I hate to be disturbed when I'm driving down the road, rocking to The Who.
We'll be fighting in the streets, with our children at our feet …
Sometimes I pretend that I can't hear when my kids ask a question, but I know it's bad for their self-esteem. So usually I just nod and say, "That's nice," or "Ask your mother."
This time, however, my 9-year-old son could not be ignored.
"Why is all the oil spilling into the ocean?" Kai asked.
A half-hour earlier we had been watching Morning Joe on MSNBC. The host, former Florida Congressman Joe Scarborough is a no-nonsense guy, reminiscent of John Wayne before he got fat.
A conservative Republican, Scarborough is not prone to hyperbole, but even he looked a little shaken by a live shot of the Deepwater Horizon well spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
As Scarborough and his co-hosts talked about the latest harebrained cleanup scheme concocted by the guys who made the mess, I told my son we'd be better off bringing in Wile E. Coyote with his Acme oil well plug kit.
But then I remembered that this oil spill, which has now been declared the worst in U.S. history, is no laughing matter.
So I thought about my son's question for a moment, then I offered my well-formulated one-word response.
Like most Floridians, I didn't think much about offshore drilling before the Deepwater Horizon well explosion April 20.
I wasn't completely ignorant when it came to oil. I knew Jed Clampett wasn't really shootin' at some food, when up through the ground came a bubblin' crude.
But I did know that oil — black gold, Texas tea — is the world's most valuable commodity and people will go to just about any length, even drill a mile under the water, to get it.
I also know that oil and water don't mix. But don't believe me. Go on the Internet and search "science projects for kids." You will find all the proof you need in plain language that even a third-grader could understand.
Yet, here we are, watching day by day as more and more oil (and chemical dispersants) continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico. No matter how you spin it, the oil is not going to be good for the fish, mammals, birds and turtles that call the gulf home. It is going to have a lasting impact on the sea grasses and salt marshes.
You would think somebody would have been looking out for us regular folks, the people who fish, dive, sail, paddle, surf and swim in the sea. But for years, the fellows running things were oil men who looked the other way while their buddies drilled well after well, some in water so deep, humans dare not go.
For the past two years, the battle cry at many political rallies across the country has been "drill, baby, drill."
Some of our leaders, both popular and elected, have even suggested that opposing offshore drilling is "un-American."
But as each day passes, and more and more of the gulf is shut down to fishing (as of Wednesday evening, 37 percent was off limits), the "drill, baby, drill" crowd loses more and more of its appeal.
Calling environmentalists, a.k.a., tree huggers, "un-American" because they want oil-free beaches and estuaries might work with this generation, but it will not work with the next.
My son is proud to be an American. He dreams of going to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He wants to be a Green Beret and free the oppressed. He also recycles, hates polluters and worries about global warming.
And he is not alone. Most of his classmates and friends share this new "world" view. To put it bluntly, these kids are all right.
In 10 years, about the time it will take to clean up this mess in the gulf, they will be voters heading to the polls.
And rest assured, they won't be fooled again.
Terry Tomalin was in or on the water 21 days in May as part of his New Year's resolution. He hopes for an oil-free June. He can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8808.