My maternal grandmother was Canadian and lately I find myself contemplating about the bureaucratic process to obtain dual citizenship, along with the cost of gear needed to survive a Canadian winter… If it really comes down to fight or flight, I may just flee. Because I love this country, I don’t want to watch it transform into the village of the damned emperor on the golf course. Plus, I’ve always been a Chicken Little.
The story resonated with me as a child because -and correct me if I’m wrong- the little chicken was right. In the end, the petitioning group of fowl made it to the wolf’s dinner table alright, but instead of being welcomed guests, there to present their paranoid theory, they were the main course. This is the quintessential children’s fable for GenXers; everything we have been taught to rely on our entire lives is going, going, gone. Public process, an ethical Congress, Social Security: all going the way of the Sony Walkman.
NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) and I both turn 50 this year. My mother warned me about this; after a certain age, women are no longer noticed in our society. “But it’s ok,” Mom said, “you can cut in line at the bank and no one notices.” Apparently, this administration thinks they can make our fundamental tool for public participation in governmental process disappear like a middle-aged woman.
I recently attended a CEQ (Council on Environmental Quality) hearing in downtown Denver (one of only two scheduled public hearings in the whole country) and it shocked me. Just staying downtown and riding the 16th Street shuttle after dark was an eye-opener; legless, homeless vets begging for enough cash to buy a McDonald’s hamburger before climbing under a pile of blankets on the ground for the night. Meanwhile Union Station’s bars and restaurants are full of yuppies wearing black on black, (like GenXers wore denim on denim) where your drink is served on a little tray of its own, along with a tiny bowl of nut snack— after the bartender has verified that your ID has not expired. No joke, the bar staff can be fired on the spot for not checking that each customer is carrying valid identification, and it’s no longer just about serving underage patrons. In fact, the perils of teenagers gaining access to alcohol seems as innocent as a children’s book these days.
Anyway, I wore black to the hearing because along with my nose and stubbornness, I inherited the profusely-sweating-while-public-speaking trait, and as we all know, black doesn’t show sweat. While I was the only speaker against the proposed changes to NEPA who mentioned ties to ranching in the west, I was not alone. Many people from all walks of life showed up to protest: Navajo Nation members, schoolteachers, doctors, lawyers, watchdoggers, etc.
But the folks in the room wearing cowboy hats were all for gutting NEPA like a freshly caught trout. NEPA has been instrumental in offering the public a seat at the table, giving all of us the opportunity to make our voices heard and provide alternatives that protect our air, land, and water from cancerous consequences. I cannot trust these Western-wear types who are so pro-industry that they’ll sacrifice the future health of the land for the money they can get right now. How do they justify their arrogance to their children and grandchildren? Turns out, they tell their own fairy tale about the benevolent wolves of Wall Street and all the community contributions from the mining/drilling/fracking companies… contributions like the new cancer ward at the local hospital. (Mom was right, and eavesdropping is one of the advantages to being an invisible middle-aged woman.)
The dystopian predictions of Orwell/Bradbury/Collins are coming a little too close to fruition for this American chicken. Mysterious drones flying in grid-pattern at night over rural Colorado, TSA requiring a ‘Real ID’ to fly domestically, frequent interruptions for the Emergency Broadcast System that are not weather storm advisory related, and all the while the Democrats are linking arms and singing as they skip down the yellow brick road. What’s a girl to do? Well this girl may just turn fifty and disappear into the crowd of parkas applying for Canadian citizenship.