This meme of George W. Bush popped up almost immediately after Barack Obama was elected. Presumably, it was intended to take us back to a time when things in America were better, when Obama’s deficit did not exist but W’s did, when we weren’t mired in wars but were righteously dreaming them up. The picture was intended to be funny. Tragically, it is.
At home and abroad, fiscally and morally, we had spent eight years running up costs and shrinking revenues. To give you a parallel of how well this worked out, I operated a fly shop during the Bush years according to a similar plan and experienced similar poor results, though in our defense, our shop hadn’t shrunk revenues on purpose like Bush had. The 2008 election was to be a referendum on failure. Obama and his opponent, a courageous war veteran and former champion of campaign finance reform, proposed a major change of course.
May John McCain be remembered as an earnest and hard-working senator and not the chump who brought a bag of hammers to a nail gun fight. Many, including me, believe this famous blunder was not McCain’s choice, and that the masters of his party preferred glorifying Bush’s cynicism to repudiating it. Perhaps the best evidence of this is Sarah Palin’s enduring celebrity, and the amazing fact that there are human beings who actually want to be like her.
Now we knew, as though there’d been any doubt, that they were serious. Who “they” were became clearer as well. The evil socialist Obama gave Wall Street a stern talking to, sent it to the corner for a time out, and that was kind of it. One wonder’s why, if only rhetorically. Why did Obama’s EPA equivocate when a majority of government-hating Alaskans didn’t want a copper mine at the Bristol Bay headwaters, especially when the science and due diligence were solid?
And why did the president give only lip service to climate change? Did he believe that 95% of climate scientists agreeing on its existence (and we all know how scientists love falling in line with each others’ theories) constituted a hoax, as the remaining 5% claimed? Or might he simply have achieved “Rapture readiness”, and had a jones to bring about the end of days?
No, he saw things as straight as anyone. Obama simply understood that he was but a brick in a command structure, one that allowed him to rock boats but not tip them. If we examine his presidency, this is less a critique of him – or even of his patrons – than an indictment of us all. Hope is fine. Change, not so much. Change hurts.
In 2009, Trout Unlimited turned 50. This organization of over 150,000 members had dedicated itself to improving trout habitat, the tacit assumption being that trout fisheries generally existed along a continuum of poor to good quality, but that they were nevertheless permanent. In the new millenium, however, it became clear how easily trout habitat could get knocked off of this continuum, that it could actually get extinguished.
It’s one thing, as TU is adept at doing, to halt the progress of invasive trout into native trout habitat. It’s quite another to keep stream temperatures from rising when no one can decide on the nature of the threat, if one even exists, or “screw it, the whole thing’s so scary, let’s pretend it’s not going to happen in our lifetimes!” Perhaps, due to more immediate threats such as the Pebble Mine, we should be excused for not knowing how to tackle climate change.
But only partially. For one thing, if Canada’s tar sands aren’t immediate, I don’t know what is. Consider also the fishing industry. Gear companies are now corporations operating according to the standard supply side model. Great for consumer choice, though one worries about sustainability.
Like all Americans, fishermen are willing victims of capitalism’s success. If our rods are to be capable of dropping an Adams into a thimble at 50 feet, if they are to remain affordable, there must be large scale consumption and waste. To have reels, fluorocarbon, Gore-Tex, sparkle yarn and hooks, our three hour drives for trout and cross country flights for steelhead, we must drill and excavate and burn at the expense of what we love.
Welcome to Bummer Theatre. There are some seats down in front, kind of tattered and sticky. The show’s still good, great in fact. As always, we’ll leave better people than when we came. Might at least try, though, to go easy on the popcorn.