G. P. Bear goes to Washington

The true story of a libertarian carnivore

by Bill Steigerwald

George Orwell used satire and talking pigs in “Animal Farm.” Now, with snowfalls in Houston and Houston signaling the start of the next ice age, veteran journalist Bill Steigerwald shamelessly steals Orwell’s idea and uses talking polar bears to poke fun at global warming alarmists, polar bear hysterics and their fellow travelers in Washington and the media.

Twisting the title of director Frank Capra’s movie masterpiece to his own evil ends, Steigerwald and his son Joe have created  “G.P. Bear Goes to Washington.”  The 6-part serialized “docu-fable” stars Grandpa, a magical, media-savvy and proudly skeptical libertarian polar bear who understands his species is in far greater danger from the interventions of the federal government, Barbara Boxer, Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio and overzealous wildlife scientists than from anthropogenic climate change.

 Part 1

“Are we not polar bears?”

Of all the animals the Inuit traditionally hunted, Nanuk, the polar bear, was the most prized. Native hunters considered Nanuk to be wise, powerful, and “almost a man.” Some called the bear “the great lonely roamer.” Many tribes told legends of strange polar-bear men that lived in igloos. These bears walked upright, just like men, and were able to talk. Natives believed they shed their skins in the privacy of their homes.

– Polar Bears International

 TASIILAQ, EAST GREENLAND

 

Grandpa Polar Bear was relaxing in his easy chair watching a special news report on TV called “Plight of the Polar Bears.” As a mother bear and her cub stood forlornly on a tiny shrinking iceberg somewhere near the Arctic Circle, the dashing reporter from CNN sounded like he was going to cry.

“…. because of global climate change, polar bears are suffering population losses and may soon become extinct. Rising temperatures are melting the sea ice earlier and earlier each summer, leaving the bears less time to hunt for their primary food ­ — ringed seals. If we don’t reduce our burning of fossil fuels soon, scientists say the only place our children will be able to see these magnificent creatures will be in a zoo or in a Walt Disney movie. For CNN, I’m Anderson Cooper.”

“Extinct!?” Grandpa roared, slapping the arms of his leather chair with his huge paws. “Melting sea ice!? Shrinking bear populations? Who writes this junk, Al Gore?”

“Don’t get upset, Dad,” said Mother, looking up from her latest copy of Reason magazine. “It’s CNN. What do you expect? Fairness? Balance?”

“What were they saying about polar bears dying, Grandpa?” asked Junior, looking worried as he came in from the kitchen with a bottle of Coke.

“Nothing, Junior. Nothing,” Grandpa grumbled. “Just a lot of make-believe.”

After dinner, Grandpa read Junior a bedtime story. As Grandpa was about to turn off the nightlight, Junior asked, “Grandpa, why do you yell at the TV? The people in it can’t hear you.”

“I know,” Grandpa said with a smile. “They live far away in New York and Washington. That’s why they don’t know anything about polar bears or the Arctic.”

Junior looked anxiously at Grandpa. “Mother said your heart will get attacked if you keep yelling at the news.”

“Don’t you worry,” Grandpa chuckled. “I just get mad when humans make us look like sissies who can’t handle a little change in the weather. We’re polar bears, for Pete’s sake. We’re not helpless victims. We don’t need the government, Keith Olbermann, Greenpeace, Leonardo DiCaprio or anyone else to protect us from Mother Nature.

“If humans just left us alone ­ and if their scientists stopped chasing us with helicopters and shooting us with dart guns ­ we’d be fine.”

“Why don’t you go to where the humans on TV live and yell at them?” wondered Junior. “Everyone always listens when you yell.”

“They wouldn’t believe a thing I’d tell them. But that’s a good idea, Junior,” Grandpa said, clicking off the nightlight. “A darn good idea. ”

*****

“Guess what I learned today?” Junior asked as he came running in from school.

“I can’t imagine,” Grandpa mumbled.

“Shush, Dad,” said Mother. “What did you learn, Junior?”

“I learned all about ‘global melting,’ ” Junior began breathlessly. “The whole world is getting hotter because humans drive too many cars. The sea ice is going to go away forever and — ”

“Whoa!” interrupted Grandpa. “Who taught you that stuff? Rachel Maddow?”

