It is the sort of disaster that just makes you sick. Birds and dolphins and fish are dying and people are losing their livelihoods. We care so much about cheap energy that we are willing to downplay or ignore even the most heinous risks to get it. Doing the hard things and making the hard decisions for our long-term good is not a particularly strong attribute for us, and the gulf oil spill is the perfect reminder of that fact.
And this applies to more than just the environment. Israel and Palestine won't make the hard decisions in order to come to peace. The same goes for many other nations, including America, which value short-term benefits and military force over long-term solutions and true and lasting peace.
The more I write on this blog and think about the world, the more I gravitate towards just a few political issues that I feel really passionate about: peace, protection of our agency and right to choose to become like Heavenly Father, and the environment. I think if we can learn to treasure these three things we will have a wonderful world to live in that will last us for a long time. I also think we treat these issues glibly. Too many Americans and members of the church are constantly looking for the next fight (Iran seems to be the Next Big Thing for the hawks), downplaying the disastrous effect we are having on the environment and the long-term problems that will arise as a consequence, and focusing on false issues like liberalism and health care reform as threats to agency instead of real issues like addictions, totalitarianism in places like Africa where the church is trying to create a real presence, and our freedom to practice our religion.
One of my all-time favorite Mormon blog posts is from Cool New Thang called Mad Max Mormonism vs. Star Trek Mormonism. It really captures a frame of mind that I think we are severely lacking in the church and in our nation: optimism. The idea is that while some Mormons just look for the signs of the coming apocalypse, others believe that we humans are capable of working things out and creating a peaceful and somewhat more utopian society, thereby delaying the apocalypse. President Hinckley has expressed his realistic optimism several times, but I particularly like this quote from 1989:
I feel very optimistic. Things are happening in the world that are salutary and good. There are wars, yes. There is conflict, yes. But there also is much of peace among the nations of the earth. Something of tremendous significance is happening in the USSR and the People’s Republic of China. There is growing freedom of expression and activity. A new openness is developing. I feel the spirit of Christ is brooding over the nations of the earth.So we can either look at the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and sigh in disgust and see it as another sign of the times, or think about Israel killing humanitarian aid workers and view it as another step towards Armageddon, and I've done both of these, or we can redouble our optimism and our efforts to leave our slice of humanity better than how we found it and hope for a better world. We can be Star Trek Mormons and try our best to convert Mad Max Mormons over to our side.
Of course there are problems, many and serious. We sorrow over the plague of drugs with its bitter harvest. We deplore the terrible scourge of pornography. We grieve over the wicked flood of immorality and abortion. We are concerned with the epidemic of infidelity, of divorce and broken homes. We are disturbed over the plight of the homeless and over stark hunger in many parts of the earth.
But the remarkable thing is that so many people care. More than at any time in the history of the world, I believe, there are men and women by the tens of thousands who are reaching out with their strength and their substance to help those in distress. Modern science and medicine are doing wonders to alleviate pain and prolong life. There is greater fulfillment in the lives of millions.
Concerning our own work—that is, the work of this church—I feel even more optimistic. We are growing stronger. I hope our people are growing better. I think they are. There is increased activity, increased devotion, increased faithfulness.
I really believe it comes down to those three issues I posted before. We should be strong voices for peace and not get mixed up in whether we appear weak or strong or whatever. We should protect our Earth for ourselves and countless future generations, thereby avoiding the conflict and depredation that come with dwindling resources. We should ensure that all people are free to make choices which would allow them to become more like our Heavenly Father and not get bogged down in spats about whether or not something like reform of our financial institutions is akin to the plan of Lucifer. We are above such nonsense, or at least we should be.