Letter to my Daughter
Sunday, 30 June
The Los Angeles Times reported it was 122 degrees in Palm Springs Saturday. Talk about a heat wave – that will get your attention. If it’s July in Death Valley and you’re an inhabitant of Furnace Creek then the thermometer topping 110 or more may be business as usual. Even there, though, heat registering more than 120 degrees is notable. That kind of heat will clear the streets. Your ice cream will evaporate from the cone. People start to talk. Is this planet Earth?
Hey, people – stop acting like Chicken Little here. We’re in the Mojave Desert, OK? I mean, duh? So things got a little carried away; it happens. Everyone’s getting jittery with all this talk about Global Warming.
Are you nuts? Get your head out of the sand. What’s it going to take for you to wake up and do the math? Record tornadoes, record heat, record drought… it’s all just coincidence, right? Maybe when it becomes too hot for anyone to barbecue on the Fourth of July you’ll come around. Maybe when we’re all wearing heat reflective clothing and special headgear that we keep charged in the freezer before going outside – maybe then you’ll ask yourself, “What’s with the climate these days?”
Some people argued about cigarette smoking and cancer in the 1960s. There wasn't enough proof to make a reasonable connection. Some people felt the government overstepped a line when they ordered car makers to put seat belts in the family car. You can’t tell people what to do like that. Besides, the vehicle may catch on fire in a wreck. I feel safer being thrown free from the car. In fact, when I sail through the windshield I’ll be sure to hold a lit cigarette in my hand. Screw you, Uncle Sam, and your minions of know-it-all, dictatorial bureaucrats.
People herding cats have an easy time of it compared with trying to persuade this society of obstinate voters. At least cats don’t involve themselves in name-calling or bicker day and night on the airwaves. From the appearance provided by televised news it takes a special person to be a politician. Is it that they actually enjoy quarreling or have they just bit the bullet and braced themselves for the nastiness of it all? Can they turn it off when they leave work for home or does it carry over to what it is they’re having for supper?
“What’s this? Are we celebrating ‘I’m in love with Pasta Month’?”
“Let’s not start, Stan. Maybe you should have had a drink before dinner.”
And they’re off. Is it a natural talent to be able to compartmentalize your life and not take your work home with you or is it a skill that can be learned? You've spent the better part of the day planning for a lovely evening and now you catch a glimpse of your spouse being lambasted on cable news as a corrupt nitwit. He wants to overthrow America and strut about the White House wearing no clothes. Somehow the flowers on the dinner table have lost their fresh appeal. The splendid meal is drained of flavor and the delightful dinner conversation is a no-show because the tongue in your mouth feels like a misplaced stone.
Oh, I had such ideals when I went into public service. We were going to accomplish big things. Money isn't everything. We were going to engineer meaningful change for society. Enriching people’s lives would be its own reward. Now we’re in an uphill fight for reelection. The marriage, the family life seems like every other aspect of my life – a Hollywood set made for public consumption. Only my personal assistant, Kelly, knows what I’m going through, understands the real me.
Is there ever really a sunrise for this frame of mind? Or is it always just the alarm going off next to the bed that pulls your chain and your engine stumbles to life? Can you remember what you had for breakfast? Why? It doesn't matter. You’re driven by a cause bigger than you. That’s what you tell yourself. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe it’s time to rethink our assumptions. The experiences of our lives, the events that truly ground us to some kind of personal meaning, have become like the scenery that blurs by when we’re traveling at ninety miles an hour. Everything beyond the boundaries of our iPhone or iPad belongs to the realm of peripheral vision. Is this what it means to live the dream? I hope not. Point me to the porch. Hand me a lemonade. Let’s watch from the shade the freight train trumbling by, together.