By MICHAEL DAVIDOW, Radio Free New Hampshire
We went to a high school football game the other day. The son of one of our neighbors plays for the local team, so we thought it would be nice to cheer him on.
It was a great show. The lights were on. The crowd was large and boisterous. I thought we’d be the only ones there, but we could barely find a seat. Another player’s parents were sitting behind us, making angry comments about the officials. My kid learned some new words. We left at halftime, after watching the band play. It was cold. My kid wanted ice cream, of course. We found him some and then we went home.
Football is not usually my sport. The professional version is too garish for me, and the college version is too compromised. But the high school version still seems great. So many kids, so many parents, so many little brothers and sisters, all wandering about; eating, talking, staying warm in whatever way they could. And on the field, that slow and steady mayhem.
There was a school dance after the game, so maybe that was why the air crackled with so much excitement. A teenager’s world is still circumscribed, after all; still a simplified version of the thing itself, still local and still manageable. For teenagers themselves, it doesn’t seem to be any of that, of course, and that’s the whole charm of that age. Life seems exciting and filled with complication. And it is those things, without any doubt. All within a one-mile radius of the school gymnasium. It is hard to not smile, and impossible to not wish them all well.
It is sobering to think of how little things have changed in any important way since my own high school days, and how hard it is to place that sense of stasis in the proper context. Day in and day out, the parameters of our lives do remain constant, after all, and we are all guilty of living like teenagers in certain ways. We work, we go home, we eat dinner, we read a book or watch teevee, and then we go to sleep.
Not much drama happens in a regular day, or even a regular month or year, and the drama that happens tends to be domestic. Someone falls ill, someone dies. Someone falls in love, someone marries. A child is born. A dog gets to play. Our happiness comes from the relationships we manage to maintain, with our families first and foremost, but also with our friends and co-workers. No new technology has yet to replace the quiet conversation, or the touch of a hand, or a good meal, and none ever will. The life we lead in high school is the solid core of the life we lead ever after.
Yet technology has changed our lives in other significant ways, and we lose sight of that fact at our peril. Perhaps too many of us get lulled by the existential limits under which we live. Joe Biden was just in Scotland, with the rest of our world’s leaders: everyone visiting that place to discuss their plans to combat global warming.
We talk about it that way, calling it combat. That’s odd, when you think about it, because combat implies that we have an enemy. In combat, we identify that enemy and we try to defeat its forces. But the enemy in global warming is ourselves, of course. To win the battle on global warming, we have to defeat ourselves, and our sense that things are okay, because we ourselves are okay. Because here in America, our lives haven’t changed yet. Even though they will, and soon. Content with our local trees, we forget about the world’s forests. Until the rains come, or the hurricane winds, or the endless heat waves.
I wish that Joe Manchin had the guts and the brains to give up coal in return for making West Virginia the federal capitol for climate science, the way Lyndon Johnson managed to plant half of NASA in Texas. Imagine that: laboratories, factories, policy institutes, articles in the world news about international conferences, datelined Charleston. Polar bears and penguins in zoos across America, all named Joe. Progressive congresswomen wearing a picture of his head on ball gowns at charity events in Manhattan.
Instead, like a piker, like a guy in bed with the industry, like the nostalgiac sort he is — he prefers to make his state’s coal industry last as long as possible. Because it feeds him, and he’s hungry.
Give that man a fish so he can eat today. Save the fishing lessons for somebody else. Perhaps for someone whose life is about to change.