What Are We to Say?

Imagine, 74 grand nephews and nieces! Yes, my 34 nephews and nieces collectively have 74 children. In fact I’m so old, and my family so prolific, that some of my nephews and nieces are grandparents!

Though I have no children of my own, I take my avuncular role seriously and this is the source of a recurring anxiety. Often I shutter and am down-right scared. I envision my grand nieces and nephews when they are my age. With creased brow and shaking head they ask, “What were you thinking? Were you blind? Why the hell didn’t you do something?”

Perhaps this blog is preemptory self-defense… I imagine one or more of the 74 — perhaps my namesake, Richard James — combing through these posts in fifty years. Ideally, they will constitute something of an ethical testament. We were not totally oblivious, self-consumed and ignorant. Were we?

If I am not careful you will soon stop reading, reflexively click the “close” button. Please don’t! My challenge is to remain engaging about a topic that should scare us to death. Otherwise, how are we to explain to Richard James in 2064 that not all of us lived in the United States of Amnesia!

Moments ago, morning news reported on Mankato, MN — home of a state university as well as the billionaire owner of the NBA Minnesota Twins. The Minnesota River which runs through town was already swollen above flood stage by unseasonably high precipitation. Seems the river and city sewer systems simply could not accommodate seven inches of additional rain. The city is shut down. Crops on more than 100,000 acres of nearby farmland have also been lost.

Sad… tragic, in fact! Thank God no deaths have been reported. The Red Cross and National Guard immediately responded. Families are regrouping and neighborhoods will collectively shovel mud from homes. Mankato will be declared a national disaster area and FIMA will help return the community to some semblance of the status quo.

Then, I fear — and this is the source of my worst fear — we will all return to our respective states of amnesia. Civic leaders will don smiles for Fourth of July parades on Main Street. Banners will proclaim, “Mission Accomplished.” We will collectively settle back to our routines because good hands are taking care of us.

Please resist the sudden urge to “close”! There is overwhelming evidence that all is not right with the world: ice caps are shrinking, glaciers are receding, sea levels rising, permafrost thawing, species of plants and animals vanishing. This is happening amid sustained droughts, heavy rains, heat waves, wildfires, floods and unforeseen threats to food production.

Here’s the blunt truth expressed by Colman McCarthy: “From the grimness, it’s not a wild conclusion that earthicide is happening — the self-destruction caused by human choices…  carbon dioxide is causing the planet to gag, as if gasping for air that for billions of years was breathable but is no longer.”  Writing amid yet another heavy rain I envision this as creation’s desperate convulsion to cleanse itself of the filth and degradation of ravenous human consumption.

As we gather along Main Street for Fourth of July parades and assemble lawn chairs for fireworks displays we might ask: “What will history say about our generation?” Will our sense of civic duty recede with the last strains of a John Philip Sousa march? Will we simply fold up our lawn chairs and return to our respective states of amnesia?

What response will we have for our grandchildren in 2064? What are we to say to Richard James, … or Eleanor, … or Jack, … or Graham, … or Paige, …?

They need our answer NOW!


Gore Vidal coined the term “United States of Amnesia.”

The quote from Colman McCathy is from an essay well worth reading [link]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s