April Fools’ Day! I hate this day. It’s the holiday for folks with half a sense of humor: The slapstick, play-a-trick-on-you, make-stuff-up type of humor. I suffer through this day and wonder why it doesn’t just go away.
But that’s my opinion. Remember what Ben Franklin said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most fools do.” In fact, it’s my job!
April Fools’ Day is wedged between two interesting anniversaries. Three days ago we commemorated 30 years since the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident repeatedly sent clouds of radioactive steam into the Pennsylvania sky prompting then Gov. Dick Thornburgh to evacuate pregnant women and small children from the area.
And three days from now marks 41 years since Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. There’s a famous MLK quote about fools. It reads, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
If you get the April 9 issue of Time magazine you can read the cover story about the TMI accident. It discusses the lessons that meltdown taught the nuclear power industry. Depending on where you stand on environmental issues, you may believe that MLK’s words of caution apply to how we treat the planet as well as how we treat one another. Once you consider nuclear waste disposal and containment — any potential corruption in facility construction, operational regulation and transportation of enriched materials — we may well be more likely to perish together as fools so long as we view nuclear fission as a solution.
Fast forward to 2009: Last week the environmental news was that President Obama’s pick for deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Jonathan Cannon, withdrew his name from consideration because some group he had been affiliated with had allegedly misappropriated government funds.
Now, we don’t know if Cannon had anything to do with that money. But to me, the big April Fools’ Day joke is nominating a government insider to steward the environment instead of a scientist or activist. Cannon was an EPA lawyer during several presidential administrations, Reagan through Clinton.
Personally, I wish they’d pick a Native American. Or specifically a Native American activist scientist. I know it sounds racist, but I believe that the Native legacy and philosophy of loving and respecting the planet are poorly represented in mainstream American culture.
Instead of nominating a man who has been coincidentally associated to a $25 million swindle of taxpayer money, the president should pick someone who honors the Cree proverb: “When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.” Even $25 million of it won’t fill your belly, refreeze the glaciers, take the mercury out of tuna or the pesticides out of your 4- year-old.
Indian issues are our issues and the Natives have a much better track record when it comes to honoring nature. Our destinies are intertwined and yet we don’t give them the slightest role in our government leadership to help us correct poorly made past decisions or make better ones in the future. Power sharing in our government by appointing Native people to administer vital agencies would allow us to benefit from their rich history of stewardship.
In 2001 the American Philosophical Association created a committee to encourage the study of American Indian Philosophy. In doing so the APA acknowledged the difference between Native American philosophy and that of European, African, Asian or other melting-pot American ideals.
Appointing Native Americans to high-ranking government positions would show appropriate respect for indigenous peoples and we would benefit from their culturally heightened environmental acumen.
As MLK said, “The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
President Obama should appoint a deputy director of the EPA whose philosophy on life is guided by his or her concern for the next seven generations. Not more Washington fools!
Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche