Petroleum and My Prayer

Bush to Visit Iowa Flood Site

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Dearest Mister George Walker Bush . . .

This morning as I sat in what I would wish to think of as my safe little sanctuary from danger, I watched you mount the stairs and ascend into Air Force One.  The television announcer spoke of your impending trip to the Midwest.  As one with family in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois, I was grateful for your travel.  I am certain the people in these regions will be comforted by your presence.  Most will feel they have reason to hope that you will offer help.  I truly appreciate you “swift” response to their needs.  I am gratified that you have decided to fly high above the flooded terrain, and perhaps spend a moment with an individual or two.  Perchance, you will speak to my sister or my Dad.

As I observed the day’s news break on screen, I perused the printed page and realized the American people may have another reason to thank you.  The New York Times reported Bush Calls for End to Ban on Offshore Oil Drilling.  I am confident those on dry land, still able to drive through the streets are pleased.  Your grand gesture will gratify them, belatedly if at all.  The United States House Committee on Natural Resources thinks the move will not improve circumstances.   I sigh.

There is no reason to let little details such as well-researched assessment get in the way of the glorious work you do Mister Bush.  As you well know, the public cares not what the future might bring.  The people prefer to be catered to in the immediate.  I know you understand this Mister President.  You felt the repercussions of a delayed action.  I remember your late response to Katrina, and even to the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center Towers.  

Woe, to the politician who does not take measures to calm the citizens quickly.  Mister Bush, I am consoled as I witness all you have learned.  Indeed, today, you quieted fears and felt the people’s pain.  You did as is necessary.

In this nation, an elected official who bows to the will of his or her constituency will be judged well.  After all, as you are aware Mister Bush, the people are the power.  The populace casts a ballot at the poll.  Even for those such as you, an individual who cannot hold the office of the President again, that is as long as the Constitution remains unchanged, legacies are the legends of history.  

Mister Bush, I applaud your heroism, your ability to reach out and to touch the common folk.  Yet, while I might admire the actions you took on this 19th day of June, I only wish that consolations would clean the mess you created.  

I fear each of the events of the day is the result of earlier enactments.  What occurred in the Midwest is as much that the world has seen recently.  Granted Mister President, you only preside over a portion of a North American continent; nonetheless, what is in our air travels overseas.  Water also journeys to shores far beyond our horizon.

Contaminants and toxins permissible in the United States will be found in the heavens above foreign soil.  Oceans, far from our homeland, will contain elements hurled into American waterways.

I know you might muse Mister Bush, as you did for near a decade ago, humans have little effect on the environment.  Ah, but President Bush, as you now relent, we do alter the balance of nature.  Decisions you made in our name, accelerated the cycle of unwelcome warmth on a globe too fragile to fight off the effects of a fever.

You, Mister Bush may have learned the laws of motion in your studies.  As Sir Isaac Newton discovered in an Earthly environment, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Perchance, as a Chief Executive and one who received a Master’s degree in Business Administration, you are more familiar with a similar premise, economic in nature, “You scrub my back, and I will cleanse yours.”  

In the financial world, the policies you endorsed illustrate that you embrace this “theoretical” truth.  I recall your first hundred days in the Oval Office.  Much to the benefit of business buds, who supported your rise, you chose to initiate practices that filled your friends’ purses.  . . . and oh, yes, these very guidelines damaged the milieu.  Ooops.

  • Bush administration marks 100 days in office (04/29/01)
  • EPA drops objections to Florida rule that undermines Clean Water Act protections (04/26/01)
  • Gale Norton nominates William G. Myers III as solicitor for Department of the Interior (04/24/01)
  • Yellowstone snowmobile ban goes into effect, but perhaps not for long (04/23/01)
  • Bush seeks to relax requirements of Endangered Species Act (04/09/01)
  • Bush administration delays hard-rock mining regulations that protect watersheds (03/21/01)
  • Bush withdraws new arsenic-in-drinking-water standard (03/20/01)
  • Bush appoints industry apologist as regulatory gatekeeper (03/06/01)
  • EPA upholds Clinton decision to clean up diesel pollution (02/28/01)
  • EPA delays, then upholds, new rule protecting wetlands (02/15/01)
  • White House announces regulatory freeze (01/20/01)

Indeed, you were a busy man Mister Bush, just as you have been today, and throughout your terms.  You entered the White House and released the latch on barn doors throughout the nation.  Domesticated animals, Americans, did not rush out, for they had long felt as though they were not in harm’s way.  Centuries of relative calm encouraged citizens, beasts of few burdens, to believe they were sheltered from storms.  However, once the portals were open, predators, or was it you Mister President, ran in.  

