Natasha wrinkled her nose at the computer.  It was another e-mail from that annoying Eurobrat chick, inviting her to yet another lame party.

There would be many selfie-worthy parties around town this weekend, but this wouldn’t be one of them.  It would be an event for a good cause and it would be full of the depressing people who cared about good causes.  Beers For Prairie Dogs!  the e-mail proudly proclaimed.  Natasha had seen enough.

She was about to delete the e-mail, when something caught her eye.  Could it be?  Was one of the Kardashian sisters really going to be calling into the event live?  And who knew she cared so much about prairie dogs?

***

Her plan was to hang out in the corner of the room, close enough to hear that sultry Kardashian voice, but far enough not to have to interact with any of the political dorks.  It might have worked–except that, unfortunately, Eurobrat was there.  She spotted Natasha’s hiding place and came running over.

“Oh, I’m so glad you could make it!”  Eurobrat gushed.  “This is such an important night for us.  Have you signed our petition?”

“Yes,” Natasha lied.

“Great!  Wow, it feels like I haven’t seen you in forever!”

“No, you haven’t,”  Natasha mumbled.

“Well, you should join me tomorrow.  I’m going to go door-to-door canvassing for Representative Funkhousen.  It’s going to be so much fun!”

Natasha had no idea how to respond to such a pathetic statement, so she remained silent.  During the awkward moments that followed, she had plenty of time to examine the sweater which Eurobrat was wearing.  It had a giant embroidered owl on it.  Her eyes then wandered to a table with a bowl of chips, which the young activists were ravenously attacking.  At the far side of the room, people were waving their arms and excitedly yelling out answers to trivia questions.  Zoning Laws Quiz, the sign above them read.

A few of Eurobrat’s friends had gathered around them.  They were all equally bright-eyed and enthusiastic.  One of them, a pony-tailed guy who had been entertaining everyone with tales of his tree-climbing protests, gave Natasha a careful once-over.

“Hey, how’s it going?  Have you seen the latest poll results?”  he asked her.

“Oh, I don’t keep up with that stuff.”  She shrugged.  “I hate all politicians, anyway.”

He shook his head.  “This isn’t about you liking them.  It’s bigger than you or me.  One wrong choice in the election, and the country could end up moving backwards.  We could go to a very dark place.”

She stared at him with interest.  She didn’t believe anything scary would actually happen to the country.  And what difference did it make who was President?  She never noticed any.  This guy sounded like he was into conspiracy theories.  But if he cut off that long hair, he could be pretty attractive.

She smiled at him.  “Wanna go out for drinks after this?”

He smiled back.  “No, but I’ll be at a rally for the new corporate tax Sunday.  I would love to see you there.  You could help raise money for our income equality organization?”

Her face fell.  She hated doing sales and asking strangers for money.  What was it with these people?

“Is this the only thing you ever do for a hobby?”  Her voice was edged with irritation.

“Well, yeah.”  He still sounded unnaturally cheery.  “Why are you here?  Don’t you want to work for the revolution?”

The revolution?  What did that even mean?  She now felt embarrassed that she briefly considered going out with this guy.

“I’m a little concerned that you can’t give me a clear answer.  Are you sure you’re truly committed?”  His cheerfulness was melting away.

“Yeah.”  Her eyes darted back and forth.  When was the Kardashian call going to happen?

“She’s totally committed!”  Eurobrat defensively put an arm around her friend.  “I’ve known her for years and she’s a fabulous person.”

Their conversation was disrupted by a loud voice.

A particularly skinny activist had climbed up on one of the tables.  “Welcome to all my fellow warriors!  Thank you all for being here for this world-changing event.”

Eurobrat and her friends cheered and applauded.

“As some of you may know, a certain Kardashian sister is a supporter of our movement…”

There were scattered boos around the room.

“We had hoped to convince her to call in tonight, but her schedule is a bit crazy.  But I’ve got exciting news.  She did agree to post a picture of a prairie dog on her Instagram.  Please share the picture on your social media, tell your friends to do it too…”

A wave of cold rage washed over Natasha.  So these losers had lied about a celebrity phone call, just to lure people here.  She had wasted her time with a bunch of nutjobs.  Random drunken clubbing would’ve been better.

“Personally, I’m glad that this event will not be tainted by an association with a reality TV star,” Eurobrat sniffed.  “Wanna go take a look at the prairie dog shirts, Natasha?  They’re so cute!”

“A prairie dog T-shirt?”  Natasha asked through gritted teeth.  “What makes you think I would be caught dead wearing such a thing?”

“Um…you seem upset,”  Eurobrat said.  “Can I hold some space for you so that you can work through your feelings?”

“Yes, I would love to tell you exactly how I feel!”  Natasha screamed.  “I can’t believe I even came to this dumb party!  All I wanted was a chance to talk to the Kardashians…”

Eurobrat stepped back.  “But…what about helping us?”

“You’re such fucking idiots!  You really think your party’s going to change what the government does?  Nobody cares.  And I don’t give a fuck, either.”

