The Price of Gas

So, we’re watching Bill Maher last night and he trots out that tired big-city bullshit (here’s how to know you’re about to smell some big-city bullshit: they start out with “Well, in Europe…”). So, Bill’s big-city bullshit starts out, “Well, in Europe they pay [some exorbitant amount] for gas.”

Then he goes on to say how he thinks that the government ought to put a huge sin tax on gas, like they have on cigarettes, to discourage people from driving so much.

This pisses me off so much I almost can’t talk about it rationally. But before I’m reduced to angry cussing, let me make the following points:

1. Most of the country doesn’t have public transportation. If we can’t afford to drive to work, we cannot get to work.

2. Most of the country doesn’t make that much money. A lot of us are getting by paycheck to paycheck. The cost of fuel doesn’t just affect the price of filling up our cars. It affects the cost of everything we buy–food, clothing, etc.–because Walmart and Kroger’s have to pass the increased cost of their fuel to us.

3. Nope, that’s it. Two things before I start screaming “fuck you.”

Let’s go off on a tangent.

I’m starting to suspect that, when people talk about “liberal” bias in the media, depending on who’s talking, they’re actually talking about two different things. Politicians want to talk about the media’s “liberal bias” because they want to keep the media on the ropes, swinging wildly at straw men and not finding real stories–and to that end, they’ve succeeded wildly.

But when some folks talk about “liberal bias,” I wonder if they don’t mean something like what I also loathe, the feeling that the media views rural America as some scary backwards place that can’t truly be understood by anyone safe on the coasts.

For instance, think of how the media starts every story about us with “in the Heartland…” Jesus, how big is this heartland? Because I’ve seen and read stories that place it in Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, and New Mexico. It starts to feel like “heartland” is just some place that the media views as quaint.

Or how the media holds so fast to the first amendment but seems to view the second as a problem. Okay, I don’t own guns, because I’m afraid of them. But a lot of people in the U.S. own guns and they aren’t criminals or deviants. No, the NRA hasn’t done gun owners any favors with that laughable “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” nonsense, but the uncomfortable truth is that the Constitution gives people the right to bear arms. You might not like that. I might not like that. But that’s how it is. And just because it makes us uncomfortable doesn’t mean that people who own guns are bad or irresponsible or freaks.

By and large, people who own guns are not going to shoot you. But when the media covers a gun story, you get the feeling that everyone who owns a rifle is just one bad day away from shooting up his place of work.

But the thing that annoys me the most is how the media thinks that it “knows” our values without actually doing the work of trying to figure out what those values are. How long are we going to have to hear them talking about “Christian” values and the Republicans’ alignment with Christians, as if Christianity is one monolithic set of beliefs held by all of us out here in the wastelands.

For instance, I keep waiting for someone to ask one of our Catholic bishops if he’s uncomfortable with the alignment of the U.S. Catholic church with Evangelical Protestants, when most Evangelical Protestants believe that, at best, Catholics are really fucked up Christians, and, at worst, that they’re pagans whose style of worship is a kind of blasphemy against Christ. But either most reporters are cowards or they’re unaware of the deep history of anti-Catholic sentiment among Evangelical Protestants. I suspect that it’s the latter, that they’re unaware of it.

Which brings me to what really pisses me off, and what I suspect pisses a great many people out here off, the patronizing tone they take, as if they know what’s best for us, when they don’t really know us. They can’t get past their preconceived notions of what we are. So, Bill Maher can say asinine things about how the price of gas isn’t really a problem, because no matter what the price of gas is, he can afford to pay it, and he can’t imagine that folks can’t.

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9 thoughts on “The Price of Gas

  1. AMEN, Sistah!

    If this was a paper, I’d give you an A.

    The last line sums it up quite nicely. That is what pissed me off so much last election time: all the Hollywood and NY and rock-star types trying to influence us in the ‘Heartland’ with their views on affordable healthcare, the minimum wage, and childcare issues. As if they knew what it was like, or even gave a shit. They could go repair to one of their other homes in Colorado or Wyoming with their cooks and nannies and be a faux rancher and pretend that they were just like us, because they assuaged their rich-ass guilt by sticking up for the little guy.

