America has always been a land of myth and we all have our own personal stories of who we are and and where we've come from. Normal stuff.
BUT, in the past five years we've now crossed a threshold of myth and stepped into an unreality where fact and fiction intertwine to create an America of stories where nothing is real, science is dead and the truth is relative.
Confused? You should be.
"You're just confusing her," he said. "I firmly believe that kids should learn only English. People can't handle more than one language. Kids with more than one language don't succeed."
"Dad! Look at my wife! She was raised with three languages," I was bewildered.
"She's the exception."
"What about Switzerland?" I said.
"A failing country. Son, people like you are ruining America. Hell, look what happened in the Balkans."
"Dad...Serbs, Bosnians, Croatians - they all essentially speak the same language.
"No they don't."
With my father, there is no discussion to be had. He clings desperately to his beliefs no matter what evidence there is to the contrary and steadfastly refuses to perform his own research. His belief is his reality, even if there is no evidence to support it. In my father's view, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are honest people, Reagan and Bush II are fiscal conservatives, Saddam attacked the WTC, WMDs were found in Iraq, Switzerland is a failed state and environmental laws like NEPA and the ESA border on Nazism.
So it is with much of our nation's discourse today - particularly when it comes to environmental regulations. Belief trumps reality. Among America's conservative ruling class Rep. Pombo is the best example of this myth-making. For example, he decries environmental attacks on his family ranch in a book published several years ago, despite the fact that they never occurred:
"The park district sought this abandoned railroad right of way as a recreational trail through the property of two dozen local ranchers and that of my family," he wrote in his 1996 book This Land is Our Land, a brash credo on property rights and the evils of environmentalism. "We were very concerned that it would interfere with our ability to conduct business on our own property."
Pombo claimed the park district refused to fence the trail, police it or pick up trash, and that "viewshed" rules would have kept the ranchers from building new structures on their own land. All this, he wrote, and the park district refused to pay the ranchers a dime.
But none of this actually happened. The park district did propose a trail on the old rail line, but on a segment some 20 miles away, near San Francisco Bay. At that time, park district boundaries did not include the Pombo family land, Altamont Pass, or anything near it.
"The facts have been reported wrong," says Bob Doyle, the district's assistant general manager, "and it's become part of the robust history."
Source: High Country News
Such created "history" feeds a myth that distorts minds too lazy to seek out the truth - and that would be MOST AMERICANS.
In our country, corporations and politicians deliberately distort science - nowadays with the help of sciencefiction writers - and their own personal history - to suit either their ideology or their bottom line - thereby threatening the well-being of our nation.
Here in northern New Mexico, a Taos County Commissioner trumpets his beliefs that the natural gas development proposed for the Valle Vidal will create more than 500 jobs for his community; this despite figures from economists and the industry itself that shows no more than 90 jobs would be created and nearly all those will go to transient, out-of-state workers.
Rep. Pombo's mythmaking about his own past is, sadly, not the end of his fiction. Lately, he has lead the House into thinking that yet another giveaway (detailed HERE and HERE) to private corporations will somehow ease the energy crisis his own party is complicit in creating. His attempt to gut NEPA and the ESA is a myth-making exercise in and of itself. Pombo's Task Force is more about shaping an alternative reality around NEPA than finding real solutions to the challenges facing the law.
On August 1st, I attended the NEPA Task Force hearing in Rio Rancho, NM. Of the fourteen people invited by the Task Force to testify, barely three spoke in favor of NEPA. The Task Force had stacked the deck to be sure it heard what it wanted to hear.
This is how our nation works these days. You can create your own reality. If you don't like Social Security, create a myth of insolvency. If you don't like the results of a scientific study - change the results. In the world of the Right-Wing, you can create the reality you desire by just saying it is so - which is particularly ironic considering that ,America's conservatives, who so vehemently deny any sort of Relativism, are taking the rest of us on the ultimate Post-Modern roller-coaster ride.
At the NEPA hearings the myth-making was unreal: a woman from an Oregon industry front group posited lie after lie about the Biscuit Fire logging proposals. A man from Arizona lied about the proposed power lines that would run through the Tumacacori Highlands south of Tucson. A man from Burlington Resources lied about NEPA impacting its bottom line - despite their posting of record profits this year. Duane Zavadil of the Bill Barrett Corp. proclaimed that seismic trucks searching for oil and gas deposits have no environmental impact.
I sat through the hearing with my jaw on my chest: these people are lying under oath! Can't they go to jail for this?
Not in this America. Reality is relative.
Today the House will vote on to destroy one of the world's land mark environmental laws - The Endangered Species Act . So many lies have been told about the ESA, so many myths created, that the American people have no idea what to think.
This is what we've become.
My daughter will have two languages - at least. What I'm not sure of is if I want her growing up in an American that, at the dawn of the 21st Century, more resembles Soviet Russia in its creation of an alternate reality that has no basis in fact.