Thursday, September 17, 2009

A House Divided

“As we watch the sun go down, evening after evening, through the smog across the poisoned waters of our native earth, we must ask ourselves seriously whether we really wish some future universal historian on another planet to say about us: "With all their genius and with all their skill, they ran out of foresight and air and food and water and ideas," or, "They went on playing politics until their world collapsed around them." ~U Thant (Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1961 to 1971), speech, 1970.

It is the last sentence of that quote that reverberates in me like the finely tuned strings of a guitar. Day after day, month after month, year after year, I watch with increasing alarm – and shame – as the environment continues to be a pawn in a great political game of chess. As the very board we are playing on decreases in size, disintegrates with pollutants from “industry” and it’s goon, “warfare.”

I have friends on both sides of the political spectrum. Those who call themselves “liberal” and those who call themselves “conservative.” Most of my friends agree that we must conserve our natural resources, that we are stewards of the environment, that we must protect endangered species. Just like we can all agree that SOMETHING has to be about our failing health care system. But like a husband and wife who can’t agree on the best way to arrive at their destination, we end up bickering and lose sight of our mutual goal in a sick battle of “he said, she said.”

The stakes are high in this political game we are playing. As my friend is fond of saying, “Follow the money.” Unfortunately, she is only able to see the food chain on one side of the political chasm. There are special interest groups on both sides, and the sooner “we the people” realize that we are being pitted against each other in a battle from which “we the people” will emerge as losers, if we emerge at all, the sooner we will be able to set aside our petty differences and work together.

Call me a Utopian, or a Polly Anna, call me naïve or just plain stupid. I still believe firmly that we have it in ourselves - as a community, a country, a continent, a world of people – to sit down at the proverbial table and find our commonalities and work toward those goals together. As Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” But I also know that there are forces out there who stand to profit from our divisiveness. As my friend says, “Follow the money.”

Kate Dardine is the Marketing Director for Art for Conservation and Fine Print Imaging, as well as a professional artist. ( Lately she's been quoting Rodney King: "Can't we all just get along?"

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