9 May 2012: The irritation of pollen and politics

The irritation of pollen and politics

Summer’s in the air.  We’re well past spring.  My bleeding hearts are already popping, and the columbine are ready to do their thing.

Perhaps looking back we can call the winter of 2011-2012 as the “winter that barely was.”   Is it another indicator of climate change/global warming?  The short answer: not unto itself.  One needs to be careful not to fall into the trap climate-change deniers find themselves when they confuse short-term weather with long-term climate.

In context of climate trends though, it’s difficult to write off this past inordinately warm, dry winter as an aberration.  The fact is the atmosphere is warming, which is the direct result of man’s behavior, specifically related to the several-century process of spewing carbon into the atmosphere through the overuse of fossil fuels.

With early blooming comes an equally early allergy season.  The teary, itchy eyes and tickled, runny nose help make life challenging.  A good night’s sleep is a precious gift.  I try, however, to keep in mind they are merely inconveniences; people suffering with terminal cancer and from severe depression make my woes pale in comparison.

As every driver knows, prices at the pump have jumped dramatically over the past month.  Since they seem to happen each year at the same time, I wonder if there’s a correlation between that phenomenon and allergies despite them inducing different physiological reactions.

At this time in 2011, I took a road trip through the South.  I learned more about the history of the Civil War, especially at Ft. Sumter where the assault on the Union began.  I also began learning a new language that sounds vaguely similar to English, syrupy in tone and using similar words and spelling but with dramatic flair in pronunciation: one-syllable words expressed in two syllables for no coherent reason.

I clearly recall the price of gas in the spring of 2011 having repeatedly filled up the tank from Colorado through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, to Florida and then back.  It was 3.90-something a gallon.  The price now is about 3.78 per gallon, so a bit cheaper.  It’s a small consolation to be sure, but, nonetheless, a fact.

The loud, obnoxious whirr of the weed whacker, like the ubiquitous pine pollen, is likewise beginning to permeate the early summer air.  Its noise and results work to compound the allergy discomfiture, but the outcome—a manicured, eye-pleasing lawn, albeit temporary—make it seem worth the effort.  It’s nice to escape the ultimate reality of insubstantiality and impermanence to the illusion and comfort of objectivity and permanence.

In his column, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank takes President Obama to task for having become the “campaigner-in-chief.”  There’s validity in his assertion, but the reality is that since the Citizens United ruling, which compounded its previous declaration that money equals free speech, the Supreme Court has induced a brave new world of American politics.

William Faulkner, a genteel Southern boy, draws upon William Shakespeare’s Macbeth for the title to his book The Sound and the Fury, a story that chronicles the dissolution of an old Southern family.

Macbeth, whose one monomaniacal obsession is to become king and stops at nothing including regicide to achieve that goal, finally realizes, when he sees seeing the forces arrayed in front of Dunsinane Castle, it’s all been for naught.

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,” he muses, “that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.

“It is a tale,” he concludes, “told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The Sound and the Fury itself begins as tale told by an “idiot,” brother Benjy who is severely mentally handicapped.  It can be interpreted as a larger allegory for the dissolution of the American family.

The incessant campaign season is upon us, largely the product of the two Supreme Court rulings dealing with unlimited cash in politics fueling and exacerbating an already charged atmosphere.  The whirr of the ads is the sound and the fury of the election season.  And while oftentimes told by idiots, unlike life to Macbeth, it signifies not nothing but everything consequential to our republic.

Nevertheless, it’s comforting to know that it takes only one click to shut the angry messages off, whereupon one can step outside and find relief by inhaling copious pollen that will merely irritate nasal passages as opposed to numbing the brain.

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