Climate doomsaying as an excuse to be lazy

And other guaranteed ways to make sure the oil companies win

It can feel utterly hopeless. The climate crisis is so vast that individual actions can’t really make any measurable difference. There is little sign that our political and economic leaders are willing to do what is necessary.

And even if they were, no one can guarantee that we haven’t passed key tipping points already. Some scientific models say we may have. Others say we will pass tipping points within a few years, long before any major economic changes can rectify the situation.

It is so easy to give up.

Creative Commons image via Pixabay

Creative Commons image via Pixabay

Why don’t I? Most importantly I don’t give up because of my sense of self identity and self respect. If I truly believed that the earth would be uninhabitable within 30 years, as some claim, I would not personally be able to “just enjoy life while I can.”

And frankly, I doubt that most people who express that nihilist view actually believe it either. There may be some who do, but to me a comfortable, entertaining and fun life without purpose would be hell. I don’t need a great, earth-shaking purpose but I do need some small incremental purpose. It is the core of who I am.

And secondly, I do have kids. I didn’t give birth to them, but I tried to. And if I don’t see any hope for survival beyond the next few decades, then I would have some serious ethical problems.

I spend a fair amount of my limited time free from the necessities of eating, sleeping, working and raising kids on being a climate activist, whether that is through my writing or more recently through helping out with a local Extinction Rebellion group.

It’s a challenge to stay motivated and feel like my incremental actions are worth anything. On the other hand, I want scientists to tell the whole truth. I don’t want them to skimp on urgency in order to spare people’s feelings. We need to know what we’re up against, even if that someday means knowing we have lost our chance to avert massive deaths.

But there is one response to climate change I find as infuriating and morally questionable as profit-seeking denial of science. That is doomsaying as an excuse to be lazy.

An example, through an acquaintance who is also a responsible and hard-working climate activist, I ended up in an online discussion recently which devolved into a group of people I didn’t know having a mass “doom orgy.” It was in response to my acquaintance’s post but didn’t appear to involve him directly. A few dozen people were doing that online ricochet-in-your-own-bubble thing where one says something inflammatory and six other people try to one-up the hysteria and ten more try to top that and so on.

Pretty much it was a group of people, supposedly supporting climate activism who were saying “It’s too late. No action will save life on earth now. It’s the methane thing. Anyone who doesn’t recognize that everything is hopeless now is just stupid and in denial…” and so on and on.

They were obviously enjoying this titillating moment of doom-wallowing. And it pissed me off as much as a bunch of hillbillies with monster trucks gunning their engines and yelling, “F… Mother Earth!” And both scenes have about the same atmosphere.

My response was to say, “I hope you all didn’t have kids.”

Because most of these people were older than their twenties and likely many of them did have kids. It wasn’t that I think they’d be terrible parents in general or that I wouldn’t want little copies of them running around. It’s just that I am fairly certain if they had kids, they wouldn’t actually believe their doomsday statements. They are merely spouting off for the thrill and the self-righteous superiority they feel.

People who have kids can’t take so much pleasure in predicting total annihilation within the lifetime of the next generation. Or if they do, I pity their children. Hence my somewhat caustic statement.

I could respect a person who truly believed that they had scientific evidence that everyone is going to die in terrible suffering and starvation in a few decades, if they didn’t have children. I can’t very well respect someone who says they believe that but then goes ahead and has kids anyway.

They’re doing “business as usual.” They don’t believe their own rhetoric.

And worse than that, their rhetoric includes statements like, “No action will make any difference at this point.” The person I directly responded to had been ridiculing people who work for green energy and engage in political activism to get better climate policies. I would have been laughed out of the discussion if I admitted to working hard as an activist for climate justice.

The point of this verbal flagellation over climate doom is to absolve oneself and one’s cohorts of any need to take action or put out effort.

Climate activists are sometimes called scaremongers. Throughout human history tyrants have used scaremongering to drive groups of people to action usually to fight or exclude some group they are told to fear. Scaremongering implies a lack of evidence or reality. As such, climate science isn’t scaremongering.

Doomsaying is a similar tyrannical tactic used for centuries but instead of action, it’s goal is to freeze people into inaction, depression and apathy, or at times into panicked, chaotic flight. in the face of a real and factual crisis. Doomsaying is as heinous as denial.

In this case, doomsaying is actually the more virulent and damaging ideology.

Climate denial today primarily affects those who know they are in opposition to science and facts. People who refuse to acknowledge climate science are unlikely to change their minds until they are personally facing survival threats. However, doomsaying affects people who are aware and who are taking at least some small steps toward a solution. It demotivates and freezes those who would act and lulls those who know the danger but are inclined to laziness.

And so yes, I called out people claiming to be climate activists in the midst of their self-perpetuating hysteria of despair.

And it isn’t even about evidence and who is scientifically correct.

I am not a climate scientist. It is a real profession. It requires years of university-level study. I am not going to do some reading and a bit of “experimental research” as so many so-called “activists” have and start declaring my own conclusions. I don’t make my own science anymore than I do my own surgery or build my own computer.

I read the scientific papers as best I can. I know that the outputs of big organizations are watered down, as they always are in any document written by a committee. I know that governments give out information with an agenda attached. But in the end, I don’t see hard evidence of utter hopelessness.

And for me to throw up my hands and go live a life of entertainment and creature comforts because “it’s all hopeless anyway,” I would need more than absolute, incontrovertible evidence. I would need to give up on my children.

