One of many great lines in Tony Kushner’s award-winning Angels In America comes early on in a scene where Louis is addressing Joe Pitt on a park bench and wonders aloud “ I wonder what it’s like to be the son of the zeitgeist,” referring of course to Ron Reagan Jr’s relationship to his father. I happen to think that may be a more relevant question for all of us in the coming decades. There are times when I feel I am relentlessly hounded by the spirit of the times, to be trapped, as Mircea Eliade put it, by the terror of history.
My father and his brothers grew up in Roswell, New Mexico, in the 1920’s and 30’s. My uncle Joe’s wife was a Nicholas, who’s mother, if memory serves me right, leased a part of their ranch (the Mescalero) to Robert Goddard for his rocket experiments. When I was a child he took me to see the Trinity site of the first atomic bomb test. My mother took a turn as a foreign exchange student in Munich just before the war (1937) and actually saw Hitler and Goebbels at a Munich biergarten. More to my own timeline, shortly after we were married in 1968 (!) we went visiting colleges with more amenities for married student housing. On a summer weekend we strolled around Kent State University, parking in the same lot where Jeff Miller was shot dead, and walked up a grassy slope and past a pagoda that would earn it’s place in history in two more short years.
We were married on the day Bobby Kennedy was buried. I was watching the funeral train on television waiting to be called in for the service. I really don’t want to be connected to anymore crucibles of the american experience. But I fear it is inevitable.
A comment by mattakar on a climate change article said recently
Your children are likely to know starvation in their lifetimes. Your grandchildren are certain to. You will probably live long enough to see it yourself. You will see fighting over and food and water. You may even become part of it.He/she is the inspiration for this modest diatribe. Of all the writers on climate change, I think Lester Brown makes this point clearer than most.
At a colloquium at the Smithsonian in March on the 40th anniversary to the Limits To Growth report, when asked what would it take to wake Americans up to the reality of climate change, he responded that perhaps a massive midwest crop failure, similar to what Russia experienced in 2010, with the corresponding price spikes, hoarding, and shortages might be an effective wake-up call.
My granddaughter just recently turned six, and the more climate change news I read, the more I find myself thinking about her future. She will be sweet sixteen in 2022. She will, perhaps, be married, or of child-bearing age, by 2032. Any children she might have will themselves be of child-bearing age by perhaps around 2057. At that point, anyone who chooses to have children ( or is legally permitted to have children?! ) may be giving birth to perhaps the last generation of humans this planet might see. If it is not the last, it certainly might be among the most miserable.
In any case, when I look in her eyes, especially her left eye with the
striking single freckle/beauty mark below it which looks like a sunrise even on a gloomy day, I fear for what she will come to realize when she becomes college-age and faces, with her whole generation, a crucible for not just americans, but for an entire planet. Mr. President, are you listening? As James Hansen said, if the Keystone pipeline goes through, it’s game over.