Saturday, May 20, 2017

Voting in Iran and Invasive Species

What a wonderful age we live in: Last night I saw Steve Inskeep on The News Hour, and as Judy Woodruff interviewed him you could see people behind him voting in a mosque in Iran.  
It was a gorgeous mosque, with lots of tile and colors but the most amazing thing was the people.
Steve Inskeep

I could hardly focus on what Mr. Inskeep was saying because I was so taken with the images of the Iranian people behind him.  I had heard him say, on NPR radio, earlier in the day, that women lined up to vote in separate lines from men, so I imagined a sort of bleak and dreary event. 

But, NO!  The women behind him on the TV screen were vibrant, smiling, laughing, having a wonderful time. The whole scene was joyous and the vibrancy of the people came through.

It reminded me how very narrow and distorted an image I have of Iran and likely of the entire Middle East. Yes, they have to be careful about what they say and write for fear of a visit from the government goons, but they have lives, joys and the political climate cannot suppress that.

Reminded me of my father, returning from a visit to Spain, years ago, when the dictator Franco was still in power and he was laughing in dismay.  "I was wandering around in Madrid and seeing all these happy people, having a wonderful time, laughing, sitting at sidewalk cafes--didn't they know they lived in an oppressive dictatorship?" He had to laugh at his own ignorance. He expected life in a dictatorship would be all grimaces and sloped shoulders.

Of course, a glimpse over Mr. Inskeep's shoulder should not convince me life is fine in Iran, but when I listen to Mr. Trump and his bombastic band of brothers talking about Iran and the Iranians, I have to think of the possibility these people have their side of the story to tell.

Which brings me to pythons. Another story on NPR about the opening of python hunting season in Florida, where pythons are "destroying" the everglades, eating up raccoons, alligators, deer and Bambi.  They are an "invasive species."
We don't like them.

I really hate that idea of "invasive species."  
In New Hampshire, Norway maple trees are legally an "invasive species" even though they are nearly sterile, are not seen outside of all the house lots, church yards, or planted along median strips as landscaping.  
But somebody at the Horticulture Department of the University of New Hampshire testified before a committee of retirees who comprise the New Hampshire House of Representatives and called these trees an invasive species and poof! No longer can you buy or transport these trees or plant them in New Hampshire, under plenty of law in the Live Free or Die state. 
Unlike the pythons which have spread out and occupied territory, Norway Maples are simply not seen in any of the woods or forest surrounding Hampton or, to my knowledge, anywhere else in New Hampshire.  They are the most rooted invaders one can imagine. They simply do not move. 
Far as I can tell, the prime offense of these invaders is they have offended the aesthetic sense of the UNH faculty of Horticulture. The UNH faculty simply does not like purple leafed trees and took offense at how many people had planted them in their front yards, churches and town spaces and so they called them "invasive."

The fact is, there is nothing scientific about the notion of "invasive" species. A new bug arrives, finds a niche it can exploit and devours the stuff people living in the area like and that becomes an "invasive species."
We don't like them.
But this is a value judgment. We like trout. Trout are pretty and fun to catch. 
We do not like the snake fish, which can walk on land and devour all the trout in the lakes and  streams and so they are new and invaders and should be eliminated. 

Same thing for some insect or virus or fungus that kills the chestnut trees or the elms we love or the birch trees we love or the corn we plant or the apples.

We value certain things we like to look at or eat and these are good. These are not invasive. Cornfields in Iowa which replaced the grassy plains are not invasive. They are good.

We draw borders around what we like and what we want to defend: Our green sunlit lawns, and anything in nature which crosses that line is an "invader."
Fair enough. But remember, this is not nature or evolution. This is our imposition of our values within a territory of our own choosing.

When England voted for Brexit, Mr. Trump summarized it succinctly: "People want borders."

And he was right--the Brits were aggravated about their white, rosy cheeked children, now being displaced by immigrants from the Caribbean, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, all those "invasive species."
Globalization means that rats carrying plague from Singapore can jump ship in London or New York. 

But it also means we might meet new people with new virtues we had never really thought about. 

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