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It's Not the Elephant in the Room at the RNC: It's the Hurricane

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As Isaac battered the Gulf Coast, the Republicans -- vehement deniers of global warming --shared their big stage with a hurricane. While the party faithful boasted about how they will take over the White House and change everything in Washington, D.C., nobody was talking about what scientists tell us is inevitable: climate change. More monster storms, rising seas, sinking lands, shrinking arctic ice, environmental refugees, drought, water and food shortages, and other natural disasters are predicted. You'd think this future forecast would have at least deserved one speech, especially as the nearby Gulf Coast again suffers from a devastating storm.

More than the economy, more than who is president, more than who is at war with whom, the effects of global warming will be a major "decider" of our future. Even the military takes climate change seriously as a real threat to our national and global security. And yet, climate change plans or even acknowledgement of its impact were nowhere on the agenda at this convention. Science seems to have little place in convention platforms. Nor do the 13-15,000 reporters covering this hoopla ever seem to make any real connection to the indisputable evidence of climate change as Hurricane Isaac's ravages tick away at the bottom of the CNN screen and they broadcasted the convention.

This is an eerie disconnect. What's even stranger is that as the lights go out in New Orleans and Republican bright lights, such as Anne Romney and Governor Chris Christie took the stage, the hurricane images at the bottom of the CNN screen suddenly disappear. Like magic. As an entire Gulf Coast loses power, Republicans claim their presumptive power. The symbolism of this visual suggests: When humans speak, the hurricane disappears. And yet, at the end of Romney and Christie's speeches there's that pesky hurricane image again with its angry, swirling red eye. It pops back up on the bottom of the CNN screen with another disastrous headline.

And now, a levee breaks near New Orleans echoing Katrina, and thousands struggle to weather this dangerous storm -- while the Republican Party plays on with its scripted story.

What more evidence do we need that the Republicans are living in the past than the fact that no speaker has dared face the disturbing weather predictions for our global future? Instead, they're focused on "legitimate rape" delusions, forbidding women contraceptives, "drill, baby, drill" energy plans, keeping tax cuts for the wealthy, gutting Medicare, and denying diversity.

The only time Republicans talk about the massive shifts in our climate is when its Religious Right speaks about the tribulations of End Times. The Religious Right reference a book written when there was no such thing as global warming and humans barely left a footprint on the Earth. Michele Bachmann, repenting of an earlier speech last year linking Hurricane Irene and an East Coast earthquake to politicians not heeding God's warnings now simply calls this storm, a "spiritual hurricane." Code words to true believers without the political damage control.

This tendency to talk about God and natural disasters, more than any scientific reckoning with our watery planet, made me wonder about the Mormon interpretation of hurricanes. This would-be president would be governing with that Mormon faith firmly in his heart. His world view and his decisions will be grounded in that bedrock. The Bible has its whirlwinds when God speaks to the chosen. What does the Book of Mormon say about these big winds?

According to Hurricanes in the Book of Mormon, published by the ancient America Foundation (AAF), Mormon scholars claim that their good book "may contain the first known historic references to hurricanes in America." It explains "In past times, some destructive storms were considered to be judgments of God when people needed to repent."

Might Republicans, so near the eye of this terrible storm, repent a little and take a practical and clear-eyed look outside the thundering applause in their own convention hall to face our environmental future? Not as politicians, but as people who also want to safeguard their next generations?

To only address climate calamities based on religious interpretations instead of scientific data, is to doom us to being woefully unprepared to survive as a species. It's like reading a man-made story while the real hurricane huffs and puss and blows our house down. How about balancing all the religious rhetoric about End Times with the current issue of the National Geographic, "What's Up with the Weather?" How about opening the window in that convention hall and looking outside? How about addressing Hurricane Isaac's ominous updates at the bottom of the screen during speeches?

Talk about "spin." A spinning hurricane should be the ultimate conversation and convention changer. The RNC is one of the world's largest gatherings. This was a chance for Republicans to face toward the future and not the past. To reckon with the 7,000 people in Louisiana's storm shelters; those whose homes are floating away; those who expect all our politicians to care about our collective survival.

Watching the RNC offered so many unintended ironies: Condoleezza Rice talking happily about being one of the first women being granted membership in the traditionally male and at one-time whites-only Augusta Golf club; while the ticker of the Hurricane news underneath reports:" 7,000 in Louisiana without power." It's enough to force us to ask philosophical questions like: What is real power? Who can really gimme shelter?

We do not stop a storm by ignoring it. Nature's power is bigger than politics, more persuasive than all our powers of denial. It's the main event and it can blow down the Big Tent.

Brenda Peterson is the author of 17 books, including the recent memoir I Want To Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth, named by The Christian Science Monitor among "Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Books of the Year. Her new novel is The Drowning World.

For more: www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com

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