Retrofitting with Square Wheels

One of my favorite writers, Ian Williams, has this to say in a recent blog post:

There are three issues, for me, that bear specific importance to the survival of my family: drastically reducing our carbon output, jumpstarting research on stem cells, and securing ALL loose nuclear materials in the world. If we make headway on those things in my lifetime, I will consider this era to be largely successful.
Yet all three have ticking clocks. It is only a matter of time before some very bad people get their hands on weapons-grade nuclear material. We only have a decade – at most – to stop a potential environmental holocaust. And I would like to unlock the stem cell secrets before any one of us, currently healthy reading this blog, starts to get Alzheimers, Parkinsons, or has a spinal injury.
That’s three clocks. One ticks down to an American city flattened into glass, one ticks down to you not remembering your own children, and one ticks down to billions dead because of a little change in the weather. I’m not being histrionic or even cavalier. It took me a lot of Celexa, therapy and a healthy dose of nihilism to come to grips with it. They all loom, but all come with a saving grace: THEY ALL CAN BE PREVENTED IF WE ACT IN TIME.
Let’s leave aside the nuclear material problem, because that’s my own little bête noire. The other two issues, however, are being roadblocked, again and again, by American religious fundamentalists. If we don’t stop them, they will actually end up killing us. I’m not being histrionic. Their efforts to suppress the news of global warming and their stalwart opposition to stem cells will, if nothing else does, eventually end your (or your kids’) life before its time.
I was listening to this story about two brothers who are trying to bridge their cultural divide: both are Christian, but one is a pro-war Republican who believed the Earth was created in seven actual days by God, and the other, well, votes for Democrats. They discuss how they’ve decided to get together more often and see where they have common ground.
The evangelical brother’s biggest problem with… I dunno, people that don’t agree with him, I suppose… is their perceived superiority. He doesn’t like the disdain, and he’s enraged by conversations where he’s perceived as an idiot.
For me, it’s summed up in a metaphor. Suppose there is a car that is supposed to drive us into the future. A lot of people with a lot of skill made the car, and it was almost done and ready to go, when another group of people come along and say “nice car, but it needs square wheels.”
“Square wheels?” the craftsmen say, “You’re… you’re joking, right?”
“No,” the group says, very loudly, “And I’ll thank you not to act so smug.”
“But round wheels work infinitely better than square wheels.”
“We don’t care. We firmly believe, to the depths of our hearts, that square wheels are the way to go.”
“We’re not putting square wheels on the car! That’s totally fucking stupid!”
“We’re sorry, we’re sorry,” say the craftsmen, “Maybe we can compromise… um, maybe octagons? Um…”

That argument? That’s where America is right now. The future is coming on incredibly fast, the clocks are ticking. We’re dying to go, excited about a future that could be so much better for ourselves and our families. We could be so far along on the journey, and yet we’re stuck retrofitting our vehicle with bling from the Dark Ages.
That time has expired. We have work to do. For the love of your God, please get your Hell out of the way.

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