Marauders came though back gateways, side entries, windows, and slats in the ceiling.  Perhaps these too were but friends of the fellow we all know as George, you, Mister Bush.

Oh, Sir, you must know, corporations, intent on earnings, ignored the warnings of environmentalists.  Scientists could not be heard above the hum of oil drills.  The clang of change as it fell into deep pockets muffled the melodious mantra of the few concerned citizens.  This circumstances Mister Bush caused the globe to warm.  Now the water falls from the sky without end.  Levees poorly maintained or engineered break.

My Dad hopes his sump pump will not fail.  My sister prays that her home will remain on a hill.  My best friend fears for his roof.  A friend in Racine, Wisconsin I hope is well.  No one has been able to reach him.

Mister Bush, when you first arrived in Washington District of Columbia you changed the fabric of the land.  You did not steward the territory we each occupy.  Economic favors flourished as did environmental hazards.  The rich grew richer; the poor did not prosper.  Those who had wealth garnered dividends.  Those with few resources received less.  Now, we all suffer.

Wind and water does not discriminate.  Homes, bought and paid for wash away in a torrid tempest just as shacks do.

Oh my dear Mister Bush, you promised to be the Compassionate Conservative.  If only you had chosen to be the Consummate Conservationist.

Each day Mother Nature cries out.  She weeps and the terrain floods.  Her heart breaks, and tectonic plates move.  Cyclones are the swell of tears her eyes cannot hold.  Mother Earth pounds us with hail; she means no harm.  Her children, under the tutelage of an oil moneyed man are out of control.  She knows not what to do to get their attention.  She throws what she has at hand, and hopes, perhaps, her brood will stop the insanity.

Mister Bush, please I plead, do not pander, or patronize.  My Dad does not need cheaper fuel.  He is a patient man and willing to wait for alternatives that do not leave him soaked and sorrowful in the next five-hundred year flood, which may occur only a month from now.

My sister would be content, if she could tell he son with certainty, she will leave him a world better than the one she grew up in.  Sensitive as she is, my sibling hopes to bequeath her grandchildren with a glorious existence.  However, as you fly to her home with promises too late, and replete of a skewed reality, she fears a dependency on fossil fuels will never end.  

She too, just as Daddy, does not concern herself with what cannot be salvaged.  Each requests that we secure the future, clean the environment, and do not drill for more oil, offshore or anywhere.

Mister Bush, the time is now.  For as much as any American would wish to believe they are safe in their now dry homes, as long as we continue to rape the few resources we have left, as long as we waste, and want more and more “conveniences” no one will be secure.  

As you peruse the cities and crops destroyed by rains and runoff, you might realize climate change is evidence of what you sowed.  No promises will repair broken hearts.  No policies that allow for more petroleum usage will produce calm or clean seas.  We now reap the rewards of gluttony and gratification.  It is not a pretty picture.

Mister Bush, tomorrow does come.  Our actions today will be the cause.  The effects of your past performances are what you see today in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri . . .  Let us no longer wash the back of a egocentric executive, at the expense of the environment.  Instead, kiss my sister, hug my Dad, and if you can find my friend, lost in the tragedy, please tell him I love him.

Resources, No More Oil . . .

On Point Wisconsin. Voters Say Leave Iraq Now ©

[Photograph By Andy Manis of Associated Press]

I was not born there; however, I am proud to declare, I was raised there.  I moved away decades ago; yet, my heart remains in Wisconsin.  I marched in my first protest rallies on the streets of Milwaukee.  My family followed in the path of a strong civil rights leader, Father Groppi.  I would be eighteen before the November general election was held; therefore, I was able to vote as a seventeen year old during Wisconsin primaries.

