My niece leased a Hummer!

Should I try to talk to her or just channel my energy into drafting Al Gore?

By Cary Tennis
Published January 5, 2007 11:29AM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I have two goddaughters I love dearly. They are intelligent, kind and beautiful, and graduates of excellent universities. One of them married an unemployed motorcycle maniac and lives rent-free in a house my mother owns. Vehicles of all types spill out of "their" garage and onto the street. Her sister married a Republican and lives far beyond her means in a heavily mortgaged McMansion in the exurbs. I am not responsible for these women financially and have never been asked for an opinion on their taste in spouses, so I have kept my mouth shut. I try very hard not to be judgmental, but no doubt you can tell by my choice of words that I am filled with negativity no matter how devotedly I meditate.

But I reached my Rubicon when I found out that the Republicans bought -- oh, sorry, I mean leased (my sister thinks that makes a difference) -- a Hummer, which they use daily on a multiple-hour commute into the city. And of course Mr. Harley is swimming in his own drool, which suggests to me that he, too, would add one to his collection if only his wife made enough money. I considered giving them all DVDs of "An Inconvenient Truth" as Christmas gifts, but I didn't want to cause a scene when my sister makes such a big deal out of the family holiday get-together that she hosts.

Is it possible for Ivy-educated people to be unaware of how ill-considered the choice of a Hummer is? Could my other niece and her husband actually think it's OK for a person who doesn't have health or life insurance to be racing motorcycles in lieu of paid employment? Would it be useless for me to point out to them that they are fouling the air we all breathe, contributing to noise pollution, and increasing the likelihood that their future children will get skin cancer -- not to mention what it's doing to the poor polar bears?

Not much of my beautiful New Jersey remains Garden State-like, but none of it will be if many other people adopt their ways.

Do I speak out? If so, what should I say, as it will be a challenge to keep to the topic of the environment and not also offer them books by Suze Orman? Or should I shut up and channel my energy to the Draft Gore campaign? Any advice would be appreciated.

Madame Marie

Dear Madame Marie,

If we had a political system where we could round up all the idiots and put them in special idiot suburbs and make them ride tricycles and eat bananas, our descendants would regard us with considerable interest. They would think, Wow, well, at least our ancestors saw what had to be done! Then they would crawl back into the shade to conserve their bodily fluids.

But we can't round up all the idiots and put them in special idiot suburbs. We have to let them buy Hummers. It's in our blood.

So the earth will heat up and explode and we'll all die. Thanks, Hummer.

I suppose you could burn the Hummer. You could sneak in at night. But who knows what comes out of a Hummer when it burns.

A better thing would be to consider the purposes to which your short time on this earth might be profitably put. Maybe your godchildren are telling you something. Maybe what you really need to do is become more involved in political work to curtail global warming. If their behavior were to goad you into action, perhaps eventually you would come to regard them with gratitude, a backhanded kind of gratitude but gratitude nonetheless, the kind of gratitude we feel toward those who unwittingly awaken us to the truth.

So yes, I think you should turn your efforts to the Draft Gore campaign, if that's what you think will work. And if Al Gore is not amenable to being drafted, then throw yourself into whatever political work you can do to keep the planet at a tolerable temperature.

It's hard to tell what will work, if anything will. History does not make one sanguine. Rather, it indicates how things could go much more terribly wrong much sooner.

As to the interpersonal matter, which is chiefly what is bugging you: We love the people in our families even when they're ridiculous and stupid, don't we? We just love them. That shows how primitive we are, doesn't it? But there you are. So what to do? Well, not many people have this much disposable dough, but if you have the wherewithal, you could buy the Hummer from them and park it in your garage, thus getting it off the road, and then buy them a Prius.

But you can't make them be smarter and better if they're not. You can't fix them.

There might even be reasons they're doing this. Like because they want to show that they can do what they want and you can't stop them.

Besides, are we going to save the planet by living quiet little energy-efficient lives? I don't think so, as monumental forces stand against us, and China, still an infant, lumbers into gargantuan destiny.

Could Gore win?

Maybe. You could do worse than try.

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