Connecting the dots

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A letter in the Sacramento Bee last weekend put in words what many people surely believe. Not the majority, mind you, but many.

“Do you remember when same-sex marriage was front-page news? Less than a week later, California was burning…. Could there be a link between these events?”

This same line of thinking yielded post-Katrina comments: The hurricane was God’s punishment for New Orleans’ debauchery. Or for abortion. Or for U.S. actions in the Middle East. Or for sins in general.

And it’s a parallel track to concluding 9/11 was a conspiracy to further policy goals of the White House; that the Fed and Wall Street are delaying an inevitable crash until after the presidential election; that the election won’t matter because Bush, whose administration is free and loose with the Constitution, won’t relinquish the Oval Office.

It’s “connect the dots” for adults, in black ink instead of crayon.

I’m more likely to believe conspiracies than prophesies, but that’s beside the point. Why take stock in any of this speculation?

It’s in our nature; we want to make sense of the world around us. It’s in our culture; we’re conditioned to accept far-out schemes. In movie after movie, show after show, book after book, the hero knows something that others won’t accept, overcomes obstructionists and emerges triumphant.

Three Days of the Condor—bookworm finds his officemates dead after a CIA report hits too close to home. (Spoiler alert: It’s about an international scheme to manipulate the oil market … and here we are, 33 years later …)

The Triangle—second-rate researchers solve the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle. (Spoiler alert: … and race to stop the experts from making it worse!)

The Day After Tomorrow—global-warming scientist bucks conventional wisdom until a massive storm shows he was right all along. (Wait, could climate change be what’s behind Katrina, floods and wildfires? Nah; too simple.)

Chinatown—private eye looks for a marital affair, pulls the covers back on city corruption.

Absolute Power—thief witnesses a crime committed by the president and covered up by the Secret Service.

The Pelican Brief—law student stumbles onto the reason two Supreme Court justices got assassinated.

Deep Impact—teen discovers a comet heading toward Earth.

Conspiracy Theory—taxi driver writes a newsletter about government plots …

And so on.

Watergate proved conspiracies can be real (see: All the President’s Men). Screenwriters and novelists have us looking for them everywhere.

Even in Switzerland.

News item: This fall, scientists plan to turn on the Large Hadron Collider, a particle smasher that critics fear could create black holes that’ll suck up the Earth, maybe even the universe.

The Black Hole—scientist fights the clock and the establishment after an experiment-gone-bad creates (you guessed it) a monstrous black hole.

Hubris? God’s punishment? Here we go …