My father was fortunate enough to work with a true humanitarian and advocate for the people, Wisconsinite, Senator Bill Proxmire.  “Liberal” Senator Russ Feingold now, represents this fine state.  Please let us all forget that Joseph McCarthy ever resided here.

The anti-Viet Nam War movement was strong in Wisconsin.  Ah, I remember it well.  Though many may argue the point, and it does seem to be cyclical, in my mind, Wisconsin is a progressive state.

On this past Tuesday, the citizens of this state, once again proved that they are forward-thinking.  I applaud the people of Wisconsin for their most recent vote.  In thirty-two communities, “Bring The Troops Home Now” referendums were on the April 4, 2006 ballot.

In twenty-four of these expansive neighborhoods, the vote was yes, bring our boys and girls home immediately.  The numbers reflect a great concern, “A resounding 40,043 to 25,641 voted against the continued US occupation of Iraq.”  Calculating these numbers leads us to conclude, 61 percent of Wisconsin voters want no war.  Only 39 percent believe we should remain.  In my own former hometown, the village of Shorewood, seventy percent said pullout now.

In eight communities, the initiative was defeated; however, “in only two” of these locales did “the vote for immediate withdrawal fall below 45 percent.”

What is left to say?  [Right-] on Wisconsin!
Wisconsin voters support Iraq withdrawal CBC News
Wisconsin Towns Vote for Withdrawal, By John Nichols Wednesday, April 5, 2006
Wisconsin Vote is a partnership of Wisconsin Public Television, Wisconsin Public Radio and the University of Wisconsin-Extension.
Proxmire called `a profile in courage’, By Katherine M. Skiba. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. April 02, 2006
Wisconsin Votes ‘No!’ to War, By the Madison Capital Times. Tuesday, October 1, 2002
Anti-Vietnam Movement in the U.S.

Senator William [Bill] Proxmire, My Mentor

copyright © 2005 Betsy L. Angert

It was 1989; I was living in “sunny Southern California.”  It had been years since I left Wisconsin, physically, though never spiritually.  My heart was still in my home state, as was much of my learning.  I was influenced by many of the events that were my life.  In Milwaukee, Wisconsin I became an active progressive.  While living in the Midwest, I marched in my first protests with family and Father Groppi.  I spoke up in class; civil rights, human rights, and animal rights were more than a passing interest for me.  Even in the 1980s, and soon to be 90s, they still were.  Some things do not change; nor would I want them to.  Others do.  Wisconsin United States Senator, Edward William Proxmire announced his retirement.

It was an inevitability, though one worthy of note.  The Senator had been influential in many lives and was well known for his service. This senior Senator changed my life personally, his service not withstanding.

? As an aside, on this day of his passing, I offer another writer’s homage to a great Senator.  Please read a biographical accounting, at By Adam Bernstein of the Washington Post.

Senator Proxmire was the man that replaced the infamous Joseph McCarthy in 1957. He was the Chairman of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

Early on, Senator Proxmire was an outspoken detractor of the Viet Nam war. He was openly critical of the war policies adopted by President’s Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard Milhous Nixon.  He insightfully considered their foreign strategies deceptive.

Most memorable for some was the way in which Proxmire used his seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee to focus the nation’s attention on wasteful military spending. Senator William Proxmire worked to end pork barrel spending. He was the originator of the Golden Fleece Awards.  These were awarded to projects that were deemed expedient by Senators and Congressman; however, in truth, and upon investigation, it was discovered that they were often measured by self-indulgence.

Mr. Proxmire was a careful man, a caring man, and one known for clean living.  He had morals, scruples, and he lived by these.  In his last two Senate campaigns, Proxmire refused any campaign contributions.  He shockingly, used his own money to cover the cost of filing for re-election, and nothing more. Nevertheless, he was more, at least to me.

After hearing of his retirement I decided I needed to tell him.  I wrote to the Senator.  I shared this story.

I was a sophomore in high school; my age was sixteen.  I attended school in a suburb just outside of Milwaukee.  Ironically, the same one that Chief Justice William Rehnquist attended.  This is laughable to me, for politically, the Chief Justice and I are from different universes.  However, I digress.