“No,” said Junior. “Principal Hansen. She came to homeroom today. Her big computer says Earth is getting hotter and hotter and Greenland is melting really, really fast. All the ice will be gone when I get as old as you.”

“That’s preposterous,” Grandpa said.

“Principal Hansen said the oceans will get taller and taller,” Junior said with a worried look on his face. “Principal Hansen said polar bears and lots of other animals will get ‘stinkt if humans keep burning stuff like coal. It’s really scary, Grandpa.”

“Principal Hansen’s crazier than Al Gore,” Grandpa said to Mother so Junior couldn’t hear. “Didn’t I tell you that boy should have been home-schooled?”

Later that same night, after midnight, Grandpa was at his desk. He was sending his usual round of disparaging e-mails to the politicians in Washington when Junior’s cry pierced the stillness.

“Grandpa!” Junior wailed. “Help me. I’m burning!”

Grandpa and Mother raced to Junior’s bedside. Junior was crying in his sleep. “Help me, Grandpa,” he pleaded mournfully. “I’m too young to melt.”

“Junior, wake up,” Grandpa said, shaking him. “You’re dreaming.”

Junior’s eyes popped open. “Grandpa! Mother! The ice was all gone! We were stuck on a tiny iceberg. The ocean was boiling!”

“It was just a silly nightmare, Junior,” soothed Mother. “The ice isn’t melting. See?” she said, patting the rock-hard wall of their cave.

Grandpa was fuming. He gritted his big teeth and looked Junior straight in his teary eyes.

“Boy,” he said firmly, “I’m going to tell you something I want you to remember for the rest of your life. We are polar bears. We are the largest land carnivores on Earth. We are the species ursus maritimus — ­ ‘bears of the sea.’ We can swim 200 miles. We can walk 100 miles a day.

“We learned how to live on this frozen wasteland thousands of years before humans discovered fire. There are 25,000 of us alive today ­ — twice as many as 50 years ago. We are not going to become extinct ­ no matter what Principal Hansen and her big computers say. Now go to sleep ­ and no more silly nightmares.”

“That was no nightmare,” Grandpa whispered angrily to Mother. “That boy’s being brainwashed by a bunch of kooks.”

“That’s all the schools teach,” said Mother. “It’s like a new religion. Every cub I know thinks the ice will be gone before they grow up. All the mothers are complaining.”

Grandpa was fuming. “Polar bears having nightmares,” he snarled. “That’s pathetic. It’s time somebody stood up to lunatics like Hansen and their doomsday stories.”

 

READ PARTS 2-6 OF THIS MAGICAL ADVENTURE HERE.

Eleven years ago, as another Christmas approached, I called up my favorite libertarian priest, The Rev. Robert Sirico, for some unique and principled seasonal advice.

Sirico is not your ordinary parish priest.

He is not only the pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Parish in Grand Rapids, Mich., he’s the co-founder and president of The Acton Institute,

England's greatest Lord, Lord Acton.

England’s greatest Lord, Lord Acton.

a market-friendly think tank devoted to promoting “a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.”

Father Sirico sums up the purpose of the Acton Institute, by reminding us of the beliefs of its great and brilliant namesake and relentless advocate of human freedom,  John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton (1834-1902).

Lord Acton gave us much, much more than his most famous and always apt quote:

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.

Summing up his institute’s mission, Father Sirico says on his institute’s web site that, “Acton realized that economic freedom is essential to creating an environment in which religious freedom can flourish. But he also knew that the market can function only when people behave morally. So faith and freedom must go hand in hand. As he put it, ‘Liberty is the condition which makes it easy for conscience to govern.’ ”

Father Sirico has been a frequent contributor to the country’s top op-ed pages and a regular commentator on TV. Brooklyn-born, a lefty in his youth, he’s made it his extra-spiritual calling to educate future religious leaders about the principles — and moral virtues — of a free-market economy.

The Qs and the As:

Eleven years ago, when I was a real journalist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review doing a weekly Q&A with smart or important people like Father Sirico, I called up my favorite man of the cloth up and asked him about Christmas, gift giving and the health of Christianity.

Q: Why has Christianity been so successful for 2,000 years?

A: I think we have to understand that Christianity inherits a lot of its presupposition from Judaism, so we have to begin by linking Christianity to Judaism, which parenthetically is why Christianity has no place for anti-Semitism in it. I think that Christian and Jewish anthropology accounts for having laid the foundation for the building of societies that are free and virtuous. This understanding of who the human person is — in a transcendent dignity but a physical reality, a real-world embrace of contingency, of historical circumstance, indeed the emergence of economics — comes from this anthropological understanding. If I was to point to one thing, that would be the one thing that accounts for the success of Christianity and the building of Western Civilization.

Q: What or where are Christianity’s most important challenges today?

A: Today the greatest challenge of Christianity, both here in the United States and most acutely in Europe, is the challenge of secularism; the attempt to live off the legacy of Christianity without reference to its roots. What secularism does — and its moral companion, moral relativism — is attempt to have structures and appearance and success predicated on a Judeo-Christian ethic but without reference to the obligations and even the dogmatic formulations that are attendant and explicate those roots.

Q: Looking around the world, do you see Christianity gaining or losing its moral authority in our day-to-day lives, especially in politics and culture?

A: I think this is the struggle in the United States right now. In some sense, pockets of Christianity have lost a sense of moral authority. We’ve seen this in the mainline churches and to some extent in the more progressive elements of the Catholic Church– where these religious officials have substituted a confident proclamation of the traditions of the faith with a kind of politically correct and sociologically based agenda. So you see in the various statements of the religious headquarters a preoccupation with political, social issues — a kind of displacing of the theological paradigm, which is centered on God, on revelation, and in the case of Christianity, of Jesus Christ, with a sociological or psychological paradigm.

But the elements of Christianity that are growing are the traditional elements within Catholicism, in large part as the result of the encouragement of the model they received from Pope John Paul the Great and now Benedict the 16th and within evangelical Christianity, which has become rather sophisticated. It is not the kind of shad-belly, snake-handling, uneducated-preacher type any more. You have highly accomplished, intellectually sophisticated representatives of evangelic Christians.

Then on top of that, I think that the most interesting, exciting and vibrant dialogue that is occurring right withinreligious communities right now is occurring between evangelicals and traditional Roman Catholics … that is, Catholics who really believe in theteaching authority of the church.

Q: Does Christianity have anything to fear from Islam?

A: Let me say that this encounter with Islam, for Catholicism, is not a new thing. Catholicism has encountered Islam in its various phases and various traditions over the centuries…. The important thing that I think was underscored by the Regensburg speech in Germany by Pope Benedict is that we must come to an understanding that religion must utilize reason in order to create the opportunity for conversation. If we simply resort to violence in settling our religious disagreements, then very soon there is bloodshed and things that would undermine the basis of civil order.

This is a warning not just directed to the more extreme elements of Islam. The speech by Benedict was really a warning to the West, which is rejecting reason along with Christianity. You find that many philosophers, especially those of the deconstructionist model, no longer believe that the human mind, and hence reason, has the capacity to apprehend truth — that there is no truth. This is associated with moral relativism.

So the threat comes not just from fundamentalist Islam, jihadist Islam, but also from highly secularized elements of European and American culture. I would like to think that the more moderate elements of Islam, who are repulsed by the hedonism and the secularism they see, might be willing to find some common cause with traditional Christians in promoting a society that can remain virtuous and retain a religious reference point.

Q: Christianity and Islam — didn’t they coexist rather peacefully at some point?

A: There was a period of several hundred years where they did. In the strict reading of the Koran, Christians would have to pay a tax for being Christians. But being people of ‘the Book,’ they wouldn’t necessarily be executed. They were certainly seen in the book — in the Koran — as second-class citizens. The question is whether Islam can formulate, or reformulate, an understanding of themselves that has a sense of tolerance and makes the distinction between the power and authority of the religion and the legitimate secular authority. Christianity did this predicated on Jesus’ words ‘Render unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.’ Islam apparently has greater difficulty in doing that. In one sense, Islam is awaiting its Augustine, it’s awaiting its Aquinas, to help formulate and develop these distinctions. That really is the debate: Can Islam develop? The more-jihadists say no, the text is written and is fixed and there is no exegesis. There is no development the way you had in Christianity. Therefore there is no distinction between power — which is coercive and external, namely government or legal — and authority, which is internal and moral — which would be the church’s role. Both power and authority are forms of constraint, but one is coercive and the other is based on persuasion.

Q: Christians complain about the commercialization of Christmas. Secularists complain about the cold-hearted immorality of the marketplace. Is capitalism a natural enemy of Christianity, or vice versa?

A: I don’t think capitalism is a natural enemy of Christianity. Capitalism is really an inadequate word; it only describes one dimension of what is really human freedom and choice in the economic sphere. Choice is morally neutral. It’s the chooser who can be moral or immoral, not the ability to make the choice. You have to have the ability to make the choice in order to choose. I think it is a mistake for religious leaders to condemn the free economy based on some of the results. What they may want to do is condemn the choices that people make and the lack of moral formation that they have.

But the notion of gift-giving as being sinful at Christmas is absurd. Where do we get gift-giving from? The Magi. They brought the gifts to Jesus. But I think it is very easy to lose focus on the core meaning of the season, which is human relationships. A part of that is economic, but not the whole of it.

Q: You recently wrote a column about how the act of gift-giving relies heavily on an economic system that allows free exchanges between individuals. Can you explain?

A: You can’t be generous with which you don’t first have — with which you have not first produced and possessed. So there is this moral dimension to it. The real danger is when you lose focus and the mere act is an end in itself, or the mere giving, or the mere buying, is an act in itself. This diminishes the understanding of who human beings are.

Q: Does that mean that it’s the end and not the means that matters? Usually it’s the other way around.

A: I think it’s both a means and the end. You have to be headed in the right direction — the end. You need to choose the appropriate means for that and I think market activity is an appropriate means to a right end. But economics as such does not have a moral reference point. By itself, economics tells us nothing about what is good and bad. It will only tell us what is in supply and what is scarce.In order to bring the moral reference point, you have to have human beings who are formed with a moral sensitivity.

Q: What’s the best Christmas gift anyone can give another person?

A: I think themselves. By that I mean love, relationship. Sometimes that will take the form of a material expression. The best gift is the gift of self, because in giving oneself, one is giving everything else. After all, this is what follows the model of Christ himself. In his condescension to come to Earth to be with us, he gives himself. There was a cute little takeoff of the Hallmark slogan years ago that Christians used — ‘God cared enough to give the very best.’ I don’t mean to be just poetic in saying it, but I think the best gift we can give people is ourselves.

I recently had the pleasure of being on Timothy Westmyer’s Super Critical podcast, which is a deep dive into pop culture that surrounds nuclear weapons. Westmyer is a lovely, funny dude who knows nuke-related real world stuff, and therefore can actually speak to SCIENCE. I can — and did — speak to Fallout-related stuff.

Behold!

Timothy has other intriguing episodes on depressing pieces of pop culture such as Threads. I’ve actually not yet tackled his Twilight Zone-themed episodes, even though I covered some of them on this very blog.

Give his podcast a listen. Hopefully you’ll find me on it again sometime. Heck, demanding to be a guest worked quite well the first time! (Literally demanded. Politely, but firmly. I regret nothing.)

ICP playing in front of the Lincoln Memorial

ICP playing in front of the Lincoln Memorial

I’d love to love Insane Clown Posse, if only because of my new-found respect for their song subject matter, and in fact, their general sensibility.

There are plenty of ICP songs about mystical carnival stuff. Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope also have songs with subjects that run the gamut from Charles Whitman in the University of Texas tower, to critiques of prosperity doctrine preachers, to killing rednecks, to the everyday magic of everyday life. They’re guileless, but profane. They’re morbid-minded, but full of simple joy about basic things. All of that is a little bit…me. Even if I grew up nice and middle middle class, not bottom of the heap and fighting for self-respect like those two.

The amazing thing about ICP is that they have embraced everything uncool about themselves, and their fans by extension. Pride in poverty, in bad taste in cheap soda, pride about being mocked, and taking it back–saying yes, I am a clown, that’s ok, and turning that into not just a rabid fandom, but an entire subculture who, among their many siren calls, declares each other “Fam-a-ly!”

But it isn’t just their greasepaint clown garbe, their throwing cheap soda around, or their over-dependence on A-A-A-A rhymes. ICP also has a ridiculous, borderline spiritual mythology. First it was the dark carnival, and the Joker’s Cards albums that stressed the murderous stuff. Then the album containing the legendarily-mocked “Miracles” came out in 2010.

Another song off that album was about the end of the world. “It’s All Over” it has some of the usual ICP awkwardness (and Shaddy 2 Dope’s aggressive A-A-A-A breakdown is so unnecessary), but there’s something else going on that has captivated me.

In the video, our boys are in the middle of a city. Everyone else is panicking, but they’re not. Violent J repeats the sentiment that when all of this shit is going down–every possible apocalypse at once, because ICP can’t do anything halfway– my favorite being “aliens come and eat mankind” which proves that these are funny dudes, and have never gotten enough respect for that–he’s just going to “stand on the roof, spread my arms out, and sing.”

Near the end, is my favorite part. Violent J sings  “And you’re not missing anything when you’re gone/Plus seeing it all end and what goes on/To see this great world come to an end/Would be the next best to seeing it begin.”

In one of the tear-inducing pieces on Rogert Ebert a year or two before he died, he had a line, “I was perfectly happy before I was born.” That is to say, old Ebert didn’t fear death. Neither does ICP, it seems. The band is Christian — a supposed twist, that most ardent fans say that everyone should have seen coming — and this casualness towards the end of things could be seen as a Christian confidence in being saved. But it doesn’t come off that way, even if Shaggy introduces things with an evil revival preacher voices. The perspective, still, it comes off more human than religious. More “Can the Circle be Unbroken” than God is Not Dead because the band is accepting the end, but not spitting all over feelings and life the way that hideous movie does.

It’s a funny song, crammed with armageddon overkill, so it’s hard to highlight just one source of doom. However, it doesn’t feel like a mere joke or an alienating belief in God having their backs (and no one else’s), and that’s it. In fact, the song clarifies that “God has had enough of our shit.”

Like even the best ICP songs, this one is a big mess. But it sounds like the mess that these two guys are — it is them, not something made in a hitmaker’s factory. The realness of ICP, even after notoriety and the mantle of “worst band of all time” is obvious after a day of research, and a day spent with the most passionate Juggalos congregated in DC. For a lot of Juggalos, it’s about the scene and the acceptance perhaps more than the music. But there are moments in the music, too. This is a very strange song about death, and the death of everything and everyone, and of all things, it’s kind of comforting and optimistic. People are losing their minds and screaming, and Shaggy and J are just walking and listening to music on their headphones. It’s got the commendable swagger of Benjamin Guggenheim saying “we are dressed in our best, and prepared to go down as gentlemen” as the Titanic listed and sank.

Plus, I really like the moment when Shaggy sits on a park bench and checks out the one woman who seems more upset about the end of the world thing, but then kind of exasperated about being checked out. I am still not sure what’s happening there, but it’s hilarious.

Update: for me on ICP, check out my Spiked Online piece on the Juggalo March on Washington.

  • sprigleBuy a copy of my father’s book about a journalistic, humanitarian, muckraking adventure in the Jim Crow South. Ray Sprigle is a forgotten great of journalism, and he made a Black Like Me trip in 1948, before just about anyone was bothering to do anything about the country’s race problem, and when “enlightened” people thought the best solution was to keep things separate, but be more polite and “equal” about it. 30 Days a Black Man: The Forgotten Story that Exposed the Jim Crow South tells the tale of Sprigle, his guide John Wesley Dobbs, and other amazing, and sadly-forgotten characters. Read it!
  • Alexis; Pennsylvania, July, 2012.

    Alexis; Pennsylvania, July, 2012.

    Donate money so that my beloved friend Alexis can see! It’s the transhumanist future, baby, and legally blind people like Alexis can be helped by devices such as eSite. She needs to raise $15,000 and I promise, she’s worth it. (I mean, not to rank people or anything, but I have a pro-Alexis bias.)

lonesomeroad

Logo by Adriana Wilson

Zach Fountain, Seth Wilson, and I are going to release monthly paranormal, paranoia, and country music-stlye chats. We may move on to a guest or two.

Next one will be on aliens. Several will be on aliens, in fact.

It’s also on iTunes! — thanks to Zach.

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Tune in! It’s a free excuse for me to hang out with my internet friends here, and the talk is going to be good and scary.