Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Optimistic numbers--Letter #66

Dear Governor Ducey,

            Generally, I’m an optimist. I can even be pretty naïve about the current trends of events when I want to be, when I think of my kids, when I think of my friends and my family and even spend time on Facebook I say, “Look at this good news. These people are doing good things. The world must indeed be getting better.” But then I leave my cloister of Facebook and the generally positive world of my friends and family and see signs of things getting worse. I was watching Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food on PBS where a chart showed diabetes in children doubling over the last 10 years. The rate of childhood diabetes was something like 3.2 percent in 2005. Now, 10 years later, it’s nearly 7.5 percent. More than double. The number of police shootings in LA alone has doubled in the last year. In the atmosphere, the particulates per million surpassed 400. 350 was the original make-or-break point for irreversible global warming.
            My kids and I watched “Life” on BBC. Orca whales tracked and surrounded a crab seal. Using only a tiny iceberg as its shield, the seal deflected the whale’s attempts to eat him. At one point, an orca lunged. The seal submerged. My daughter hid her eyes. We knew he was a goner. But then he popped up. Alive. The whales moved on to easier prey. The other seals looked on from their ice floe. I resisted saying to Zoe, in a couple of years, there will be no icebergs for the seal to use as deflection. No ice floes for the seals to watch from. No ice floes as refuge. No ice floes, no seals. No seals, no orcas.
            I read while watching TV in the paper the AZ Merit Test results. 25 percent passage rate in some districts in Arizona! How proud you must be! I turned to Zoe and said, “I know you did well on the Arizona Merit test but that doesn’t mean anything unless everyone does well. If your fellow students don’t do well, the world is getting worse, not better. You can’t make the world better on your own. It will take all of you.” I get preachy when I read news headlines about test scores while simultaneously watch ice floes shrink.
            It has been 10 years since I started writing letters to the editor. My first was published about the wanton shooting of cougars, treed with dogs no less, in the state of Utah. I wrote my first letter here a few years ago about wolves. The wolf population has increased so much that they’re on the verge of being delisted as an endangered species. Delisted, they will be subject to the same statistics that chart childhood diabetes and police shootings. The threats to the wolves becomes greater their number.
            I do think that I am getting better at recognizing the world is getting worse. I have memorized the names: Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Michael Brown. I have memorized the stats. 50%. 25%. I have counted the wolves. I have counted the cougars. I understand there are two tax codes. One for the wealthy, who can hire tax attorneys and find loopholes in ways to stash their money in the Bahamas. I understand that the 150 men who just invaded the National Wildlife Refuge in Malheur, Oregon believe they are patriots for a country that does not exist. If they were Muslim, they would be called terrorists. If they were black, they would be dead already. I understand these letters are just word, just numbers but, back in my idealistic mode, I believe that perhaps before change, there must be an accounting.

            I am still an optimist even in the face of dismal numbers. I believe that some police will be held accountable. I believe that the wolves will make a comeback. I didn’t say anything to my kids about the melting ice and the numbered days of the crab seal while we watched the show because maybe my kids will be the ones to reverse global warming having remembered seeing the show about the seals and the orcas. Maybe seeing that the test scores are what they are might stoke some people to say, perhaps 40 students per classroom isn’t the way to go. Maybe the letters won’t make it to you but maybe they’ll make it to a lot of people, which might be the way accounting works.

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