It was early morning and I was meditating on notions of things that don't change, when my ringing phone interrupted. “Turn on the TV,” a familiar voice said to my answering machine, “there's a big fire in Knoxville.”
Moving to the room where our one-eyed wizard sits enthroned, I picked up the remote and saw that nearby Knoxville was changing in front of my eyes. From lots of angles it will never look the same. Fire in the night destroyed huge brick warehouse buildings in a historic area that soon, no doubt, will see new development. Like it or not, Knoxville is moving on.
So are we all. 2007 is busy casting off norms of the past. Consider:
* Guess Who Came to the Super Bowl? Two head coaches of color, that's who. And guess who got a big monkey off his back, despite a deluge? Peyton Manning, but I don't need to tell you.
* It Came from Outer Space. Or did it. Whatever the source of the monstrous impulse which seized the mind and body of Lisa Nowak earlier this week, it set her on a 900-mile drive while bearing weapons and wearing a diaper, the kind worn upon re-entry from space. Maybe Nowak wore it in order to skip bathroom stops as she drove with mission-worthy zeal to confront a rival for the affections of another astronaut. Commentators suggest Nowak's stay at the International Space Station last summer affected her emotionally or mentally. Others suggested the breakup of her marriage was to blame, or else that she was haunted still by deaths of comrades in the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster. Given the nature of this love triangle among decorated high-flyers—two of them astronauts--many of us will never see space flight the same. Humanity is bound for the stars, and we'll take our passions along with us, for better or worse. An aura of sterility has been stripped away. NASA is human after all.
* Congress is sounding downright humane for a change, and more gender-balanced. Maybe there's a connection. For once I actually heard a Speaker of the House—her name is Nancy Pelosi in case you missed it—say out loud that we must save other species who share this rapidly changing planet. Pelosi offered to work with Bush for a cleaner world, but she made clear Congress will not wait on his leadership to act. Bravo.
* Meanwhile, a woman leads in the race to win the Democratic nomination for president, and a candidate of color appears to be a player as well. Should Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Hussein Obama, or most any other Democrat become president in 2009, a Democratic Congress would have a sympathetic partner on a range of issues.
* Already Congress is investigating corruption endemic to defense spending. Already it's asking what happened to billions of dollars unaccounted for in Iraq. Representatives are busy otherwise as well. Raising minimum wage, debating the repeal of tax breaks for oil companies, cutting funds for the president's future war plans, increasing national security at our ports and borders, re-examining plans to build more nukes. In short, the heavy foot of destructive policies is lifting a bit from the accelerator. We're approaching the cliff more slowly at least.
* Those who're not from around here—meaning East Tennessee--are amused by the recent spectacle of the state judiciary turning Knox County on its head. The judges gave a good hard shake to dislodge the High Sheriff and some county commissioners from their lip-lock on the milk cow of public funds. The people's will--that term limits codified in the county charter mean something—has been bolstered in Knox County, thanks to Gary Wade and his fellow justices. The usual suspects still clutter the background of local politics, but manifestly something big happened in these here parts the past few weeks.
* Not as cosmic as the sea change regarding Global Warming, however. Just last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported what's been obvious to Al Gore and many others for decades. Global warming is real, and the consensus among scientists who do the actual hands-on studies and computer modeling is that human beings, burning fossil fuels, causes most of it. Yes, it would've been nice had we taken our blinders off 30 years ago. Sane conservation measures might've prevented 9/11, the war in Iraq and the drowning of New Orleans. Still, a butterfly flaps its wings… better late than never.