September 25, 2008

We Must Change…or Perish

It's been hard to come up with a subject to write about this week. Every backcountry skiing or hiking related topic I've thought of just seems a topic. So I will go off topic to stay on, and relay a dream I had last night, in which MSNBC's Keith Olbermann was moderating a joint emergency House and Senate hearing on the current financial crisis, and the proposed bailout.

If you are wondering why I was dreaming about Olbermann, perhaps a little setup is in order. Currently I'm in Arizona, home base for Senator McCain, where I've been visiting family and listening to my Father's increasingly unhappy and twisted (to me) logic as he defends the McCain-Palin ticket.

We all happened to be sitting around the TV last night watching Countdown because I wanted to get a first glimpse of the new Palin-Witchcraft gotcha video (my verdict: asking Jesus to finance Palin's candidacy struck me as a lot more alarming than asking him to protect her from Witches. Also: I'm not a big fan of the laying-on of hands thing).

Afterward, I lay on the floor of my brother's room, trying to fall asleep, listening to my Father, in the distance, who was railing against the foulness of American Politics, in which a candidate's personal belief or disbelief in witchcraft was considered within bounds for criticism.

So it took me a long, long time to fall asleep.

THE ROOM was huge and it was dark: a black echo chamber split by an extraordinarily long, black table which was lit from above, 24-style, by a harsh white spotlight.

There were no walls; just empty space vanishing into darkness.

On either side sat members of Congress. At the head of the table, on a raised platform, was the Chairman of the proceedings.

Olbermann sat at the table near the end, surrounded by Senators, asking questions of the experts, who were testifying before the hearing (if you are wondering, Olbermann sat on the left side of the table. I, a silent observer, was somewhere on the left side of the room—though perhaps just left of center).

Obviously Olbermann's presence in the room was controversial. But he seemed to be doing a good job of asking cut-to-the-chase questions on the proposed bailout, in his typical Countdown style, and getting the experts to admit what they did and didn't know.

Thus, the congressmen on the other side of the table seemed to tolerate and even accept Olbermann's presence as moderator, which was perhaps as stunning to me as seeing Olbermann in the room in the first place.

Desperate they say.

At that moment, Olbermann suddenly stopped his questions and stood, interrupting his own moderation of the proceedings to speak directly to Congress—the Special Commentary of a lifetime.

Honestly, I thought they'd throw him out of the room, but everyone was apparently so astonished by Olbermann's presumptuousness that no one knew what to do.

So we all watched as Olbermann slowly circled the great table and meekly (at least, as close to meek as I've ever seen him) climbed up the platform at the head of the table.

The bailout was fatally flawed*, Olbermann said, for three reasons.

Climbing higher (and rather precariously) up to a massive whiteboard, Olbermann took a black marker and began to list them.

1st: We don't know how much money it will actually cost.

The room was silent. Whether anyone agreed or disagreed, Olbermann had everyone's attention.

2nd: Even if we knew how much it would cost, we don't have the money.

3rd: ...

Olbermann stopped, needing to sneeze but unable to do so.

His big moment and he's blowing it! I thought.

With a shrug, Olbermann gave up on the sneeze, faked an embarrassed little 'kachoo' and then continued writing on the white board:

3rd: Our Sofa Sets are Too Small

A round of hisses and whistles came from the room—especially the right side.

The Chairman banged his gavel for order. Olbermann, apparently finished, returned to his seat at the table.

But he had one last thing to say. Clarifying point Number Three, Olberman stopped, and soberly said to Congress, 'We must change...or Perish.

A nervous murmur went through the room.

After a long moment, the Chairman at last spoke in response, addressing the entire room. 'What is more American than Change?' he asked.

The question seemed to resonate within the hearts and minds of all in that room.

The Chairman repeated it, more forcefully: What is more American than Change?

And I woke up...

* note: a third element in the genesis of my dream is unquestionably this article from the Freakonomics Blog: an open letter from over 100 of the nation's top economists arguing that the bailout, in its proposed form, is fatally flawed.

Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow

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