December 7, 2007

Steve Padilla

THE DARK AGES

Sometimes I just scratch my head and ask - what year is it again? Are we making progress in our country today or do things just seem upside down and definitely sliding backward? Maybe it’s me, I keep thinking it’s the year 2007 (almost 2008). I was thinking we live in a culture that respects and protects our diversity, nurtures and appreciates knowledge and the advances of science, and tries to use them to our benefit. Maybe I’ve got one of the numbers wrong – I keep putting a “20” where the “5” belongs. Who knew, 507 A.D? Huh.

When I was growing up, being with people of different colors and customs was routine, and the obvious differences were never dwelled upon by most, just accepted and often enjoyed. At least among my generation something new did not mean something wrong. Being of the different backgrounds, customs and languages we were exposed to daily did not mean that as neighbors, classmates and friends, we were not part of the same crew, community and country.

If we saw things differently we argued, but did not de-humanize each other. Common sense told us that we lived in a nation of faith, indeed of many faiths. Although our country is a religious one, we didn’t have the attitude that our country was officially born of any one religion, even if it was one most of us shared in common. We had friends of many different faiths or of none at all. We could discuss what makes us different from time to time, without forgetting what makes us the same. It was considered rude to try to impose our religious views upon others, never mind thinking to write them into the laws that govern the private lives of all.

Knowledge and science were good things, to be embraced and respected. Scientists were cool, really smart and slightly weird guys and gals in smocks who were inventing and discovering things. You could study biology, and the bible if you chose. Most of us understood and never questioned, that they would be taught – at least in public schools – in different classes. We would hear from our teachers of conscience and faith in church, at our dinner table, in synagogue, or perhaps by taking a walk with ourselves along the beach or in the mountains. We would hear from our teachers of science, mathematics art and literature in our lecture halls and classrooms. The absence of one of these ideas from one setting was not considered an insult to the other somewhere else. When science revealed something new which could benefit us, we listened and changed our ways for our collective good. Asbestos, lead paint, and cars without seatbelts, - all are “no-no’s” today. Doctors today understand bacteria and infection and no longer operate on one patient and move on to the next without washing up. Why? Science. Knowledge.

So today some still question in the face of overwhelming evidence, whether mankind is effecting the warming of our planet. A bill in Washington with bi-partisan support would be the first major new direction in energy policy in years. It would help reduce America’s dependence on oil and reduce greenhouse gasses. The new law would contain the first real increase in fuel efficiency standards in over 30 years. It could, according to some, save 1.1 million barrels of oil per day, strengthening average fuel economy standards from 25 to 35 miles per gallon by the year 2020. The bill would also set a national standard for utilities, mandating they generate at least 15% of their power from renewable sources such as wind and solar. A higher standard already exists in California.

President Bush is already promising a veto because of the energy standard.

In November, the House of Representatives passed by a strong margin the first federal job discrimination bill to protect the rights of gays & lesbians. The Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act would make it illegal for employers to fire someone simply and only because they are gay or lesbian. It is already illegal to do so based upon gender, race or religious beliefs. President Bush has already promised to veto the bill.

Meanwhile back at the farm in Texas, the Texas Education Agency abruptly fired its Director of Science, a veteran science teacher of 27 years, with 9 years as Director. She had apparently forwarded an email containing information about an upcoming seminar by a professor of philosophy from SLU (Southeastern Louisiana University), which takes issue with “intelligent design” and creationism being taught in public schools as part of science courses. Imagine that, the state Director of Science for the Texas Education Agency wanting to ensure students receive a solid scientific education in science class.

I’m still scratching. What year is it again?

Padilla served as Chula Vista Mayor from 2002-06 and on the California Coastal Commission from 2005-07. He is President/CEO of Aquarius Group, Inc. and can be contacted at: spadilla@aquariusgroup.org.

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