The Greatest (not)

Dear President Biden,

Although not everything you all are doing feels righteous and ethical, it was mostly good to read this morning about your “back door” efforts to shore up various US supply and manufacturing lines. However, the part about making sure we’re able to produce high capacity storage lithium batteries from start to finish gave me pause in light of the environmental impacts of mining lithium salts. Given the trade-offs with lower carbon emissions associated with electric cars and stored solar power, if you also enact stricter environmental protections on the mining process and after actions, it could be a net gain – especially since it looks from my quick, inexpert scan of the related top search results that when lithium is mined in developing countries, the environmental impacts are typically devastating. I sure as hell hope you’re also writing in language to ensure that negative environmental and workforce impacts are avoided and that communities of color aren’t put in harm’s way by moving the dirty work stateside or completely left behind when it comes to access to cleaner technologies.

As a meta-observation, all I wanted to do with that opening sentence was to give you some props for being strategic and influencing the stuff you can influence through Executive Order and what I got was a Pandora’s Box of loadedness. First, I realized it didn’t make sense to just be rah-rah-you when your administration is welcoming MBS’s brother Khalid bin Salman and engaging in other shades of gray behaviors. And then second, the whole lithium battery deal is thorny and it brings forward the reality that as benign and simple sounding as “shoring up US supply and manufacturing chains” is, it really introduces a very complicated and vexing set of competing contingencies even without considering profit motives and shareholders and all that crap.

Are you ever able to sleep? The downstream consequences of virtually every little-seeming decision you make are massive. I sure hope you and several hundred of your trusted folks revel in that kind of thinking/considering because if you don’t and you all aren’t thinking about all the obvious and not so obvious layers to these decisions, we are seriously hosed.

What I really wanted to write to you about today is something altogether different and mostly kind of stupid. Yesterday I read the Huffington Post piece about how most of the 147 Congress people who voted to overturn the presidential election positioned themselves as patriots extraordinaire on the 4th. I made myself read the excerpts the HP reporter gleaned from social media (I don’t envy that person this job – yuck!) and as I did, I noticed several prominent (and not surprising) themes so I did a quick-ish tally…. The bins and counts as I saw them are as follows:

Proud to be an American/Pride in America: 11
America is THE greatest country on earth: 37
Have a fun/be safe/happy 4th: 19
Bash the Dems in one way or another: 4
Don’t forget our military heroes who secured our freedoms: 15
God bless America/We are blessed to be Americans: 22
Some version of “we Americans are so free”: 32
Said nothing or died before the 4th: 7

And these are the people who either bought into The Big Lie or worse, pretended to, and attempted to throw America under the bus on January 6th, 2021. Are they able to sleep? I understand that guilty consciences don’t make for great sleep…. So, if they are sleeping well, I wonder what sort of mental gymnastics they’ve had to do to vault over the guilt? Then again, guilt presupposes a conscience and such a thing could very well not be part of their make-up. Just saying.

Like I said, this is all pretty stupid, including my binning and counting bit, but for some reason all the “greatest country” and the “we are so free” entries made me want to throw and break things so I decided to do something marginally more constructive.

May we be safe from insurrectionists.
May we be willing to bear witness to hypocrisy when necessary.
May our tummies be strong and up to this task.
May we accept that there are no easy ways out of any of our messes.

Tracy Simpson

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