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.” And you have? 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 were the department chair, I was lowly faculty — as conservative Republicans and I still consider myself somewhat conservative (but now definitely and defiantly anti-Republican). Where we differ significantly is on the concept of 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, expressing thoughts and reasoning not your own on politics, economics or climate.

None of us has all that much time left. To me that makes it all the more important to spend time in ways that are honest to myself and to others. I continually strive to honestly question the positions and stands I take. That, I believe, gives me license to challenge the opinions and positions of others in like manner. Which of course makes me offensive to a lot of people, especially those who are perpetually offended.

Cutting through the bullshit, I have always found, is expensive. It 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 more and more parroted Rush Limbaugh or the talking heads on Fox News.

It would be unreasonable and foolish to expect you to agree with me on everything, and I have enjoyed batting around ideas and concepts with you when we did not agree. But only when the positions you espouse are your own thinking and not the residue of Trump/Fox/Limbaugh propaganda.

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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 so have left, the thing that is so valuable and precious, is 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 to go out whimpering, being a chump who hews to the party lines of those pygmy intellects who are abjectly 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; don’t waste their time. I know how difficult it is — impossible, often — to break through those obdurate, protective boundaries the human mind sets up to protect an embrace of conventional wisdom.

But I had to try. This is the only way I know how to be an honest friend.

Perge movere.

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