Song Of The Day 8/2/2016: Rush – “The Trees”
Every tree in the forest feels compelled to take a side. The willows, longtime proponents of negotiation, are eager to move the oaks to a more centrist philosophy, a stance which some of the hardcore maples are vehemently opposed to. Meanwhile some of the more marginalized oaks, especially those who claim persecution despite their dominance in the forest, have started their own renegade faction to effect wide-sweeping change. They call themselves, expectedly but unfortunately, the Tree Party. It's that puerile.
Negotiations nevertheless continue as they have for years. A conifer consultant to the oaks is trying to inch them into accepting some sort of compromise as part of their platform.
"It's good policy," he tells them. "I would think after the Hemispheres Massacre of 1978, we should be rebuilding those bridges with the maple community."
"You, young'un, are out of your depth on this one!" says one inflamed veteran oak. "Don't you tell me about the results of the Hemispheres Massacre! I was there! I came this close to the blade of an axe thanks to those goddamn, under-handed maples and their backroom brokering! It wasn't one of your statistical models! It wasn't one of your expert projections! It wasn't some hologram on the news! It was real life! That's what you and all those bleeding-heart willows don't understand!"
"It was real life 40 years ago!" retorts the consultant. "History's changed! This isn't the same world it was!" The oaks make an unholy clatter, flapping their branches or whatever it is trees do when they're agitated.
"Look, look, forget the maples," yells a younger oak from the back. "They're not the biggest threat we face. What are we gonna do about the cottonwoods?"
"Yeah! What about the cottonwoods!" responds the chorus.
"They're taking over!" continues the young oak. "They're everywhere! Using up all our resources, drinking up all the water, bringing those predatory birds and insects onto our land! They're just a bunch of--"
"Don't say it!" yells a yellow poplar. "I know what you're gonna say! Don't!"
The young oak hovers over the yellow poplar. "Oh yeah? What was I gonna say?"
The yellow poplar blanches. "I'm not gonna say it."
"Well," counters the young oak. "I was gonna call 'em... hardwoods!"
"Liar! You were not! You were gonna call 'em blights! One of your little code words! I know what you really meant!"
"See? See? You poplars are the most woodist trees in the forest! Woodist!"
"You're totally twisting what I say! You're a liar!"
"You're the real woodists!! Help, I'm being persecuted!"
On the other side of the forest, two ancient redwoods reminisce while sharing some loosely packed mulch one of them obtained, supposedly for medicinal purposes.
"Ed, Ed, Ed," says one. "Whatever happened to the '60s? That was a time when everything felt like it was coming together. Protests meant something. We were boundless in our ambitions. Nothing was unattainable. And those scruffy humans kept hugging us. I admit, I got off once or twice. I never told anyone."
"Yep," says Ed. "And the saplings. Oooh, man. Those young saplings, their knots heaving every time we talked of revolution. There was nothing like counter-cultural rabble-rousing to heat up a cute little mimosa. 'Course, we got too crazy once or twice. I came down with the rot a couple times. But it was worth it, man. I'll tell ya... ideology's great and all, but it ain't nothin' next to good old-fashioned botany."
"What's happened to us?" says the other redwood. "Why couldn't we hang on to those ideals? How did that spark ever die, Ed?"
"We got old. The compromise of age. You can't stay lithe and innocent forever. It just all happens so fast. One minute you're a nimble collection of young branches and buds, then in the blink of an eye you've got a bulging trunk and three seedlings to take care of. And you never see it coming."
"Say, what kind of mulch is this?"
"Rainbow eucalyptus. Straight from Hawaii. 'Oahu-Wahoo' they call it."
Meanwhile the maples are scrambling to organize a response to the oaks' latest tirade to the press.
"Come on!" yells a Norway maple in charge of media relations. "Did you hear what the oak just said?? Jesus, it practically came gift-wrapped! This is going to alienate absolutely everyone in the forest -- in every forest! The scope of trees he's willing to offend is just mammoth! Why aren't we jumping on this?"
"Because it's not hurting him," responds a sycamore. "I don't get it. Every time he says something scandalous his popularity goes up. Especially with the shrubs."
"Oh, God. Who cares about the shrubs? Talk about low-information plants, you're talking about those lowlife shrubs."
