I love the term “whistling past the graveyard.” It speaks to me in terms of imagining people whistling a happy tune as they stroll past the black fencing of a cemetery — at night — while death stalks from behind.
Back when I was banging out stories for the South Bend Tribune, my colleagues asked as far back as the 1980s if I believed in climate change.
Hell, yes! I definitely envisioned a catastrophic future for our grandchildren and their descendants. The soaring rise of carbon dioxide levels made my vision of a dystopia a dead solid certainty. Maybe in 50 years, and boy was I wrong about that.
Year after year, those CO2 levels rose. And year after year, people ignored the obvious, as if they were whistling Dixie.
Every time I used “whistling past the graveyard” in Facebook posts, I thought of John Belushi in that Saturday Night Live skit where he is transformed into old man walking with a cane through the cemetery and stopping in knee-deep snow at the graves of each of his SNL cast members. “And here’s Danny Aykroyd . . . they clocked him doing 175 miles per hour before the crash. They called me to identify the body. (Being) on that show was the best experience of my life. Now they are all gone. I miss every one of them.”
We all have watched family members, friends or colleagues die of COVID. And we miss every one of them. If they happened to have succumbed to the blatant lies about ingesting “miracle” anti-malaria drugs or horse dewormers, the hurt would magnify greatly. Like Belushi, we miss every one of them.
Will the economic downturn and an unstable stock market mean we might lose our retirement nest eggs and become penniless overnight? “Naw,” we say to ourselves just like we say some scientific break-through will come to our rescue miraculously halt the rise of carbon dioxide like a deus ex machina ending of a badly written book.
But consider the arrival of the mRNA vaccines that appeared just in the nick of time 13 months ago. They would have greatly reversed the COVID scourge were it not for the rejection of people who call those wondrous vaccines a scam. Maybe they and climate change deniers are one in the same.
Will we, as Americans, lose our democracy as a result of machinations by cold-hearted politicians intent on seizing control of the most powerful nation the world has ever known? “Nope,” comes a reply that sounds suspiciously like the response by those climate change deniers to futuristic catastrophes. You know that retort: the worst-case scenarios bleated by Chicken Littles never come to pass.
We wonder whether Vladimir Putin’s threat to invade Ukraine will spread out of control into far wider war and eventually devolve into a nuclear change with the United States and NATO. “Nyet,” we off-handedly blow off while completely guilty of doing the very same thing with regard to whistling past the climate change graveyard.
The more I think of it, the more I realize that a lot of people are spending a lot of time time whistling past a lot of graveyards.
So many people summarily disregard the notion that maybe we have crossed the tipping point for our planet.
Why, then, do they whistle?
Maybe in their subconscious, they feel guilt of causing destruction far greater than Genghis Kahn ever dared to dream. Maybe those scenarios are too terrible for them to internalize. Maybe they look at the sweet faces of their very real grandchildren and can’t help but instantly reject any notion of their own culpability.
Rather than leave on that note, I offer an exercise to everybody — not just serial deniers. Go to YouTube and watch Belushi in the “Don’t Look Back With Anger” graveyard sketch. Remember the good times as you and your mates gathered around the TV as you did every Saturday night back when you were young.
Think about Belushi, the term “whistling past the graveyard,” and his SNL cast members in graves. Think about the very real John Belushi in a very real grave. Think of your grandchildren and their future and maybe the glorious times in their future like the ones we were lucky enough to enjoy way back in our fabulous past. Ponder. Here is the Belushi skit.
Preview YouTube video Don’t Look Back in Anger – Saturday Night Live
Don’t Look Back in Anger – Saturday Night Live