Outside my window is nothing but fall perfection. The sugar maples are electric shades of red and orange; fire flames igniting hillsides with their brilliant hues while yellow pops all over the landscape too. Evergreens stand taller now, holding their forest color and reminding us that life goes on even while chlorophyll breaks down those leaves fading on the deciduous trees. Poetry alone captures this season of change. This moving on: an end and a beginning all in the same breath.
And yet, regardless of my present beatific state, it would be unthinkable to not mention all the suffering happening around our globe. Puerto Ricians are minimally months away from finding electricity or clean water back into so many dwellings swept to the ground by Hurricane Maria. California is inundated by the most devastating fires of all time; more than 50,000 acres are burning in Napa and Sonoma counties alone (The Washington Post). One need not look further than Texas or Florida to find unrivaled destruction this hurricane season. All man’s work. All due to our cavalier approach to having our way upon this gentle earth; us, we are the cause of so many of these epic disasters.
I’m not at all sure when the first damage was done, but I suspect it was once Adam & Eve stepped out of Eden. Who among us isn’t guilty about using too much water? Electricity? Who hasn’t let their car idle for longer than needed or run the air conditioner when we might have opened a window? Who isn’t recycling? Or driving a hybrid, or carpooling, or walking, or biking, or not rethinking the back and forth we do in our automobiles every day? Still buying food that’s individually wrapped while arriving at the grocery store without your reusable bags? Buying your water in small plastic bottles?
The earth needs you to think through such thoughtless arrogance. This is it folks. Our world. Where we want, no, need, to live. With kids. Cousins. Grandchildren. We say we want beaches, at the coastlines. Snow in Vermont, in December. Life. To continue. But our actions show something different. Something very much like ignorance. Fires are caused (for the majority) by humans, either directly by their carelessness or inadvertently by their shoddy machinery or inattention to such devices. And the hurricanes, at least the growing string of such powerful ones, are a result of climate change; again, that is on us.
And then there is the massacre in Las Vegas. The largest amount of people killed by an obscenely-armed citizen for no apparent reason. This too is on us. We haven’t stood our ground. We haven’t held our elected politicians accountable, but instead let the NRA hold court. “Over the last seven years, the NRA’s core purpose has broadened considerably. While still preoccupied with gun rights, the NRA has evolved into a de facto organ of the Republican Party, devoting a huge portion of its vast monetary resources to preserving and expanding GOP power. In 2016 alone, it spent over $30 million to help elect Donald Trump — more than any other outside group — and another $20 million on Republican Senate candidates. In February, the NRA officially appointed itself President Trump’s chief defender, calling on its members to take part in a “counter resistance” movement against the administration’s detractors” (The Trace). Everyone needs to gain awareness about what this dangerous organization is up to. And that means gun owners too. Because I don’t believe that the majority of gun owner think silencers are necessary. Or bump-stock devices. Or fully-automatic weapons. Am I right? Certainly. No one, not one, would want these.
In 1945, David Lawrence wrote the following on the atomic bomb and nuclear weapons, “Greater than the atomic bomb itself is the challenge to man to rise above this new means of world suicide and to implant throughout the human race an understanding of the futility of combat and the need for removal of the basic causes of international friction” (What Hath Man Wrought!). This too is in our hands. Complacency isn’t an option anymore. Indifference isn’t either. Sure, it may be pretty out your window. Sunny and peaceful even. But the world needs our collective attention, our vigilance, and our commitment or we may just lose all of it. We have within our means the capacity to end our own existence, and live or die in the dystopian world of our novelists, but I don’t want that for my legacy, and I pray you don’t either.
Together let’s help our fellow citizens find shelter. Safety from the storm. Heal from the horror. Let’s do what we can to head off further disaster. Let’s talk. Take the action needed to break down the walls and policies which divide us. Come together in this season of change.