"Wait a minute. Did you hear what you just said? That's the problem! Shrubs are sick of being treated this way. Finally this blustering, big-ass oak is willing to speak for them, to bring them in from the margins. He's using their voice. Saying things they think but are afraid to say out loud. They want to be recognized. They may not know much, but man, are they motivated. All their lives they've been told they're just low-rent kindling, now someone is actually telling them they mean something. Even if that oak is totally going to abandon them later -- which he inevitably will -- for now it's getting him what he needs."
"You're saying we need a shrubbery strategy?"
"I'm saying we should look into it more carefully than we have. I'm saying we can't afford to ignore them, what brought them to this kind of rage."
"Whatever happened to 'let's not pander to the lowest common denominator'? When did we trash that maxim?"
"Shrubs aren't the lowest common denominator. Tumbleweeds are."
"Oh, yeah. You're right. Screw those tumbleweeds."
"Goddamn leeches, those tumbleweeds. Not in my back parcel."
Finally the oaks have their big press event. In the middle of the forest at the base of a grassy slope, the orange-leaved oak towers over the rest of the forest, bellowing and waving his branches with tiny, tiny limbs.
"You guys look great. This is beautiful. This is beautiful. Give yourself a hand, you guys. This is really big. This is great. Thank you. This is big."
The big oak with tiny limbs bathes in the applause.
"And we're all here to go after that devil, my opponent -- that crooked aspen!"
The forest is shrouded with catcalls.
"Lemme tell you something -- that crooked aspen is so far in the pockets of the lame-stream media and the big riverbanks that she's completely lost touch with fine trees like yourselves. I will be your voice. I will be your big, booming voice, standing up for your dignity with spittle coming out of my throat and words that are two syllables, tops! Whether it's Kudzu taking our jobs, or terrorism from poison oak cells, I'm the only tree that can stop these really crappy things from happening!"
Half the forest erupts; the other half groans.
"Lemme tell you something else about that crooked, crooked aspen -- she's not gonna do a damn thing about the influx of those cottonwoods. If there's something we need to do, it's take care of the cottonwoods. Because when that grove sends us those cottonwoods, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're sending trees that have lots of problems. They're bringing blight. They're bringing rot. They're deciduous. And some, I assume, are good trees."
"And the first thing that I'm gonna do in office is take care of that problem once and for all. I'm gonna build a giant fence... and make the cottonwoods pay for it! That'll stop them from advancing once and for all!"
"It won't work!"
The cry comes from a balm-of-Gilead in the middle of the cottonwood grove. The big oak grimaces. "Get him the hell outta here," he commands.
"It won't work!" the balm-of-Gilead insists, more loudly. "Not only is it prohibitively expensive, it's completely unnecessary! You're not going to face an invasion of cottonwood trees -- not now, not tomorrow, not ever!"
"Okay, okay," the big oak says. "Tell me, smart guy, how you know that? What makes you say that?"
"BECAUSE WE'RE TREES! WE DON'T MOVE! NONE OF US CAN MOVE BECAUSE WE'RE ALL GODDAMN TREES!"
The forest hushes. Some trees look down at the ground.
"SEE THOSE THINGS AT THE BASES OF YOUR TRUNKS? THEY'RE CALLED 'ROOTS' YOU MORONS! THEY'RE STUCK DEEP IN THE GROUND! WE HAVE THEM TOO! WE CAN'T MOVE! YOU'VE BEEN YELLING AT US FOR FORTY YEARS NOW AND WE HAVEN'T FUCKING MOVED ONE INCH!"
The trees share embarrassed glances.
"IN FACT, WE'RE NOT EVEN SUPPOSED TO TALK! WE CAN'T TALK! THIS WHOLE THING IS AN ALLEGORY MADE UP BY SOME CANADIAN MUSICIANS! WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, TREES?"
Chaos erupts. The maples start fighting with the cottonwoods. The cottonwoods start fighting with the oaks. The oaks start fighting with the evergreens. And everyone, of course, starts fighting with the tumbleweeds. After three hours the forest lies in ruins, severed branches and horrifying stumps dotting the landscape.
The big oak looks back at his running mate, a cypress, and winks. "See? They love me."