On the numbers


This guy was on to something

Our child received a DVD of 101 Dalmatians this week. I’m no Disney fan, but the kid, she likes her cats and dogs.

“How many puppies were there, kid?” I ask her after we watch it.

“Millions, Mama!” she said, proud of herself.

“How about one less than a hundred?” I ask her. We then went on to discuss numbers (again, as it’s a recurring theme with a 4 year old), especially the idea of tens. And it got me thinking about the spending we’re doing on this particular war in Iraq. We are, as you know, approaching the fifth anniversary of its beginning. Its cost in pure dollars can stagger the mind, or rather, it staggers THIS mind.

Think about this: What is it you have that you have a million of? A billion? How about a trillion? So far, we have spent a trillion dollars on this particular endeavor.

I tried to make it simple on myself and wrap my mind around the number “one million.” I thought about what it is that I could physically count. I know, for example, that millions if not billions of microbes make their home on my very person. They’re arguably too small to count without great aid, and rather disturbing to think about. Going outside, the grains of sand or, in my yard, particles of clay are likewise uncountable. I then look over to the wooded section of our land and wonder about the evergreens there: if I counted, there might be a million pine needles. We have almost two acres of pines.

Our driveway is gravel. I suppose there’s a million pebbles out there.

What else do I have a million of? Blades of grass? Check. How about leaves? Now, there is something interesting. If I looked in my vegetable garden, there’s a countable couple of thousand there in the high season. Likewise the perennial gardens and (bingo!) wow, there sure are a lot of leaves in the herb garden. (Think about a clump of thyme and you will see what I mean.) So if I count them all, I would bet I have a few hundred thousand leaves in my gardens. Probably nowhere near a million, unless I counted the trees which ring the house.

But this is war spending I am talking about. A trillion is a million millions, if you count the way we Yanks count. Other than things I cannot see with my naked eye, I don’t think I have anywhere near a billion (a thousand million) of, much less a trillion (a thousand billion) of. But what is a gardener to do, to understand the concept of the dollars we are spending (and borrowing to spend) in this war?

I am thinking of that image of that young guy placing flowers into the gun barrels of some National Guard soldiers during a protest of the Vietnam war. FLOWERS! That’s it! There’s an idea as we start our sixth year of this war. How many of us gardeners would it take to make a million flowers? A billion? A trillion? Go down the list of your flowering plants: hmm, my asters sure sport a lot of flowers. Buddleia, calendula, dahlia, echinacea, foxglove, gaillardia…keep going. We’re getting up there! Then you can cheat when you look at compound flowers like sunflowers; each head has as many flowers as it has seeds. But I am still looking at only a few thousand flowers.

Let us then grow some flowers for this war. Maybe we can have a flower sale, and send our earnings to the Treasury. But better yet, let us grow them and know that, for all our fallen, for all our injured, for all their fallen, for all their injured, for the lives changed and the dollars well spent, squandered, lost, wasted… It will take a lot of gardeners sowing a lot of flowers to make a trillion flowers to equal the trillion dollars we have spent.

Maybe a million gardeners. Maybe more. Probably, a lot more.

10 responses to “On the numbers

  1. I leave here pensive and sad. Yes. A trillion is a lot.

  2. Hi El-

    Beautifully written. I will join in the Flower Brigade!

  3. i’ve linked to this excellent post on my blog.

  4. What a remarkable post and a great photo selection; flowers- too bad we can’t find answers in flowers.
    The amount of resources being wasted by our government is truly horrifying. Our warriors are being killed and maimed– for what? Our funds are being squandered at the expense of our children’s education. Folks are dying of treatable diseases, because God forbid we spend a trillion dollars on healthcare.

  5. lovely post…i’ll be adding in my own, albeit small, contribution soon. Maybe adding some beauty and love back into this world will do a little bit to counteract all the fear and destruction.

  6. Thank you all. Some days, when I look above what I am doing and actually look at the world, I get all pensive and sad and helplessly overwhelmed. Friday was one of those days.

    Hayden: Sorry to spread it around.

    Angie: If I were a more selfless blogger, I would probably start something like a badge people could put on their sidebars like Grow Some For The Troops or some such. Most people’s sidebars are loaded with such great intentions.

    Jayedee: I thank you!

    Pamela: Yeah the mind reels further with what that money could actually have been spent on. It’s morally reprehensible, IMHO. And what really sucks is that we weren’t ALL asked to sacrifice for this particular military endeavor: only a few of us were, and the rest, particularly people like me, are reminded that “we’re at war” ONLY when things like $1Tr have been spent and that a fifth anniversary approaches. We’re at war? I ask. I personally know nobody that has fought there. I personally wasn’t asked to do anything, except wring my hands a bit. Could I have said this about any other war? No, probably not. It’s just wrong on so many levels that all I want to do is go knead bread and dig some dirt and try not to ever look up again.

    Rachael: I hope we can all make a small contribution to the beauty in this world. Flowers are beautiful, especially if they’re in public view. So we gardeners can do our part there.

  7. The funny thing (well, not ha ha funny) is what people are most concerned about in this election year is the economy. The war is way down on the list. Don’t you think the war is affecting the economy?

  8. El:
    Have you read the original 101 dalmations? The book by Dodie Smith? It is waaayyy better than the disney movie —-and everyone (even big kids) like to hear it read out loud.

  9. I LOVE your blog – and I LOVE this post!

    Your writing is so enjoyable – even on such an infuriating topic!

    What I wish is that people seemed to even notice that their money, their country, and their children’s lives are being stolen from them. It just boggles my mind how we all seem to just move along as though nothing is happening. Protests happen and the press mostly just makes fun.

    I was just going to throw up my hands, but perhaps I’ll plant more flowers instead.

  10. Hi Michelle: yeah, you’d think people would think the war has something to do with our shtty economy. Not everyone lives in Michigan though 🙂

    Monica: thanks! I will look into it, especially now that our daughter loves “chapter books.”

    Lorika, thank you. But plant flowers for yourself at least…it can’t hurt, and your own corner of the world will be a little bit more beautiful…

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