In a time when just about everything is politicized and monetized, when we think of states in reds and blues, sports stadiums by their corporate names and “stars”of football, Hollywood, politics, Silicon Valley and the Fortune 500 by their annual income and net worth, it might be time to discuss important issues with good old common sense.
Let’s not even talk about climate change, but let’s do talk about fire, about how it has changed in occurrence and complexity over the past 50 years, and what we should do about it.
We know that nature and Indians abiding with nature made fire a part of the Northwest environment for millennia. We know that white settlement began less than 200 years ago, fire suppression began 100 years ago, and that building in the urban-forest interface has increased rapidly over the last decades.
And we know that warmer temperatures and drier weather in some Western places has resulted in catastrophic wild fires. It’s simple to say that we have to reintroduce fire — an idea gaining wider acceptance with many audiences. But how?
Common sense tells me that the conversation cannot just be between timber companies and environmentalists, but has to include foresters, grasslands scientists, builders, city and county planners, climatologists, ranchers, farmers, loggers and Indian elders. Lawsuits will not get us through this mess — which is largely of our own creation.
Ditto rains and floods. Would you buy a house on the Florida Coast? In California wine country? Should private and government insurance programs continue to rebuild in known hazardous places? Get a conversation — and one outside of arguments about climate change — going!
International affairs? How could Democrat and Republican leaders continue to support the Saudis over decades, when the Saudis were building mosques and schools and exporting Wahhabi Sunni fundamentalism across the Middle East and into Asia?
Our lost lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, our lost influence in Syria and the human disaster in Yemen owe much to our reliance on the Saudis and our hatred for the Iranians. The Israelis? Sure, they should be part of the conversation, but not its controllers.
Money. If arms sales and money have led us to the Saudi-Yemeni-Syria fix we are in, can we openly address arms sales? And Mexican border issues, for that matter. We decry the illegal drugs and people coming this way, but do nothing about the arms and the manufacturing chemicals going into Mexico. These things are not, or should not be, partisan issues.
The one factor that all of the above seem to have in common is white men, mostly old white men. In international relations, Nikki Haley and Hillary Clinton are recent exceptions to the policy-making cabal of white men. And both have received praise in their diplomacy from political opponents.
In arms and chemical companies and sales, CEOs are universally white men. Domestically, in health care, women have gained some footholds (locally as well as nationally), which might be why health care has become an open national issue.
I don’t know whether we will get Medicare for All, or some kind of rational single-payer system, but the insurance companies are backing off on covering preconditions and the ripping up of Affordable Care championed by Sen. McConnell is giving way to more rational discussions of actual health care needs. I think we can thank women in Congress and in the health care business for this.
This tug between men and women in the professions and in power might be the most important battle of our times. And men — especially old white men like me — cannot be proud. If you want to get out of politics, look at the Catholic churches in Boston and Pennsylvania. And look back to Jimmy Swaggart. We white men have used our power to dominate women and girls — and sometimes boys — sexually, educationally and politically ... forever.
And if Judge Kavenaugh wasn’t the reckoning, he is getting us closer. I believe him: he has no recollection of his student actions while drunk.
But I have known blackout drunks and had been too close in my own student days. I am not proud of that and not proud of the white men — Democrats and Republicans — on that committee who could not bring up blackout drinking and sexual groping, standard operating procedure in the good old ‘50s and ‘60s when boys were supposed to get as much as they could, and it was up to girls to stop them.
Columnist Rich Wandschneider lives in Joseph.