Is it just us or has the vernal season come this year amid some awfully strange times?
First off, we have the energy crisis. (Who would have guessed that just a year ago the term “rolling blackout” would enter the vernacular with such a vengeance!) It’s hard to say if the power emergency itself or its political underpinnings are more disturbing. And, smart as we are in Sacramento to boast our own municipal utility, SMUD hasn’t ultimately been able to shield us much from power outages or rate increases. Yes, we’re enjoying spring, but most of us are already looking ahead with dread to facing the 100-degree-plus dog days of summer without a dependable supply of electricity for air conditioning. President Bush’s solution—a national energy policy that would open up federal lands (such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) to more oil and gas drilling—seems ever more disquieting than the blackouts.
This brings us into more weird territory: the economy. No amount of spin on the Sacramento Bee’s business pages can hide the fact that Wall Street is in a panic; consumer confidence is in the toilet and our economy is in a terrible tailspin after nearly a decade of the strongest bull market in history. Locally, this has meant downsizing, layoffs and “consolidation” efforts at several large Sacramento-based firms, such as Intel and Blue Diamond Growers. On the subject of the economy, Bush keeps saying his $1.6 trillion tax cut will serve as tonic—but few (least of all anyone with any treasury experience) seem to believe him.
The news reveals more strange days: mad cow disease, foot-and-mouth disease and a disturbing outbreak of deaths from meningitis at area high schools. In the international arena, Japan is in bad economic trouble. So is Russia. The Middle East remains steeped in grief and Eastern Europe is basically at war, with our government about to fight the people we were defending only a few years ago. On the global environment front, Bush has just inexplicably pulled his support for a reduction in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, regardless of the fact that the scientific community is 99.9 percent unanimous in its assessment that global warming is a significant threat to the health of future generations.
Dear reader: Have we become paranoid? Or do you agree that things are getting a little weird out there? If you can explain what’s going on in a good essay of 400 words, we’ll gladly print it as an upcoming SN&R Guest Comment. We look forward to seeing if anyone out there can make better sense than we can of the Strange Spring Zeitgeist 2001.