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Vision After the Sermon

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THE ENDLESS HOLY WAR

In 1975, I taught a course in the art and craft of stained glass to children ages 10 – 13 at the Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica, California. Emphasizing complete freedom of expression, I would thumb through several magazines inside of the classroom and quickly come up with various images that I suggested were examples of how easy it is to find sources for creative inspiration. One of those images inspired my latest stained glass artwork. It was a chart from a 1974 issue of Scientific American magazine projecting the fast-expanding US dependence on overseas sources of oil.

The projection of the graph between 1975 and 1990 turned out to be ominously accurate, as the chart’s significance proved to be prophetic.

By clicking on the image below one can see two letters of permission I received from Scientific American granting me permission to transform the graph into a work of art:

With years spanning from 1960 until 1990, the first half of the graph was therefore based on historical fact, up to that point, while the following 16 years was a calculated estimate.

Vision After the Sermon - US Dependence on Overseas Oil (1960 - 90)

The projection of the graph between 1975 and 1990 turned out to be ominously accurate, as the chart’s significance proved to be prophetic. According to the graph, in 1970, the US consumed 12 million barrels from North American sources per day, yet only 3 million barrels from overseas. Just 5 years later, at the time the graph was made, approximately 40 percent of US oil consumption was imported from the Middle East and North Africa. What made it so timely was that the OPEC nations declared an oil embargo in October of 1973, which sent the cost of gasoline skyrocketing. The intention was to punish countries that had supported Israel that year in the Yom Kippur War. The embargo nearly tripled the average price of a gallon of gasoline from just 38 cents to 84 cents, as gasoline had to be rationed, while cars stood in long lines waiting for an available gas pump. What makes this graph’s projection from 1975 until 1990 prophetic is that its prediction of ever increasing reliance on overseas oil was correct, which points to the convoluted circumstances we face today concerning the tumultuous destabilization of the Middle East. Remarkably, in August of 1990, the month when the graph’s projection of US oil imports ends, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein declared a “Holy War” against Kuwait, a war which really was about oil, according to History.com:

Hussein delivered a speech in which he accused neighboring nation Kuwait of siphoning crude oil from the Ar-Rumaylah oil fields located along their common border. He insisted that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and cancel out $30 billion of Iraq’s foreign debt, and accused them of conspiring to keep oil prices low in an effort to pander to Western oil-buying nations. (see the entire article about the Persian Gulf War by clicking here)

Hussein’s “Holy War” was promoted in the guise of defending Islam. Fittingly, I gave this piece a decorative border, which is typical of both ecclesiastical and traditional decorative stained glass windows. However, breaking with tradition, I included – wedged between wafer thin sheets of transparent glass – laminated receipts for gasoline purchased with a credit card. These receipts bore the oil company logos and displayed the hand-written cost of gasoline prior to the enormous price escalation caused by the embargo. At the time in southern California, one gallon of gas cost around 35 cents per gallon.

Unfortunately, this artwork has been lost since I lent it many years ago to someone who worked for an oil company. The few photos I have of it in my possession do not clearly show the details of these receipts. However, one can discern the logos of various oil companies such as Chevron, Exxon, Mobile Oil and Union Oil that are visible. In one instance, one can verify that a full tank of gas cost less than six dollars.