“Hell is empty, Armand,” said Stephen Horowitz; is the opening line to Louise Penny’s newest book. After much anticipation and even more patience, it arrived in the mail today. As I opened it and read that first line, I closed it and poured myself a cup of chamomile tea. You see, I had just spent a part of the morning on the phone with my son.
My son is in Vietnam. He’s been there for 7 months. About a week after he arrived, they shut their borders because of the presence of Covid 19. Since then the borders have opened and closed again. On top of that, borders around the world are closed to those who carry USA passports. He can’t leave. He tells us that Vietnam is a beautiful country with beautiful people. But it’s hotter than hell. In our conversation he was telling us how he is trying to get to Hanoi to see the American War museum. He knows he needs to emotionally prepare himself to see the images of what our country did to these beautiful people and their land. I told him I was beginning to phone bank for Biden this week.
It is important for us elders to stop and listen when strong youth sob.
“When I was watching the Democratic National Convention, I felt like I was watching my own funeral,” he said.
I didn’t need to ask him why. I knew.
We are in a delirious world when we celebrate a man and woman and the party they represent when none of them prioritize the climate and health of our planet as the most important, number one thing that needs to be addressed. That silence was clear during the convention and has been clear for 2+ decades. Rather than ramble on with references and footnotes to support this, I want to keep the focus on our youth.
About a week ago the New York Times put out yet another critical essay on the climate catastrophe that is unveiling itself to us all. It was beyond sobering. It was down right horrifying. Us elders will be dead when the worst of it comes to light. But my kid (and yours), the ones who sob because they rightfully fear their future, they need to be heard as they come to terms with this and grieve. While many of us are rightfully focused on the man who will more than likely steal the election yet again, there is a generation or two who look to the future with a deeper fear than anything we elders might feel.
I will vote for Biden. But I will do it with a heavy heart. I wish I could say that I think he will address the climate crisis that is unfolding as I type, but I don’t. I do however hope.
There is a lot of awfulness going on in our country and around the world right now. We can list any number of evils that scare the heck out of us, with Covid 19, the unwrapping of white supremacy, and the blatant inequality around us as high on that list. But as my son so viscerally observed, it all means shit if our climate goes to hell. And the thing is, it is well on its way.
What will it take for us to see our youth, hear them, feel their fear, and do something about this? Something drastic, major, and all encompassing.
When I hung up. I sobbed too. Because I know the answer to that. There is a very unique hell that runs our planet. It is called, capitalism. And capitalism just won’t allow us to put the climate where it belongs, front and center in all our deliberations.
As I hold you in my heart, please hold our youth in yours.