A Prayer for President Obama

I went run­ning this morn­ing, just a lit­tle over five miles, and because I live in Nashville, and because it’s June and it’s hot, I run very early, usu­ally well before 7 a.m. I run any­where between five and ten miles daily, but we’ve been beset by record heat this past week with a ten-day fore­cast that promises mid– to low-nineties for nearly all of it, and the early hour only helps so much. It gets so hot so early now, you can’t believe it. With the humid­ity down here, a sunny day in the mid-nineties that irra­di­ates the asphalt like a kiln feels like it’s well over a hun­dred degrees. It’s bone-stripping heat: you feel like your skeleton’s been removed from your body, so that you go Gumby after five min­utes in it. Peo­ple com­pletely avoid the out­doors come mid­day. It’s under­stand­able. This morn­ing, after drop­ping my kids off at camp, still sweat­ing from my run post-cold shower, I became so dizzy I thought I was going to faint.

Like bil­lions of peo­ple, to me the heat is a sign of things to come.  My wife and I talked about it this Sun­day morn­ing. We’d gone shop­ping at Tar­get, it was bru­tal out­side, and there were almost no cars in the lot at 11:30, uncom­mon even though plenty of folks were at church in this church-going city. I told my wife that when it’s this hot, I get a sick feel­ing in my gut, some­thing nearly ani­mal, almost instinc­tual. It’s a feel­ing that the world is going to end, that life on this planet will be fried to a crisp. I’m nei­ther a pes­simistic nor fear­ful per­son, but I liken this feel­ing to the days of the recent hous­ing bub­ble, that off-kilter feel­ing that there was too much wealth every­where, that first splin­ter of col­lec­tive guilt or doubt: how long can we be this…rich?

Who knows? My wife does:  “No,” she said, “we’re like roaches. We’ll find a way to sur­vive on this planet, except our lives on it will no longer be rec­og­niz­able to us.” And my rep­tile brain flashed back to the sev­en­ties and I had visions of Michael York in Logan’s Run. We’ll live in domes, I thought, and the world beyond the glass will be as unin­hab­it­able as the moon. As for Sand­men and youth cults, I don’t know about that, but in Min­nesota, in the unfor­giv­ing win­ters, they avoid the weather via tubes that con­nect build­ings. Why not a same avoid­ance infra­struc­ture for relent­less heat? We adapt, we adapt, and we forget.

This brings me to the Obama address tonight from the Oval Office about the Gulf oil spill. I’m pray­ing for some­thing, and that is to be surprised.

Rahm Emmanuel, the president’s Chief of Staff, is often quoted as say­ing, “A cri­sis is a ter­ri­ble thing to waste.”  A cri­sis is defined as a turn­ing point. Its ety­mol­ogy is very inter­est­ing: from the Greek krí­sis deci­sion, equiv. to krivar. s.of krī́nein to decide, sep­a­rate, judge + –sis –sis. A cri­sis is a moment of choice.

Like nearly all Amer­i­cans, the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon spill has hor­ri­fied me. What hor­ri­fies me more is the fact that, gen­er­ally speak­ing, we are more often than not a coun­try that waits for a cri­sis to make a sig­nif­i­cant course cor­rec­tion. My prayer for tonight is that after explain­ing the sit­u­a­tion on the ground, as it were, as well as way for­ward in the Gulf—clean-up efforts both present and future, etc.—the pres­i­dent announces a vig­or­ous, even rad­i­cal move away from a fos­sil fuel-based energy econ­omy. If he did, my faith in Wash­ing­ton as a bea­con of lead­er­ship would be renewed. I’m sure he won’t. This is quote from him in today’s New York Times:

Now I can’t promise folks that the oil will be cleaned up overnight,” Mr. Obama said. “It will not be.” More busi­nesses will be hurt and peo­ple will be angry. “But I promise you this, that things are going to return to normal.”

We have to change. A return to nor­mal is not an option.

If not now, when?

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In Mr. Peanut news, I received the Harper­Collins Canada copies of the book and their lus­trous and spec­tac­u­lar with a beau­ti­ful black spine. As I write this, Mr. Peanut is cur­rently #1 on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Indie Book­sellers Beach Reads.