Marolt: Reducing our ass prints to match our carbon footprints
I sat down to write this column full of holiday spirit and looking forward to chasing it to the warmth in my core with a good glass of wine. I wrote in the kitchen to be surrounded by the evening family activities that I cherish for inspiration and background noise from the small countertop television filling between the sounds of cooking, homework and the dog getting what attention he could. It was perfect for the good mood I wanted to hold as long as the day’s remaining wakefulness would allow.
Then there were 14 shot dead and 17 wounded in San Bernardino, California, and like that, the gray noise turned red as it stole the cozy space we occupied and spooked the joy needed to write a seasonal note of hope.
The commentators assured us that the massacre was not the work of terrorists but only of three heavily armed people acting alone. What has it come to when we take solace in murders being of our own national origin? Of course the ruthless gunmen in California were terrorists! That they might have known the Pledge of Allegiance or how to make the sign of the cross gives me no comfort! It’s time we stop associating bad and good people with a race, nationality or religion. There are murderers and torturers, and there are people who are not. The evil reside everywhere.
We feel powerless to do anything about the senseless acts of violence that terrorists are driven to. Only SWAT teams and the armed forces can stop the insanity, and when they don’t, we call for a change in leadership, for certainly a flaw there is why this madness continues. It is why the war on terrorism has become a source for the biggest promises and the greatest ammunition in political debate.
But what if the answer to terrorism is not as simple as one loudmouth or the other talking tough and telling us straight that, unfortunately, some of our liberties have to be sacrificed in order to assure our safety? What if this threat to our planet is of the same magnitude as climate change? Would attacking it the same way do any good?
Maybe. The motivation for terrorists is anger. What do you think they are angry about? Is it the sun that makes them mad? The moon? Our forests, oceans or mountains? Is it the clouds or rolling prairies that have them feeling uneasy? Is it the birds or the fish or the animals that roam the plains or deserts that make them want to wreak havoc and extinguish human life? None of these things is the problem. The problem is one of human impact.
As with carbon emissions, it’s not one person’s actions threatening our existence on this planet by driving so many to the point of anger that they want to do harm to others. It is the cumulative effect of all of us. Just as we all must reduce our own personal consumption of fossil fuels to have any effect of ameliorating the threat of climate change, we all must do what we can to not make other people mad.
We are all assholes. Some are greater than others, but we all do things to make people angry or envious or hurt. We all leave different-size carbon footprints on Earth, but nobody gets by without leaving any. We all leave an ass print, too.
We cut someone off in traffic. We hold a place in the checkout line at City Market while family members scurry through the aisles picking out the things on the list while those behind us wait. We brag on Facebook. We’re intolerant, impatient and impossible to please. We finagle a handicapped sticker to get closer parking when we don’t need it. We build a big house and start bossing the neighbors around. We drive a fancy car that we treat better than the people who service it. We act superior to those who can’t run up Aspen Mountain as fast as we can. We talk behind backs. We make people mad and sad and feel inferior to make our lives seem better. It’s in the ways we walk and talk and dress and the images we work to portray.
Maybe if each of us owned up to being an asshole more often. Maybe if we all felt a little bit more responsible. Maybe if we hated less, others would feel less hated. Maybe if we realized we can make a big difference in billions of small acts of goodness.
Roger Marolt thinks that if shopping with reusable bags can help save the planet, maybe smiling at a stranger can, too. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.