One afternoon, while I was in the kitchen, the telephone rang.  I answered it.  The man on the other end asked to speak to “Lee,” my Dad.  I politely said, “May I ask who is calling.”  My Dad had indeed trained me well.  The voice replied, “Bill Proxmire.”  Bill Proxmire?  Oh my!!!

I grew up in a family that read and discussed politics as often as we took a breath.  I knew of Bill Proxmire; yet, I never guessed that I would hear his voice coming over my own home telephone line.  I quickly went to find my father.  I announced the call and he very casually went to the phone.  He and the senator spoke for quite some time.  The conversation seemed light, jovial, and not unexpected, at least to my Dad.  For me, this encounter was absolutely bewildering, surprising to say the least.

After its conclusion, I asked my Dad of it.  Apparently, my dear father and United States Senator, Bill Proxmire were working on a venture together.  My father was working for United Way at the time and the Senator’s Milwaukee office was across the street, in the Federal Building.  The two had come together often and were enjoying their shared endeavor.  Wow!  Who knew; it certainly was not me.

This exchange made quite an impression on me.  It solidified a belief that government, is indeed, of, by, and for the people.  We are all an integral part in effectuating change.  Even the most common man, the one that shared a roof with me, was uncommonly powerful.  This call defined authority and leadership for me.  I realized that we all are experts, specialists, informed and can make a difference.  Senator Bill Proxmire made a difference in my life.

While that tale may be interesting to you, or not, what followed for me was more so.  When I wrote my narrative and sent it to the Senator, he was not running for office, and even if he were, I was living and registered to vote in California; he in Wisconsin.  Yet, he responded.  Only a week later, I received a lovely reply from the Senator.  That is a true man, a person of character.  Bill Proxmire, in my life proved to be, communicative, caring, responsive, and responsible.  This man was and is my mentor.  He has taught me much; I can only hope that I live up to his standards.

  • Please peruse, New York Times, William Proxmire, Maverick Democratic Senator From Wisconsin, Is Dead at 90, By Richard Severo.
  • Founder of Earth Day, Gaylord Nelson Passes ©

    Most recall and often ask others, where were you when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated?  I do recall that day, though the imprint of that date is less powerful for me then that of the first Earth Day. The first Earth Day stays in my heart and soul and I speak of it often.  I remember what I was wearing on that day, April 22, 1970.  I recall where I purchased the clothing.  However, these reveries may not be of Earth shattering significance or meaning.  What was and is, my high school planned an all-day event to honor this noteworthy occasion; many institutions throughout the nation did.

    The idea of honoring our Earth was novel to me then; however, since that day, it is essential in my life.  My mind and my heart opened wider; my awareness and attentiveness expanded.  What began on that date thirty-five years ago continues, not only for me, but also for people throughout the globe. Today, people everywhere celebrate this momentous date!

    It is thanks to Senator Gaylord A. Nelson that people on this planet more actively attend to our environment; Senator Nelson is considered the founder of Earth Day.  This notable Senator served three terms and in each he exhibited a passion for the environment that was and is exemplary.  Today, on this the date of his passing, July 3, 2005, I would like to pay homage to the 89 year-young Senator.

    The Wisconsin Senator was known for his lifelong devotion to the environment; his legislative actions demonstrate this.  Senator Nelson was instrumental in passing many environmental measures, the 1964 Wilderness Act and the banning of the pesticide, DDT among these.  Senator Nelson helped to preserve the Appalachian Trail corridor.  He also worked for automotive fuel efficiency standards.  He was against strip mining.  He was stalwart in his attention to the Earth.

    After his service in the Senate, Gaylord Nelson joined the Wilderness Society as a counselor.  His love and interest in preserving nature never died.  His daughter, Tia Nelson, referred to his job as “resident pontificator.”  She shared, “He had an extraordinary sense of humor and an extraordinary commitment to public service all his life.  He was a great raconteur. Nobody could tell a story like he could. He had a life of commitment and public service, all done with a great sense of humor.”

    Fortunately, Nelson was able to continue his work and share his stories at the Wilderness Society until March 2005.  According to his daughter Tia, “When someone asked why he still went to work, he said, ‘Because the job’s not done.'”  Hopefully, the work of this Wisconsin Senator will continue here on Earth and his spirit will live long and large.  Senator Nelson, the nation and the world thank you for all that you have done.