Letter to an aging, unwell friend

Dear Thom,

Your concepts regarding the snow on Crestone Needle [a Colorado mountain] are irrelevant. Whether or not the snow is melting does not constitute an argument against global warming. I think you are being mislead by isolated “facts” like this. I recognize the roots of your comments in contemporary Republican misinformation enabled by the propaganda machine Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.

Please take a look at this 6,000 word article on snow and global warming by some of the top climate scientists in the world: Scientific American. You will not find any Fox News blathering heads or Trump tweets or administration poobahs cited in it. Nor can you find any more than a tiny smattering of crackpot scientists who claim to refute the scientific facts supporting the view that global warming is real, that it is the result of human action, and that we are headed for a near-time catastrophe. The crackpots’ claims are each and every one invalid, unscientific, and totally without merit. I know, I’ve looked. Trust me, I’m a doctor, as we used to be fond of saying.

Then please view this speech by Greta Thunberg. Earlier when I asked you your opinion of her you said, among other things, “Greta hasn’t lived long enough to have knowledge of all the planet’s weather patterns.” What the fuck?

Both the article and Thunberg’s speech are powerful. But they will not be viewed as such by anyone constitutionally incapable of facing the reality of our rapidly approaching extinction. To them I say, I am no longer disposed to humor bullshit. There is no more time to waste swallowing the insultingly erroneous, wishful-thinking-based capitalist swill blasted forth from the Trump administration and his propagandists.

You also said, “I must find fulfillment in other ways. It has to be with my mind, my resolve, my decision to be productive somehow, and not be satisfied with limited time and place.” You are certainly capable of doing that. Your excellent writing skill and perceptive intelligence have always been a model I have looked up to and tried to emulate. We both started out—you the department chair, me a teacher—as conservative Republicans and I still consider myself conservative. But where we differ significantly is in intellectual freedom. I fear you have voluntarily subjugated yourself to the rigorous straight jacket of contemporary political conservatism and it hurts me to see you slip into claptrap mode, with thoughts and reasoning not your own, when politics or economics come up.

None of us has all that much time left. To me that makes it all the more important to spend it in ways that are honest to myself and to others. I continually strive to honestly question positions and stands and the price I pay is to be offensive to a lot of people. Cutting through the bullshit, I have found, does not make life any easier for me. But I have no trouble sleeping at night. I used to take great pleasure in discussing, or debating when appropriate, contentious issues with you. But in recent years you have sounded more and more like Fox News or Rush Limbaugh whenever the topic is political or economic. It would be unreasonable and foolish to expect you to agree with me on everything, and I have enjoyed batting ideas and concepts back and forth with you when we did not agree. But my enjoyment obtains only when the positions you espouse are your own thinking and not the residue of Trump/Fox/Limbaugh propaganda.

I know you have felt alone since your beloved wife died, you hurt, every day is a litany of discomforts and inconveniences, your dignity is frequently assaulted, and you have very little freedom left. Believe me, I get it. But the great thing you have left, that is so valuable and precious, is your mental freedom. Videtur quod sit libera. Think and be free. But only if you sunder the shackles of conventional wisdom (the phrase itself is an oxymoron). I believe it a far grander finale to go out free and liberated than as a chump hewing to the party lines of those terrified of intellectual freedom.

If I were advising someone else about the wisdom of writing a message like this I would tell them to save their breath and not waste their time. I know how difficult it is–most often impossible–to break through the protective boundaries the human mind sets up to maintain an embrace of conventional wisdom or, worse, being like a Manchurian Candidate. But I had to try. This is the only way I know how to be an honest friend.

Perge movere.

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