(this post also appeared on my blog, Spanglemonkey, last week)
I am dwelling briefly on a forwarded email from my hapless friend with the orange-county-style Republican parents, who sometimes forwards these missives to us, her friends, in a "Can I Get a Witness!?" manner.
This one asked the offhand question: "Where would we have been if Gore had been president!" a question meant to be rhetorical, implying "Oh dear lord, with a big fat liberal at the helm we'd all be Islamic and forced to marry people of the same sex by now!" (Dibs on Catherine Zeta-Jones, I say...)
I have often thought of that particular question. What would Gore have done? (WWGHD?)
With his interest in the environment (the place where we live, you'll recall) I can imagine a response something along the lines of a more direct correlation between cause and effect. Where did the "terrorists" come from? They came from Saudi Arabia. What is our connection with Saudi?
We put refined oil into our cars. We depend on oil to support our infrastructure in such an intricate way that we can't really imagine life without it. In fact, the thought of life without it scares the bejeepers out of us. Will we be reduced to some kind of stone-age looting and pillaging? Will Bibles lie in smoldering piles in every intersection? Will we have to marry people of the same sex?!
I imagine that Gore would have had the nuts to address this connection to the "terrorists" head-on, and to draw it into the public discourse. He might even have been able to take on the oil lobby, since he wasn't actually IN the oil lobby in the first place, or count on members of same to be best men for his children's weddings and such. Certainly I imagine that he wouldn't have used the general fear and collective Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to advance the interests of the oil lobby.
Nope, I can picture Gore making a connection between our own oil usage, and the savage anger of a disenfranchised and brainwashed group of religious fundamentalists who are, well, "resentful" is one word for what they see as a life-threatening intrusion on their culture and society.
Perhaps by now we'd see a reassessment of our priorities as a nation, in terms of our energy usage. Perhaps we could have channeled some of our collective shock and surge in patriotism (remember the blood drives?) into a Plan. A Plan like building trolleys in medium to large cities with little or no good public transportation (Bakersfield. Las Vegas. Phoenix. Heck, Deadwood City, my own burg.) A plan to investigate hybrid fuels and alternative sources of energy to heat houses.
We might, in other words, have found a way to strengthen the people we are at our best: innovative, forward-thinking, filled with trust and optimism, yes, perhaps naive. Perhaps we wouldn't be spending all of our collective energy making excuses for the knee-jerk violence and doubletalk of an administration with no earthly idea of the beauty of the system that put them in power in the first place.