She turned on her heel, leaving everyone with their jaws dropped, and stalked out.

“I told you you should be more careful about those invitations you send out, Eurobrat,” she heard someone behind her say.

Once she was out on the street, she could breathe more easily.  She was, indeed, working through her feelings.  It still wasn’t too late to go somewhere else.  The next party she would go to would have people drinking cocktails, wearing the latest fashions–you know, doing the things that really mattered.

In my continuing quest as a news junkie, I spent time this weekend trying to get more information about the Fukushima aftermath, as mainstream media reporting on this topic has been sporadic at best.  And right down the rabbit hole I went.  All the usual websites have a Fukushima conspiracy theory, and a video with scary synth music to match, talking about all the bad stuff going on in the Pacific.

But there really is lots of bad stuff going on in the Pacific.  Up and down the West Coast, starfish are disintegrating due to a mystery disease.  Sea lion pups are dying at unusual rates in California.  On land, moose in North America are collapsing and dying, and we still haven’t figured out why.  And polar bears and seals in the Arctic are losing fur and suffering open sores.

I was left with a sad conclusion–we’re poisoning our ocean and coasts.  There is no hard and fast evidence linking any of the above things to Fukushima, but it doesn’t matter if there is.  There is plenty of other pollution to go around.  Fukushima or no Fukushima, we are throwing chemicals and trash and plastic and overfishing and climate change into the mix, and sooner or later will experience the consequences.

Fukushima may still turn out to be a much bigger radiation disaster, but even if it doesn’t?  We’re doing an excellent job of killing ourselves and our world off, anyway.

My Dutch friend is coming to visit and I am so very excited.  We haven’t seen each other in many years–we went to high school together.  I suppose we will now see just how much of an obnoxious American I’ve turned into, in spite of my blog name.  We have had a few long conversations on the phone, and there were some predictable cultural differences which popped up, but also some things which surprised me…

That my friend is a big environmentalist *didn’t* surprise me, as this is pretty standard in Europe.  In fact, her work in Holland is as a sort of environmental/sustainability coach.  When her family and she visit the States, they almost always use Amtrak and they bicycled around New York City.  Have I mentioned that they visit the States a lot?  Yep, the Dutch get a lot more vacation time…grrrr.  My friend has seen a lot more of America than I have.  I have warned her ahead of time that we are living the typical suburban American lifestyle, with a giant carbon footprint.  She confided in me that she secretly loves cars.

Like most Europeans, my friend is weirded out by how many guns there are in this country.  However, we also discussed the other extreme.  Not only is it illegal in Holland to carry a gun or a knife with you for self-defense, there is apparently a law there which makes it illegal to help defend anyone who is being attacked, even if it’s only with your fists.  As a bystander, you are only allowed to call the emergency number–their equivalent of 911–and watch.  Anything beyond that makes you legally responsible for what is considered another assault!  My friend and I agreed that this was ridiculous, and that by the time the police get there, the victim will likely be dead.

It was a pleasant surprise to hear that my friend and her husband sometimes think that the Dutch should be more like Americans.  They like how practical and realistic Americans are, and how hard they work.  So America is still loved and respected by at least some people in the world.  This gave me pause, and reminded me that it’s all too easy to bitch about the place where you live.  Although my friend did mention that as far as income inequity, she wishes things would be “more equal” here.

Well, she arrives tonight, so there is plenty to be done.  I don’t know how much time I will have to blog over the next week–I only have a short week to show off all of the fabulous Portland area to her!  But if there are anymore interesting political and social observations I get out of this culture clash, I will be sure to post them here.

I was feeling morose about the fiscal cliff talks, but there’s nothing like a morning read of the other news to put things into perspective.  The United States is still dealing with the effects of the worst drought since 1956, which is a good reminder of the real cliff looming out there–the planetary cliff, or the world cliff, perhaps.  If the effects of *that* cliff are anything like what we suspect, with our climate going off the rails over the next century, the arguments over small tax rate differences and deficit amounts are going to seem laughable to us one day.

Even if you don’t believe that man-made climate change is real, the coming shortage of resources is, as a growing human population outstrips the available energy, water and food supplies.  Countries like India are already facing water shortages, and major American cities are urgently trying to figure out long-term water supply plans.  If you’re not happy about the coming fiscal cliff tax increase–and I’m not–just think about how expensive food and water are about to get in the future.

There might be a silver lining for some in this scenario.  The world could become a libertarian’s wet dream, as instead of unifying into a global community, we splinter again into divided countries and tribes, fighting each other for the resources we need to survive.  Take that, United Nations–right?  Then again, things could go in the opposite direction.  A desperate crisis could force us to think in much more collective ways, at least within our own country.  Either way, our current ideological differences–which are so hot and intense at the moment–will be irrelevant in the face of a real threat.  As much as I dislike how polarized we’ve become, I don’t know that I’m happy about the thing which might end this polarization–the possible end of the world.  And we’re talking the real end here, not the Mayan bullshit.  So with that said, I’m going to go boil some water for a pot of tea, and feel very grateful that I still have the water to do this with.