Thursday, December 02, 2004

Little Tree of Faith

Last night Mrs. Primate and I went to see the late showing of The Incredibles (a fantastic flick, by the way), and as we were driving out of our neighborhood, the road we usually take was blocked by pylons. We had tremendous winds in New York yesterday, and I live in a neighborhood with many old trees, so I figured that one of them had been blown over. I was a little surprised when, returning home three hours later at about 11:30 in the evening, the pylons were still there as ConEd usually takes care of these problems post haste.

So, as Mrs. Primate went up to get ready for bed, I walked down the street to see what was going on and have a last cigarette. Two blocks and one skulking skunk crossing later, I still saw no tree down, bit I did pass a marked police cruiser parked perpendicular to the road. Two blocks after that, there was an unmarked (why are they always so obvious?), and I approached it and spoke with the two officers inside.

Turns out, there was large tree on the lawn of the house on the corner across from the Middle School that was in danger of falling, but, because it hadn’t actually fallen yet and because it was on private property, neither ConEd nor the city could do anything about it unless and until it fell. Supposedly the property owner had called someone to do something about the tree – an obviously hollow one my more observant wife pointed out to me – but whoever was supposed to take care of the tree was not coming until the morning, the cops told me. However, this morning at 8:30 the roadblocks were still up as all the children walked past the tree on their way to class.

This got me thinking: this tree clearly presented a danger to the houses around it (it was at least 25 meters tall, maybe more) as well as to the power lines under it and any people or animals unlucky enough to be around when it fell. Yet nobody but the house owner was allowed to do anything about it, and he was either unable or unwilling to take immediate action to neutralize this quite imminent threat. I wondered about the safety and economic sense of having two patrol cars sit around all night waiting for a tree to fall rather than just dispatching those monster ConEd tree killing trucks and about the rights of the other home owners in the nearby houses. How do these concerns stack up against the rights of the property owner on whose lot that tree precariously leans? Put another way, how do the principals of self determination stack up against the rights of others to be free the effects of your self determination?

So, replacing the obvious if a tree falls in the woods does a neocon fundi believe in it metaphor with a bunch of equally sketchy ones, the property owner is like the neocon fundi and the tree is like many of the issues waiting to crush this country and our rights. The owner doesn’t think the government should tell him what to do with his tree (I don’t need Social Security to tell ME how to save for retirement); or he denies the tree’s about to fall (it’s ok to have a big war and cut taxes on the rich at the same time ‘cause we’ll produce our way out of the deficit); or he simply believes faith and some hard prayin’ will keep that tree from falling (abstinence works); or, most insidiously and perhaps closet to the truth of all, he doesn’t care if the tree falls on someone else’s house or car or if it takes out power to half the neighborhood (really, Iraq and the Middle East are zipping right along according to plan, thank you very much) because once the tree falls, it’s someone else’s problem – and his problem’s solved.

The way I see it is his right to do with his tree what he will stops when it starts leaning toward my house. If I lived next door to this guy, I’d be out there with an axe making sure that when that baby goes, it’s falling the other way. I’d only be looking after my self interest….


Blogger Bravus said...

Mind you, they *do* want the government to be able to tell you who you can sleep with, who you can live with and whether you can have an abortion...

8:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home