February 4, 2005

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

The sky is falling, the sky is falling

If I didn’t know better, I’d often think the sky was falling. I mean, Chicken Little surely wasn’t the only creature in history to recognize a threat and fear its consequences. Even if he was wrong, and he was, he still had the right idea in being suspicious when he noticed certain signs.

For example, this is a time when national and local leaders complain about the quality of education and poor student performance, and President George W. Bush responds by producing No Child Left Behind legislation. And then we hear that the president’s daughters, Jenna and Barbara, were caught in public pronouncing “Sioux City, Iowa” as “Si-ex City.” Hmmm.

On the other hand, we’re cheered to hear that these same daughters, who revere their ladylike librarian mom, can still find something to tease her about. It seems that Mom may know correct pronunciation, but the girls report that Mom’s style of dancing to the music of the Poynter Sisters rivals Elaine’s embarrassing moves in “Seinfeld.”

Speaking of politics, if that’s what we’re doing, how about that inauguration? Most of the day was tasteful, correct, stirring and patriotic. Poor, sick Chief Justice William Rehnquist tottered in to give the oath of office to the president, making everyone present want to cry. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sat at the same luncheon table with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) without a hint of a food fight. All in all, a thrilling show of unity.

However, standing along the street of the inaugural parade, were people carrying signs calling the president a “war criminal.” And the next day, certain television and radio news sources reported every such incident of dissent they could find, totally ignoring any positive crumb of information about the event and including snide foreign press items. Surely, Chicken Little would be confused by such different signals.

Even ecology is not free from alarming contradictions in the search for truth. Recently, we heard about a giant wind farm, which was set up out west somewhere to provide an energy source that’s cost-free, clean and does no damage to the environment. But now it turns out that hawks, eagles and bats are often killed by the wind blades, which might lead to the extinction of their species. Back to the old drawing board.

Some scientists believe global warming will be the end of human life, and that most of it is our own fault. Others think the natural changes we’re noticing are merely parts of the big picture of an evolving universe. What’s more, they both have convincing arguments to prove their points.

During the Cold War, both the Soviet Union and the United States thought the sky might be falling—literally. They dug holes to hide in and stocked weapons to threaten each other, and scurried around trying to deal with the potential disaster of nuclear war.

Poor Chicken Little felt an acorn fall from a tree onto his head and thought the sky was falling. Not only that, he convinced Cocky-Locky and Ducky-Lucky and a bunch of others that doom was imminent. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. After all, we experience evidence like that all the time, and look at the conclusions we come up with!

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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