Mark Sherman connects the dots of how a beautiful act may have doomed our species.
In early 1997, I took a four-week workshop in New York City on writing and performing stand-up comedy. Among the bits that I prepared was one about a well-known woman who had just died in her mid-70s. In the bit, I told of how she had romantic involvements (including a marriage) to some very famous and important men.
“She was pretty,” I said, “but not exceptional. So what was her secret?
“I think it’s pretty obvious.
“I’m convinced that this is the big secret that can pretty much explain world history: the blow job.”
In comedy is often truth, and little did I know when I wrote those words how prophetic they would be. One could argue, in fact, that a major factor responsible for what looks like our disastrous environmental future is oral sex, the blow job, to be specific.
Lest you wonder how something so beautiful could possibly lead to something so tragic, let me explain.
First, about the environment. It’s hard to keep a smile on your face when you’re constantly reading stories with titles like this: “As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas” (New York Times, November 14, 2010), or opinion pieces with titles like this: “Game Over for the Climate” (New York Times op-ed, May 9, 2012). The November 2010 article states, “To a majority of climate scientists, the question is not whether the earth’s land ice will melt in response to the greenhouse gases people are generating, but whether it will happen too fast for society to adjust.” In the op-ed piece, after describing the possibilities of climate change leading to “semi-permanent droughts” or “heavy flooding,” with “food prices (rising) to unprecedented levels,” the author, climate expert James Hansen, says, “If this sounds apocalyptic, it is.”
When I read pieces like those — and recall that on a mid-April day this year it reached 90 degrees in upstate New York, which is 30 degrees above normal — I can’t help but go back to the 2000 election, when a leading environmentalist, a politician who essentially wrote the book on climate change, came inches away from becoming our president. (It’s one part of the past I just can’t seem to let go of.)
Many explanations have been offered for why Al Gore didn’t clearly and unequivocally win the presidential election in 2000. For those who wanted to see him become president, there are so many villains here, including Ralph Nader; the West Palm Beach ballot, which confused many voters; and the Supreme Court.
But some people prefer to look not so much at these factors, but rather at Gore’s campaign, which many found lackluster. Among the criticisms leveled at the campaign was that Gore did not take full advantage of a master campaigner, the sitting president, Bill Clinton. And most believe that the main reason for this was Gore’s upset over Clinton’s liaison with Monica Lewinsky in 1998.
When he announced his candidacy for president in June 1999, “Gore said in a television interview…that Clinton’s extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky was ‘inexcusable’ and that the president had lied to him, just as he had lied to everyone else.”
Gore added that “particularly as a father, I felt that it was terribly wrong, obviously.” (reported by CNN, June 16, 1999).
Clearly, Gore was not happy with Clinton, and these kinds of comments surely could not have encouraged the president to stump enthusiastically for his vice president in 2000. We will never know if a strong and welcome Clinton presence on the campaign trail would have been enough to make Gore the clear winner of the presidency, but most analysts agree that it might very well have.
What is pretty certain, however, is that had Monica Lewinsky not performed oral sex on the president in 1998, Gore would have been happy to have Clinton vigorously campaign for him – and would quite possibly have become the 43rd president of the United States. We don’t know if he, single-handedly, could have set the wheels in motion to combat climate change; but given what he accomplished out of office, most prominently with his Academy Award winning film, An Inconvenient Truth, it is hard to believe that four or perhaps eight years of a Gore presidency would not have made a big difference in the world’s attempts to contain carbon emissions and slow its frightening march toward climatic oblivion.
And so I rest my case. What seemed like a joke when I wrote about it in 1997 became very serious less two years later. If T.S. Eliot had written his poem “The Hollow Men,” not in 1925 but in 2005, he might have made one small change in its famous concluding lines. The last word, “whimper,” would be replaced, and the poem would end, “This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a blowjob.”
This is a very slightly revised version of a post which originally appeared on Mark’s Psychology Today blog.
Photo— christine zenino/Flickr