We are tomorrow’s past, so this Thanksgiving give thanks for 2013, a year the future might study more for amusement than for edification. HealthCare.gov performed the public service of defeating Barack Obama’s ascription of every disagreeable effect to one of two causes — George W. Bush or global warming. Concerning the latter, a CNN anchor wondered if an asteroid that passed by Earth on Feb. 15 was “an effect of, perhaps, global warming.” The Los Angeles Times announced that it had stopped publishing letters questioning global warming caused by human activity.
Which makes sense, if you agree with The New Yorker’s resident expert, who called the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on warming “the last word on climate change.” It evidently is the first science to reach the end of its subject, all questions answered. Therefore it is puzzling that dramatic predictions of an unusually high number of 2013 hurricanes were dramatically wrong.
Paleoanthropology has not reached its last word. The story of human evolution may have been simplified by conclusions reached this year about a 1.8 million-year-old skull found in the Caucasus in 2005. The earliest human remain found outside of Africa indicates that our ancestors emerged from Africa as a single species, not several species. Its brain was about one-third the size of today’s human brains.
Some of today’s brains. A Tennessee judge’s ruling was reversed: She had ordered a family to change their child’s name, Messiah, because that “title” has “only been earned by one person.” At the school where a Maryland kindergartner is supposed to learn reasonableness, officials interrogated him for more than two hours before notifying his mother that he possessed a cap gun. Fortunately, it contained no caps; otherwise it would have been deemed an explosive. Michigan educators forced the removal of the little plastic soldiers a mother had put on cupcakes she brought to school on her son’s birthday.
On Sept. 17, Constitution Day, a student at Modesto Junior College was told to stop distributing copies of the Constitution until he had filled out the requisite forms for permission to use the college’s designated “free speech area.” The Bank of England is putting Jane Austen on a new 10-pound note because without a woman on some notes, British currency would “not command respect and legitimacy.” Queen Elizabeth II is on all notes. American University in Washington, offered a course on “The 50 Shades Trilogy.”
The infantilization of adults continued with the marketing of $600 High Rollers, which are Big Wheels for (biological, not actual) grown-ups. MSNBC, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Gov. George Wallace’s attempt to prevent the integration of the University of Alabama, identified Wallace as a Republican.
In Washington, even local government is demented: The Metropolitan Area Transit Authority threatened Henry Docter with “arrest, fines and imprisonment” for the crime of unregulated gardening. Docter had filled 176 empty planters at the Dupont Circle subway stop. The Transit Authority was briefly deterred by the public outcry against its threat to punish Docter for his uncompensated act of beautification. But then it had the 1,000 morning glories and other plants ripped out.
Those vigilant about our welfare never sleep; Canadian relief supplies for Oklahoma tornado victims were stopped at the U.S. border until every item could be itemized in alphabetical order and its country of origin noted. You can’t be too careful.
As the National Park Service and NASA understand. They are among the federal agencies that have their own SWAT teams. The Department of Agriculture, however, stresses sensitivity. A video of its “cultural sensitivity training” shows employees being instructed to call the Pilgrims who created Thanksgiving “illegal aliens.” Of course there were no immigration laws to make any one of the first Thanksgivings illegal — for which fact, give thanks. Someday, if there is no Agriculture Department, more thanks to be given.