Joyce Hinnefeld


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Candidate A and Candidate B

At first glance this post might seem unrelated to my novel In Hovering Flight. But keep reading; there are birds eventually.

Lately I’ve been imagining alternate scenarios for the morning after the next U.S. Presidential inauguration.

It starts the same. The new President wakes up that morning feeling tired but happy. The parties were great. He was surrounded by the love of his family and his whole nation. He came home and made love to his wife.

He basks in the glow of all that for a while, before waking up enough to realize that he is, indeed, the new President of the United States. Maybe, he thinks, he’d better get up and do something.

That’s when the scenario changes, and there are two possibilities.

Candidate A tries to decide what to do first. There’s offshore drilling to attend to now (he can still hear Rudy and the rest of them shouting “Drill baby, drill!” at the convention). He should talk to his vice president about how to proceed with that. But wait, she’s on a two-week hunting vacation with some of her oil-industry buddies.

There’s the economy, but now that he’s in office they can go on with the bailout, as he’d always assumed would happen.

Beyond that, there isn’t too much to do. Iraq, regulating Wall Street, health care, blah, blah, blah. He knows that those to whom he’s most beholden, those who got him elected, would like to see things stay pretty much the same.

And all that whining about global warming. Protecting the planet, that sad old song. Sure it’s a shame we might lose some species.* But isn’t that what all those nice Audubon and National Geographic photographs are for? We’ll remember what they looked like. And hey, don’t we still have all those national parks? Can’t he at least take some credit for appreciating the natural world, since Theodore Roosevelt is his hero?

Candidate B thinks he should probably get to work. His vice president is probably already at his desk. He thinks about his wife and kids. He thinks about the people who elected him, the people to whom he feels beholden. A lot of these people are young and aren’t thinking all that much about amassing or protecting personal wealth; their hearts and minds are still alive enough to imagine other priorities. Some are old and worried; some are really afraid of getting sick. They’d all like to feel that they’ll be cared for when they’re sick or dying. They’d like their sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and husbands and wives to have more options—more ahead of them than another tour of duty in Iraq.

They’d all like the planet to survive. And speaking of that, some of them—some of us—are concerned about biological diversity for reasons that are more than aesthetic or recreational.

He’ll know, I think, that we’re all waiting for him to get to work.

Sometimes when I think about these possibilities I feel hopeful. Sometimes, though, I feel genuinely panicked. At least the choice is clear, for me.

*According to a recent article in The Globe and Mail, populations of twenty of the most common North American birds have declined by more than fifty percent in the last forty years. Not that I imagine Candidate A has seen this article.

No comments: