Are the Gods Getting Dementia? | Opinion | Salt Lake City Weekly

Are the Gods Getting Dementia? 

Taking a Gander: Living in a truly messed up world

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If you're one of those people who thinks that the Man In The Sky is in control of everything, you have good reason to be shaking your head and asking Him, as you kneel by your bed, "What the heck do you think You're doing?"

And, if you're expecting an answer, please don't get your hopes up.

Devastating drought now covers a large part of the earth; temperatures have risen at a frightful rate; wars, in a new wave of imperialistic greed, are ravishing populations and causing untold suffering and unmanageable refugee situations; the allocation of water is helter-skelter, as riverbeds dry and crack in many areas while, at the very same time, floods, mudslides, and extreme storms wash over parts of the world, bringing death and destruction; fires consume our forests at an unprecedented rate; news, once relied upon by all, has been tainted with both spin and lies.

Things are really messed up.

Generally, mankind has become accustomed to a relatively stable world—one in which the sun rises each morning and sets every night. The mere notion of a chicken running around and screaming, "The sky is falling," is something utterly ridiculous and unimaginable, found only in children's storybooks.

But, could it be?

The COVID pandemic, of course, has been a game-changer. When it hit, fear encompassed the globe. People were getting sick. Images of the infected—first, flooding the emergency rooms and Insta-Cares and then, laboring on ventilators at death's door—soaked up the prime-time minutes. An entire world hunkered down, hoping to evade the destroying angel.

In the last 100 years, there has simply been nothing that disrupted people's lives—and shook their faith in constants—more than COVID-19.

Our planet, despite its myriad problems, was focused on that one thing. Normal schedules for work, schooling and recreation/leisure time were all disrupted. In a sense, no one escaped COVID—simply because its fallout touched all.

Visiting friends and gathering at the local hotspot were activities that came to an abrupt stop. In-person education transitioned to a well-intentioned, but half-assed substitute—online school, where kids suffered from the absence of meaningful social interaction.

Jobs were lost; families faced homelessness; astronomical shortages changed grocery shopping to an ordeal; mental health clinics were flooded with the anxious, depressed and fearful; and the most prosperous and progressive parts of our world could no longer have the sense of "all is well."

Luckily, COVID seems to have become relatively innocuous. Lots of people are still getting sick, but the pandemic seems to have lost much of its lethality and urgency.

But sadly, the world's health crisis was also a handy distraction—one that Russia and Vladimir Putin used to launch an invasion of Ukraine. But Ukraine is just a small chapter in a large book. Other dictators—including China's Xi Jinping—are looking at the world's health, weather and economic disruptions as a smoke screen for consolidating their power and territory. What happened to Hong Kong is history; Taiwan is next. And other world powers understand that defending their allied treaty-countries may not always be wise. Looming visions of a final, global-war suggest that allies must forego their moral obligations and, instead, stand-down.

Nothing is sacred. All bets are off.

Here in Utah, we're facing the prospect that Brigham Young's predictions of the "desert, blooming like a rose," may have been a bit premature, and that the valley of the Great Salt Lake may be anything but the "This is the Place" heaven that Young envisioned. Utahns face the reality that if the Great Salt Lake's shrinkage cannot be stopped, our magnificent, panoramic views could change to starkness, and that hot toxic dust may bring illness and deaths to our population. The brine shrimp industry, one that brings a $60 million annual bounty to the state, would likely shrink; migratory birds could lose their easy food supply; postcards, featuring tourists bobbing lightly on the lake's surface, could disappear. The Great Salt Lake is more than just a lake, and the solvers-of-problems are now talking of robbing farmers of their vital water in order to save it.

Are you happy you woke up this morning? It's a gloomy scenario. Some will say that this is about that Man in the Sky bringing about the Earth's final moments. I say it's just the fickle world, making a statement about its non-eternal nature.

And yet, no one has a crystal ball and I'm totally inadequate as a prophet. We all need to remember that the natural-gas driven monster pumps that Gov. Norm Bangerter built to drain the then-rising waters of the Great Salt Lake were never used, and that "Bangerter's Folly," as some dubbed the project, was followed by the "bounty" of some exceptionally dry years—a real blessing—ones that totally ended the risk of re-flooding the Great Basin and drowning its inhabitants.

So, take heart. Just when things are looking their most ominous, there's always that glint of hope on the horizon. Somehow, with a little bit of luck, we may survive using mankind's remarkable, collective intellect to solve our world's daunting problems.

And, should a chicken appear at your door, shouting that the sky is falling, just wring its neck and enjoy a little chicken-soup-for-the-soul.

The author is a retired businessman, novelist, columnist, and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He lives in Riverton, Utah with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.

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