Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column.
Americans, as is our wont, continually focus on “the questions of the day.” Some of those issues change over time, but sometimes it takes a long time. And sometimes it’s a puzzlement why they were relevant in the first place.
A few examples:
1. Why do we need to know exactly where COVID-19 originated?
We’ve known for a few years that this coronavirus variant emerged in China. But why fuss about whether it originated in a Chinese “wet market,” where live animals are offered for sale as foodstuffs, or in a lab in Wuhan, or somewhere else in the country? It’s hard to make the case, as is sometimes maintained, that some group in China developed the virus deliberately, then released it upon the world’s population.
Some members of Congress seem determined to blame the Wuhan lab’s operators. If it did originate there, its release seems more likely to have resulted from carelessness than a deliberate act of evil. No nation suffered more from the effects of COVID than China. What difference does the virus’s specific location of origin actually make today?
Notwithstanding its common name, the catastrophic worldwide Spanish flu of 1918 did not originate in Spain. Today its most accepted birthplace was in hyper-rural Haskell County in far southwest Kansas, population of 3,780 in the most recent census. From there it apparently traveled 200 miles to Camp Funston (now Fort Riley), Kansas, and then to Europe with the deployment of American troops toward the end of World War One.
No one tries to blame Haskell County for the epidemic. So why the eagerness to cite a Wuhan lab for COVID-19? Is China itself, because of its competition with the United States, somehow to be held responsible if the disease is actually traced to a lab within its borders?
The purpose of the intensive search remains unclear. The whole brouhaha seems irrelevant to me.
2. Why the attack on “wokeness?”
Being “woke,” according to most definitions today, means “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).”
What’s wrong with that?
Few tenets command higher importance in America’s value pantheon than fairness for all people. It’s the central value cited by Thomas Jefferson in the opening sentences of the Declaration of Independence nearly 250 years ago.
Why try to sweep that fact under the rug? Why wouldn’t parents want their children to learn that value in school? And especially, what gives some parents the power to deprive other parents’ kids of the opportunity to learn about it in a public school?
I suppose, since America values freedom, a private school here can legally eliminate “wokeness” from its curriculum. But if America remains true to its core concepts, the situation is different for public schools.
We expect our children to recite, and believe in, the Pledge of Allegiance, which concludes with “liberty and justice for all.” That “for all” part is all-important. Everyone is entitled to liberty and justice, not just individuals of the dominant ethnic group, or the dominant religious persuasion, or the dominant sexual orientation.
I would be disappointed in my local school if the full measure of liberty and justice were not taught there.
3. Why not focus on remedies for climate change, rather than its causes?
We can measure climate change. All documentation of global temperatures, sea ice, and relative purity of the atmosphere over the past 100 years leave absolutely no doubt of the existence and the damage from climate warming throughout the planet.
People, being people, can argue about the causes. Most of us today accept scientists’ explanation that the deterioration derives from industrial and other manmade processes. A minority maintains that climate change is cyclical by nature—that the earth has always alternated between warming and cooling stages, and that human activity has relatively little to do with it.
The relevant point: human beings have the power to alter the course of climate changes that are incontrovertibly occurring. Regardless of its causes, climate change doesn’t have to continue on its present course. Reduction of gases emitted from burning carbon-based fuels, more use of environmentally friendly power sources, slower population growth, even shifts in dietary preferences can all cut the rate of global atmospheric warming.
It’s not a matter of how anymore—it’s a matter of whether and when. As in whether the major powers of the world, in the next few decades, will cooperate to change their manner of power generation.
Researchers predict dire consequences if changes don’t take place. Some of us will not be around to see, and live through, what happens.
But our children, and their children, will. It’s absolutely a right-to-life challenge.
Top image by Hafiez Razali available via Shutterstock.
Woke & White Supremacy
If one is going to discuss the virtues of 'woke', it would probably be best to not quote a slave owner...or the declaration of independence since the entire thing was written by white people for white people to uphold a white supremacist nation. This is not woke, this is performative.
I can understand Question #3...
...and fundamentally, I agree. However, the people who maintain that humans are not causing climate change in any way are largely the same people who argue that nothing can or should be done by humans (and public policies) to reduce climate change, because people aren't causing it in the first place. The connection is direct. And many of those people vote.
I continue to see denial comments online, but there are fewer now. It's largely because of determined pounding away about the human cause of climate change by determined climate change researchers and activists that the denier numbers have been reduced. (Well, that, and observation of what's actually happening to climate and weather patterns, not to mention droughts, floods, biota shifting north, etc.)
I think the pounding needs to continue, along with the remedy-seeking. And the pounding goal should not be to eliminate denial, helpful as that would be, but to continue to reduce it and keep it limited enough to become politically irrelevant. There are still Americans who believe the sun travels around the earth. But they aren't able to stop space programs.