Every now and then something comes along that proves to me once again that our society has completely lost its way, that the choices we have made are irredeemably wrong-headed, that the well-trodden path of least resistance down which we travel inexorably as though we are completely without options is the path of the panicked lemmings.When scientists decades ago listed the options for ways we might slow or stop global warming, for instance and instead of taking any of those options we chose to argue over whether we should trust the worried scientists who risked their reputations to warn us or the reassuring scientists who sacrificed their reputations outright for oil company paychecks, that was one of those times. Another was when Rodney King was beaten on the side of the road when, obviously, anyone caught going more than a hundred miles an hour in a '93 Hyundai should be hailed as a saint for performing a miracle.
This week I have received several breathless e-mails urging me, begging me, pleading with me to sign a petition saying that I do not approve of the Navy deafening 15,900 whales and dolphins and killing 1,800 more. This petition is aimed at stopping the Navy from doing that. I do not actually believe for a moment that the Navy is going to change its plans based on the signature of an internet petition. Of course it's not. The armed forces have never taken their marching orders from the civilian population. The armed forces believe, genuinely, that they do something necessary though distasteful and must find ways to do it without so offending the sensibilities of the civilians that it will occur to us to stop funding their activities. That's why they call it "liquidating an enemy unit" rather than "killing people," performing a surgical strike" rather than, "killing people," or "taking the fight to them so that it doesn't come to us," rather than, "killing and maiming people some of whom are innocent civilians in faraway places."In fairness to the Navy, deafening and killing beautiful marine mammals is not the Navy's main plan. That's a byproduct of something else that they're doing. I don't know what it is exactly, but it involves an underwater sound system and I'm quite sure they are thoroughly convinced that it is an efficient and effective way of securing our nation's borders or deterring an attack or something that sounds noble when it isn't framed in terms of whale and dolphin deafening statistics.
I think these are exactly the kinds of decisions that should be made by a well- informed - and honestly educated - public if we wish to keep calling ourselves a democracy rather than a democratic oligarchy.
Despite my belief in its futility, I signed the petition to say that I do not approve of the deafening or killing of even one whale or dolphin. If there were a petition that I could sign saying that I do not want my country to kill people, I would sign that one.
I'm just that crazy, that I think none of my tax dollars should go to killing sentient beings. And let me be the first one to point this out: if we do deafen and kill tens of thousands of sea mammals and then they figure out a way to defend themselves, we'd better not call it an unprovoked act of aggression that must be avenged.