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Category: Humans

Hell Niño?
There was an event during the late summer of 1985 that we in the western U.S. might do well to remember right now. At the time, Hurricane Gloria was bearing down on the mid-Atlantic states and seemed set to deliver a knock-out blow to the good people of that region.

Enter televangelist Pat Robertson, star of the 700 Club, one-time presidential hopeful, and spiritual leader to thousands of Southern Baptists in Virginia and across the nation. Robertson was not content to sit idly by while chaos and ruin threatened his people. Taking to the airwaves, he called upon his flock to pray as one to steer Gloria away from the Old Dominion, sending it north along the Eastern seaboard — presumably to rain Hell on the less devout denizens of New England.

And darned if the storm did change course, sparing the faithful and their lucky neighbors. Robertson was quick to claim credit for this turn of events, pointing to it as indisputable proof of the power of prayer.

We don’t have to contend with hurricanes here, but do have our own weather challenges. I’m talking about the drought, and about what could be, might be, maybe possibly is the solution to it: El Niño. Thanks to the mysterious effects of the huge band of warm ocean water that accompanies this phenomenon, experts are saying that this could be a big winter in the West, and that is generally thought to be a very good thing. Unfortunately, it could well turn out to be too much of a good thing. There could be floods, landslides, massive dislocation, and suffering. The question is: what can we do about it?

The example of Gloria’s change of direction notwithstanding, I don’t think prayer is going to do it. Here on the shores of the Pacific we have a less fundamentalist tradition of expressing our spirituality than the members of the 700 Club. I won’t say that we are godless, but for us such expressions tend to be more diverse and less, well, tight-assed. We might pray, or we might not.

What, then, should we do? One option, I would argue, is to hope. It’s just as honorable as praying, only it’s non-denominational. More suited to our laid-back life here in the West. After all, even atheists can hope.

So here is my proposal: let’s all hope that El Niño delivers the goods. We need the water, and we need a lot of it. As long as we’re at it, though (and in the spirit of Pat Robertson’s fine tuning of specific weather phenomena), why don’t we hope for three-eighths of an inch each day…no more, no less? And let’s also hope that it falls between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. each night. That would be about perfect, I think — plenty of water, but not all at once and with a minimum of disruption of our lives.

If you’re going to hope, why think small?
Human Eror
Like most people, I like robots. And why not? Before they became real, functioning, nuts-and-bolts things, they did enjoy a pretty positive image as imaginary characters. Take Robby the Robot. His 1957 portrayal of a good-guy robot in Forbidden Planet set the tone for multiple generations of fictional robots. Their unshakable mission was always to faithfully serve and protect their human charges.

Robby went on to build an impressive Hollywood career, essentially playing the same role over and over. Mechanical, certainly, but not cold and uncaring. R2D2, C3PO, and a host of other lovable contraptions are carrying on this honorable tradition.

So robots are nice. Sweet, even. That’s why the recent story out of the VW plant in Baunatal, Germany brought me up short. It was there, about the same time as the release of the movie Terminator Genisys, that an incident was reported of a robot killing a human. Witnesses said that a worker had been “grabbed and crushed” by the machine. A full report has yet to be released, but if it includes pictures, I think I’ll pass. They have listed the cause of the mishap, it should be noted, as “human error.”

This story has forced me re-examine my affection for robots. Have I been naïve? Have I been seduced by their dorky cuteness and led astray? Have I been blind to their sinister, soulless machinations?

I say no. Oh, there have certainly been some bad robots, but I don’t think any of them pretended to be nice. The Terminator, Colussus, Ultron, and their ilk are all so transparently evil that there’s simply no way they could pull the steel wool over anyone’s eyes.

So, no. I trust my own ability to spot a phony robot when I see one, so I feel safe keeping a warm place in my heart for all those good robots out there. I will not forsake them just because one robot did the unthinkable. Investigators didn’t say what the “human error” was in the case of the car-making robot. I’ll bet, however, that it wasn’t blindly trusting robots not to kill you. More likely, the error was blindly trusting some other human not to kill you accidentally using a robot.

Yes, I still like robots. Until it is proven otherwise, I will assume they are all good guy robots like Robby. I will, however, continue to keep a wary eye out for the treachery of my fellow humans. It would be human error not to.
The Truth
The truth is out there, so they say, but it’s hard to be sure. We set up so many filters and checkpoints and bullshit meters, it’s a wonder anything reliable can get through.

Maybe the only truths we can be sure of are the ones inside our own heads. We can know what we feel, what our emotions are, but even those truths require effort to recognize. Some people don’t even try. I could tell you what mine are, at least some of them, but you’ve probably got your own to worry about.

Besides, you’d be crazy to believe anything I say.
Prime Suspects
I’ve been hammering away on a new theory for a while, but I’m having trouble working the bugs out. It’s about people…in particular, suspicious people.

People who tend to be suspicious, so my theory goes, should be viewed with suspicion themselves. For example, people who suspect that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim/Communist/Kenyan/Nazi bent on destroying the United States ought to at least be suspected of being racist meatheads. Suspicion itself seems to be all that such people have by way of proof, and yet they persist. That fact alone should be reason enough to suspect them…of something.

We have the same situation with those people who suspect that the United States government is in the process of invading itself in a few southern and western states and intends to impose martial law in those places. Their suspicions abound, but there is no evidence of any kind that the Jade Helm military operation now underway in those areas is anything other than what it claims to be — a training exercise being conducted on the only land available for such an exercise…inside our own borders. And yet, they cling to this belief and plan their lives around it — including plots to kill American soldiers.

Some people (the same people, in many cases) also suspect that almost every scientist on Earth is part of an international conspiracy to promote the idea that our globe is warming and that it’s the fault of humans. Again, there is no proof of this claim, and even the suspicions themselves don’t stand up to common sense for more than a few seconds. These people, however, continue to subscribe to this belief without question. Why?

And that’s the question, isn’t it? Why do people harbor these suspicions? One of the bugs in my theory is its inability to say exactly what these people should be suspected of. It’s really got me stumped. In the case of the Obama haters, racism would be a prime candidate, but I can’t help thinking there’s more to it than that. I am convinced that something larger is at work here, but I’ve had a hard time putting my finger on it. It’s almost as if these people need something to fear and hate, just so they can avoid the hard work of making sense of the world. Under this view, we could even argue that they have taken leave of their senses, albeit of their own free will. If this were the case, all of their rationales would instantly become suspect as the ravings of lunatics.

Okay, that seems a bit facile. And it does not, furthermore, address the other big bug in my theory. Since the theory asks us to be suspicious of suspicious people, doesn’t that make us the very people we should be suspicious of?

Yes, a conundrum. The work continues.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon