Monday, August 4, 2008

A walk in the park

I went for a walk yesterday (Sunday, Aug. 3). I’m usually not a big walker to tell you the truth. Most of the time when I want to get out and about, I put on my padded shorts and helmet and climb on my bike. But yesterday I decided to slow down a bit, although my walking and riding speeds aren’t significantly different. For good measure I decided to haul my camera with me. 

My destination on Sunday was, in my opinion, one of D.C.’s more lightly visited spots: the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial on Roosevelt Island. For those of you who haven’t visited T.R. lately – or ever – I highly recommend the trip. While you’re walking along the island’s paths it’s difficult to believe you’re just a hop, skip and a jump from downtown D.C. and Rosslyn.

The memorial consists of the obligatory statue (actually a pretty nice one), a plaza, two fountains (interestingly, they seem like they’re shaped like bathtubs), some reflecting pools and four stone monoliths. The monoliths are inscribed with T.R.’s quotes on the State, Nature, Manhood and Youth.

Many are quite interesting, such as:

Youth: “Alike for the nation and the individual, the one indispensable requisite is character.” – American Ideals, 1897.

Manhood: “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” – The Strenuous Life, 1900.

The State: “A great democracy has got to be progressive or it will soon cease to be great or a democracy.” – The New Nationalism, 1910. (Keep in mind, ol’ Teddy was a Republican.)

And, finally, Nature: “The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.” – The New Nationalism, 1910.

There are more, but I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you.

OK, after that long and winding lead-in (kind of like the paths on Roosevelt Island), I’ll get to my point. In a campaign commercial the comment was made the greatest threat facing America today is the threat of global terrorism.

I disagree.

The greatest threat facing America today is our dependence on foreign dealer to supply our energy habit and the influence terrorism has on our uninterrupted fix of raw materials. Instead of searching the armpits and assholes of the world for the folks who don’t like us in a futile attempt to protect our access to oil – in areas of the world I note, where the United States is decidedly unpopular – wouldn’t it just be easier to say, “Fine, keep it. We don’t need your stinkin’ oil.”

Now, what I’m not saying is along with a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage there should also be a pump jack in your backyard. Oil was the fuel of the 20th century. We need to move on and develop the fuel of the 21st century and beyond. (Hint: it’s like the sun, but not solar.)

We need a new idea, but neither of the “presumptive” candidates for the position of our fearless leader, nor most of the candidates for the lesser offices on the Hill, offers us any new ideas.

Let’s concentrate on the principles, shall we? According to the Boston Globe’s candidate platform section, John McCain “[H]as pledged to end U.S. reliance on foreign oil and says America must modernize the way it generates and employs energy. As president, would support ‘declaration of independence’ from foreign oil suppliers and rely on technological innovations to achieve that goal.”

Barack Obama’s platform, on the other hand, “Pledges to invest $150 billion over the next 10 years to develop and implement ‘climate-friendly energy supplies, protect our existing manufacturing base and creates millions of new jobs.’ Pledges to double federal clean energy research spending. Supports efforts to reduce dependence on foreign oil, and to reduce oil consumption by 35 percent by 2030.”

Ehhhh, we need more. Obama just says he will “reduce” dependence. McCain, on the other hand, will “end” reliance on foreign oil, but at the promised price of more drilling here at home, which won’t do a damned thing. That’s like selling your flat screen to get money for smack. The truth is there just isn’t that much oil here in the good ol’ US of A. But, good news, we have plenty of other options.

“The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.”

Along with proven reserves of coal and natural gas, we also need to vigorously fund nuclear, wind, solar and anything else that will produce (preferably in a clean sort of way) a kilowatt of electricity. I’m pretty sure we can do this because another of our greatest natural resources are Americans’ creativity and ingenuity.

What we need is something Kennedy-esque, something inspiring (and I know I’ve already used this quote, but it’s a pretty good one), “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

JFK said this on Sept. 12, 1962. Less than seven years later, on July 20, 1969, Americans walked on another planet for the first time. Not too bad: seven years to go half a million miles (round trip). It was hard, but we did it with more than five months to spare.

We need to force politicians to give us concrete details about what they're going do if we vote for and elect them. No more waffling (ummmm, waffles). I don't mean make them promise what they're going to accomplish, no one can predict that and I wouldn't believe them anyway. But they've got to promise us in hand-in-the-air, cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die, pinky swear concrete terms what they're going try to do to solve the problem.

I don’t care what other people say and think, I believe Americans are still, collectively, the smartest and most innovative group of people around. With the proper motivation, inspiration and leadership (from government and business) we, as a country can solve this problem.

The folks who hate us aren’t going to stop hating us because we stop buying their oil. In fact, the governments and terrorists in the Middle East (and idiots in South America) will probably hate us more because we’re no longer dependent on them. But I think it’s gonna be a lot easier to fight them when we’re no longer paying for the bullets and explosives they’re using on our troops in the first place.

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