    Fuck them, indeed.

  2. Given that the last policy debate topic was US Energy Policy, I had to learn lots about oil and gas and cars. Finally in February, with only 5 weeks left in the season, we finally found Aunt B’s argument make public in a forum that allows us to use it in round. If case you want some data and maybe a little bit of authoritive assistance, check out
    http://www.ppionline.org/documents/far_from_home.pdf

    You are so smart and clear (and right!).

  3. Maybe not all cars equal freedom, but mine does.

    America, I invite you into my back seat, full of dog hair and empty water bottles. If you’ll chip in for gas, I’ll make out with you at many a scenic overlook!

  4. Hah! I hate Bill Maher. I think he’s a sanctimonious and largely unfunny asshole. He takes easy swipes at large targets, and never, ever thinks about anything past the obvious.

    That said, and as much as I love cars and the freedom they represent, we’ve got to do something or the possibility we have of driving them is going to disappear. Now, I’m not so high on a gas tax as I am on the forcing car manufacturers to get out there and market some workable alternative energy options.

    I keep reading things that indicate we’re a decade or 1.5 away from running out of easy gas availability, and that is not a pretty scenario.

  5. Steve,

    I think it goes without saying that I completely agree. We need to be seriously working on alternative fuel sources. I both appreciate the freedom my car gives me and wish I more environmentally friendly when exercising such freedom.

    I keep bugging the Man from GM about that and his answer is “I don’t see any hydrogen tanks at Mapco. Do you?” And I keep saying, “Not only do your commercials suck, you’re going to get left behind when some Asian car company figures out how to make a good alternative fuel running car.”

    GM’s profits were down how much last quarter? In part, I think, because they lack vision. I also asked about the gas/electric hybrids and was met with similar apathy.

    Someone will make a car that runs on hydrogen or wood or dog farts and the oil companies will figure out a way to get in on the potential profits. GM can get on the innovation bus now or see its cars join Oldsmobile on the scrap heap of history.

  6. Hmmm….the price of gas…well, it affects me too even tho I am one of those Big City Bull Shit Mother Fuckers, JR and I both have to drive a LOT. Thing is tho: supply will keep going down and demand will keep going up. Prices may go down in the short run; but in the long run, this is the best we’ll ever do.

    My economist father is fond of saying, “In the long run, we’re all dead”; but this seem irrelevant to the predicament of those of us who need to fill up our cars toDAY.

    EUROPE: The price of gas in Europe also is irrelevant to our predicament. But. (1) They also have to buy food clothing etc. in Europe and much of it is transported, harvested, etc. by petrol-burning vehicles. (2) There exist, believe it or not, rural areas not accesable to public transportation in Europe too. (3) It is not possible to prove that the price of oil has any measurable influence on the overall cost of living.

    The only solution to our predicament is USE LESS. Sorry if it hurts. And sorry if it hurts the Rich less than it hurts you and me. Duh.

    Elias

  7. Dude, you can front all you want in the anonymity of cyberspace about being a big city bullshit mother fucker, but I’ve been to the little town (What’s smaller than a town? A village? A townlette? A hamlet? A village-ette?) that spawned you.

    I think I could fit all the people from your hometown in my car and still have room for you.

    Not that you’d join us, Mr. Gas Prices Are High, Suck It Up. But me and your hometown, we’re going to tool around the countryside drinking flat beer and smoking pot while bitching about being bored. You can be the crank who stands on the side of the road and throws things at us as we drive by for the fifth time, honking.

    But know this, we’re going to find us a cornfield, me and your hometown, and park next to it and turn the Judas Priest on real loud and spend the evening alternately making out and running into the fields to pee.

    Sorry you’ll be missing it, Mr. Conservation.

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