Su and Uncle Brian were on opposite ends of the spectrum, but still managed a mutual respect and love that would seem impossible in today’s polarized political environment. I like it that way. When my friends can engage in spirited but respectful debate, I feel like I’m in the right place.

This is why I’m feeling no small amount of guilt about the level of vehemence I’ve built up for Sarah Palin.

Heavens, I want to respect her for the reality TV star she is. I want to tip my hat and say, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” I want to build the kind of deference I should for a woman who will eventually campaign to be my President. But, for the love of a good view of Russia, it’s really hard to find a dram of respect for someone who posts the following on Twitter.

Copenhgen=arrogance of man2think we can change nature’s ways.MUST b good stewards of God’s earth,but arrogant&naive2say man overpwers nature

Earth saw clmate chnge4 ions;will cont 2 c chnges.R duty2responsbly devlop resorces4humankind/not pollute&destroy;but cant alter naturl chng

And this woman wants to be my latex salesman.

See, my job here is to listen and respect the opinion of the opposition. That’s what I want people to do when people of my ilk speak, and so I really should return the respect. However, when somebody asserts that it is “arrogant&naive2say man overpwers nature,” I can’t just smile and say, “Well, isn’t that cute!”

Take a look at the L.A. skyline on a summer day. Look at the overfished oceans, fish species in trouble, and potential change to the undersea ecosystem. Look at the clear-cut rain forests that now serve as pasture land for McDonalds cows. I’m no “Save the Whales” guy, but it seems pretty clear to me that man pretty much makes nature its bitch on a regular basis. It doesn’t take a great theologian or scientist to recognize that without man’s intervention, nature would be acting a lot different today. The real debate should not be whether humankind can affect nature, but rather how big the impact is.

Ms. Palin would have us believe that nature shouldn’t worry at all about those nukes she can see in Russia from her front doorstep. She sets up a straw man and suggests environmentalists are trying to alter natural change, when in fact the earth-saving people she paints with such disdain are actually trying to protect the earth from unnatural change. Palin’s understanding of “ions” (yes, IONS) of climate change doesn’t take into account the obvious and undeniable damage humans do to earth every day. We’re a messy, disrespectful, selfish species. If the media ends up turning Palin and her ions into the next GOP heroes, there will at some point be an opposing candidate who finds himself in a Jon Lovitz cum Michael Dukakis “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy” moment.

That is a long way of saying that the earth may abide, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t leaving behind something fairly unfortunate and alliterative in our own sandbox.

Best I can tell, Palin has found what she believes to be a great base of people who don’t believe climate change is real. Unlike Plain, I respect those people. There are decent arguments out there that suggest that climate-change research has political and profit motives. Further, the zeal with which ol’ Al Gore has made hay with his movie really turns off the people who see him as a straggler from an administration they’d rather forget. I understand there are people who believe saving jobs and keeping taxes as low as possible are better than making an effort to stop reckless pollution. I may not agree with those people, but at least their arguments are honest and sincere.

Palin’s misguided pandering should be insulting to the people she is trying to impress with her 140-character screeds on Twitter. Her straw men, ampersands, and golly-gee wisdom from the snow pack misdirect a a debate that is really important, no matter what side you’re on.

Listen, I’m not yet all that impressed with the people I’ve chosen to represent me in Washington. So far, the people who should be fighting the good fight for we of the bleeding hearts are doing everything they can to alienate their base. It’s unfortunate and will probably send me screaming for a cabin in Idaho before it’s all said and done. So, y’all can make fun of me all you like for believing in hope and change. That said, you’ll have to excuse me if I glaze over and sigh when you tell me madam Palin is your woman.

Or, in a language you might understand: “u-wud-B-bttr-off-w/-ParisHilton as ur Prez. Least she noz watz hot.”