Monday, June 18, 2007

Lessons For The Present

I think time capsules tell us more about the present than they do the past. For example, looking at this 1957 Plymouth Belvedere, buried that year to commemorate Oklahoma’s 50th anniversary of statehood, I feel we’ve let the previous generation down:
Buried on June 15, 1957, as a publicity stunt to honor 50 years of statehood, the gold-and-white car and its contents — artifacts like a pack of cigarettes and an unpaid parking ticket — were to be dug up in another five decades.

The car was interred with 10 gallons of gasoline, in case fuel would be obsolete in 2007, and a time capsule containing civic records, a prayer and a history of Tulsa churches.

I have to wonder about that previous generation of Sooners, who thought we’d have moved beyond fossil fuels by now. Did they know, even then, that gasoline was not a sustainable way to propel the global economy? I want to apologize: we let you down. We stopped looking for the new juice and now we’re stuck between Iraq and a hard place.

And what’s this history of Tulsa churches thing? Did they think that Americans would no longer worship in churches in 50 years? That some brand-new religion would have taken over? That we’d forgotten our basic religious beliefs? This sounds like a fear we hear from right wing theocrats today. I want to tell them: “Relax, people. Y’all have been yammering about Americans turning away from God for decades. Hasn’t happened.”

And then there’s this::

The 1957 two-door hardtop — buried to celebrate Oklahoma's 50 years of statehood — was encased in a 12-by-20-foot concrete vault, supposedly tough enough to withstand a nuclear attack.

Event officials already had to pump out several feet of water from the crypt that held the Belvedere for a half-century.

Fifty years ago nuclear destruction was on people’s minds in Oklahoma. Sadly, it still is. But their “bomb-proof” vault couldn't even keep the groundwater out. And here we are today, talking about building “missile shields” in Europe and stirring the pot with Russia over a system that has continually failed, at a cost of $85 million a pop. Even a Canada goose can foil the missile defense system. Not good.

When will we learn? Looking at time capsules from the past, we learn a lot about what we thought the future would hold. How have we measured up? How have we failed?