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steve ivory (2014)

The science community is still abuzz over the findings NASA spacecraft New Horizon made during its recent flyby over Pluto.

They’ve got a lotta nerve.

As some of you may recall, after many decades as a planet, in 2006 Pluto was stripped by something called The International Astronomical Union (IAU) of its status as a full-fledged planet—at only 1,400 miles wide, about half the width of the United States, they said it was too small. Now Pluto is referred to as “Dwarf Planet,” which is not a planet at all, really, positioned in a region they call the Kuiper Belt—basically the ‘hood of the solar system.

None of this has stopped scientists and explorers from sheer exhilaration over information and photos coming back from Pluto (including shots of mountains, which, according to scientists, indicates water, and thus the possibility of life as we know it), to all of which the formerly-known-as-a-planet Pluto no doubt grunts, “Humph.”

The whole thing reminded me of what I wrote back in 2006, when the IAU saw fit to rob the tiny planet of its dignity. Except for a few tweaks made for the sake of cultural timeliness, what was true then is true now. Here is what I wrote:

As a kid exploring the art of foul language, I used to ponder the difference between bullshit and chickenshit. No shit.

Over time, I learned that bullshit is, more or less, just as the Oxford American Dictionary defines it today: “Stupid or untrue talk or writing; nonsense.”

Chickenshit, on the other hand, is what a group of astronomers did to Pluto.

Discovered back in 1930, Pluto, despite a contingent of haters from the beginning, was considered a planet–until The International Astronomical Union came up with new galactic guidelines to determine what a planet is. The organization decided Pluto is, among other things, too small.

So now, Pluto, after 75 years of being the ninth planet from the sun, officially isn’t a planet at all.

What kind of shit is that? Well, it’s what the Oxford American Dictionary terms, “worthless, contemptible; cowardly.” Let’s call this song exactly what it is (what it is, what it is, what it is!): it’s chickenshit.

It’s the “friend” who talks a good game, but always leaves you hanging. It’s taking back home the bottle of wine you brought to the party simply because no one opened it.

It’s what Kanye West did to Beck at the Grammys, during what should have been Beck’s moment alone. It’s what I overheard a big, really pretty lady calmly, quietly declare an uncle of mine at a family picnic one summer during our visit to Daddy’s hometown of Winnfield, Louisiana when I was a child. I never forgot the trifling ambience of that word in that woman’s hands.

Imagine how the news hit Plutonians. For one, real estate must have plummeted. All this time you think you’re living on a full-fledged, PLANET, albeit, shall we say, cozy, but one of The Nine nonetheless. And then some nerdy Earthlings suddenly declare you Cleveland.

For some of us, Pluto’s post-Space-Age “science over sentiment” demotion is personal. We grew up seeing a bit of ourselves in Pluto. You know, the underdog; the “different” planet. The Little Planet That Could.

And now, despite embossed illustrations on lunch boxes and classic Warner Brothers cartoons telling us otherwise, they want to treat Pluto like a fifth Beatle or the tall cat in the O’Jays, or any number of Republican Presidential candidates who don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. It’s not right.

If it’s any consolation (or constellation) to Pluto, the whole planet thing is a snooty clique, anyway. You got Jupiter relishing its size, Saturn flaunting those intriguing rings, the ever flirty Venus and then there’s Mars, which gets all the great PR.

Pluto? Well, in 1997 Pluto lobbied for a Walmart to come there. The invitation was turned down. And now this.

However, the real question is, if somebody can just rip off Pluto, what’s next? Consolidation of the four seasons? Watch your back, FALL; some beady-eyed, time-pinching whitecoat could campaign to lump you with winter and call it Falinter. To the Black Sea: your name alone should have you worried.

Wouldn’t it be something if Pluto turns out to be the ONLY place in the solar system where there truly is intelligent life? We already know who ISN’T exactly the brightest light in the universe.

Earth is a place whose inhabitants prejudge one another according to skin color and gender; where the Hatfields and the McCoys have been feuding in the Middle East for what seems like forever, and where gas-guzzling automobiles (named, by the way, after practically every planet in the solar system–Mercury, Saturn, etc., except you-know-who; see how they do Pluto?) routinely deplete the ozone. But Pluto’s not a planet, y’all.

Next time this IAU lynch mob rides, perhaps it’ll venture outside its field altogether and aim its telescope on stuff to be reconsidered right here on earth.

Start simply. Cast a reassessing eye on the concept of Elvis as “the King of Rock n’ Roll.” Now there’s a hot, steaming pile of you-know-what for you.

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