Rick Santorum and Disneyworld

I like trout fishing, and one of the impossible wishes of my life would be to travel back in time and fish the mountain streams of the Adirondack Mountains as they existed two hundred years ago.  Even in the days of Teddy Roosevelt, who heard about becoming president while fishing in the Adirondacks, much of the wilderness remained pristine.  If you could survive the black flies, you could experience what the world was like before humans despoiled it.

Today, of course, those same streams are filled with farm-raised fish, because indigenous trout no longer survive in most waters.  Their egg-laying beds have been disturbed or destroyed, and they’ve been fished out of existence, unless manually replaced.  I have to drive 1300 miles to northern Canada to find lakes and ponds filled with self-replicating trout who still do it the old-fashioned way.

We can say what we want about the wonders of human advancement; I enjoy many of them.  But there is no question about one thing- it hasn’t been good for fish.  Our oceans are depleted; edible fish have decreased by 90% in the last fifty years.  Many fishing places post warning signs not to eat the fish.  And we’ve even found two-headed mutant trout growing downstream from a phosphate mine in Utah.  Presumably, that’s not what the Creator had in mind, but it is a creative use for selenium.

I bring all this up because of something Rick Santorum said on the campaign trail in Ohio.  “Unlike the Earth,” he opined, “we’re intelligent and can actually manage things.  And leaving things for nature, as those on the radical environmental list would do — don’t touch anything, leave it alone, nature will take care of itself — yes, it will, and it won’t be pretty.”

At first, I didn’t understand.  Nature, if left alone, isn’t pretty?  What world does he live in?  The most beautiful sights I know involve undisturbed nature.  But then I realized that some people like re-manufactured nature, and Rick must be one of those.  There are fishermen, for example, who pride themselves on catching hatchery trout that behave like they’re on Xanax.  And there are people who pay money to throw a line into a pond stocked with hand-fed Brookies and call it fishing.  They don’t see a difference.  I suppose they appreciate the efficiency humans have imposed on disorderly nature, so that fishing is like a trip to Walmart’s seafood section.

Mr. Santorum went further with his remarks.  “We [humans] can actually manage and husband things. You plant a garden and let the Earth take care of it, you’re not going to get much out of it. You let the forest grow and let it take care of itself, and what you’ll have is boom and bust and decay and destruction.”

Again, I was confused.  He’s a devout Roman Catholic, but obviously thinks the Garden of Eden was a mess, and God isn’t much of a gardener.  Since the earth was enough of a paradise to produce all the oil he enjoys pumping out of the ground, you think he’d be more grateful.  But, once more, there are people who prefer Disneyworld to the real thing.  You can ride through a savannah of fake trees and plastic rocks, observing tranquilized lions from a computer-controlled safari vehicle, and never step in any shit.  Since animal smell is blown around anyway, what isn’t there to like?  It’s similar to the people who do their fishing with a joy stick and a Play Station.

Let’s face it, if Rick Santorum and the other Republicans had their druthers, the Grand Canyon wouldn’t exist.  We’d dam every river in sight and make fake canyons from fiberglass.  That way we could also add water parks, wave pools, river raft simulation rides, fishing pools of Xanax-fed trout, and the water would never turn muddy or green.  Why let nature go to waste when we can make a buck or two, while updating the original?

In his meet-and-greet at Froelich’s Classic Corner restaurant, Santorum derided people who elevate the Earth above humans in terms of importance.  It’s the other way around, he claimed.  Humans are more important because God told us to handle things.  We’re supposed to be stewards who manage nature.

It does seem backwards.  A 53 year old man is claiming the right to supervise the affairs of a 4.6 billion year old planet that has managed to create and sustain intelligent life.  For all we know, this is the only place in the entire universe to accomplish that feat.  So, let’s give respect where respect is due.  There might be penalties involved.

And it does make you ask what else he wants to manage.  Anyone who thinks he can improve on Mother Nature won’t be shy about ways he can improve your life, too.  We can all be more productive and fertile.

The arrogance is astonishing, but there’s no shortage of that among all the politicians.  The Greeks called it hubris.  Forgetting who we are.

Who are we to superintend the processes of life, or the lives of others?  Who are we to pretend we know what we’re doing?  Who are we to prescribe what’s best?

Who are we?

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About Bucky Dann

I teach religion, sociology, and psychology at Southwestern Community College in the Smoky Mountains. I have worked in the United Methodist ministry and in the substance abuse field. I possess a Masters of Divinity, a Masters of Philosophy, and a PhD in the sociology of knowledge.

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