A path through the wilderness: How I beat isolation-fueled depression

What do depression, parenting, scuba diving, being a racial minority and riding a bicycle all have in common?

You don’t know what it is really like unless you have been there and done it personally.

Depression is a real and often serious illness. It is most broadly described as an illness causing pervasive, long-term feelings of sadness and despair to a degree that hinders daily life. People who have experienced it know that it isn’t easy to beat depression.

Every illness has a cause of some kind. Depression can be sparked by negative events, such as the death of a loved one, limitations brought on by accident or sickness, or prolonged unlivable or oppressive conditions. But grief is not depression and hardships often don’t lead to depression. Most often depression is at least partly caused by biochemical problems, which may have genetic, lifestyle or environmental roots.

Creative Commons image by Moyan Brenn

Creative Commons image by Moyan Brenn

Depression is not “all in your head” or just something you can get over by thinking yourself out of the problem. But some thoughts can help. However, people telling you to think differently or that all you need is a positive attitude are pretty much guaranteed not to be helpful.

I know about this because I went through depression. My depression was mostly caused by a long-term problematic situation but exacerbated by my genetic tendency toward depression.

I can tell my own story, for what it’s worth. It isn’t a prescription for anyone else though. It’s just footprints in the howling wilderness that is depression, a sign that someone went this way before.

Depression and loneliness often coincide. Being alone and having little social contact can seriously exacerbate many types of depression. And yet people with depression often feel a desire to be alone, not because they don’t like people but because they need quiet to heal, because talk can easily wander into things that cause them pain, and because interaction requires energy. One of the major factors in depression is often a sensation of weight on the body or long-standing exhaustion.

Beyond that, people with depression are often not that easy to be around. Some look and act like what you’d expect from a sad person. Many don’t, but they can exhibit other difficult symptoms, such as irritability, anger, difficulty concentrating, fidgeting or hyperactivity, neediness, rejection of others and/or excessive, unnecessary chatter. As a result, some people with depression may end up more socially isolated because other people avoid them due to things related to the depression, often creating a vicious spiral.

My depression had some of that.

It started with bullying and social ostracism at school. I’ve written about the particulars in other posts. In short, I went through a lot of social exclusion up until about age twenty due to my vision impairment, different looking face and a-typical upbringing.

I had almost no close friends and very little social interaction beyond my family as a child and as a teen. I went through years of schooling in which I was always in a crowd and never allowed to participate socially. At the same time, I was hyper aware of constant “feel good” messages directed at people my age, claiming that friendship is the most important thing in life.

Messages meant to help struggling students stressed that academics and great careers don’t really lead to happiness or a fulfilling life. “The only thing that really matters,” every book, movie and counseling office pamphlet seemed to tell me, “is how many people like you.”

Mostly they didn’t come right out and say the word “popularity,” but instead used the nicer sounding term “friendship,” but I got the message loud and clear. My straight As, athletic skills, artistic talents, volunteer activities and everything else I tried to feel good about were all second best because of the social stigma that kept me isolated.

Over the years, I developed a deep depression—the kind that often goes undiagnosed. I used anger to fuel my energy, despite the heavy sadness that weighed me down. I decided that if I could not have friends, I would be the best in something else. I excelled academically, learned to write professionally and travailed the world.

I found that in distant countries where the culture was very different from my own, I was seen primarily as an exotic foreigner and my vision impairment and different face were often overlooked. I made friends, though due to the conditions of travelling these were often brief, if intense friendships. In the days before universal email, I corresponded with dear friends on several continents by letter, carrying my little green address book around as protectively as my passport.

Each chance to settle in a new place brought hope that here I would finally get it right and make lasting friendships.

That was another message I had absorbed. I knew on some level that much of my social isolation was due to factors beyond my control, but because well-meaning teachers had noticed my social problems in school, I had often been subjected to lectures and training designed to teach “social skills.”

I understood that implicitly, something was wrong with my social skills. In short, my isolation was also my own fault.

Some of those exercises attempted to correct “blindisms,” like my tendency to stare at my fingers while listening to someone talk because I couldn’t see their face, my inability to make eye contact and my difficulty in perceiving other people’s non-verbal communication. I learned not to stare at my fingers or other objects and to endure the discomfort of a world out of focus while I listened attentively. I learned to fake eye contact by looking intently but not fixedly toward where I thought a person’s eyes were. I learned to guess at non-verbal communication fairly effectively.

Other parts of this “social skills” education aimed to moderate the anger that came as a result of the isolation, essentially teaching me to be extra passive, extra nice, extra polite and to focus on other peoples’ interests while making small talk. Some teachers attempted to teach me to dress fashionably, smile demurely and feign normalcy. While I did reasonably well at the first type of lessons, I was not a star student in the second set.

For one thing, I was angry. For another thing, I had difficulty believing that appearances really matter all that much.

I’ve never heard of that last being something common to blind people. I know blind women who are fashion obsessed. But I found the fixation of most of the world on how a person dressed, their posture and even their facial expression to be ridiculous. It took a long time for me to come to terms with that unwelcome reality and to learn both adequate fashion sense and a basic grasp of popular culture.

Empathy for my family and few sighted friends convinced me to try to adapt to their world and curb things they said were an appearance problem.

Still, even as an adult, I was often alone. Due to the work and traveling I did, I was far from my home and family and while I made friends, they were often people who had busy lives and older friendships they cared about more. I was a peripheral person to almost everyone I knew.

When my chosen profession of newspaper journalism became mostly obsolete and I ran into significant health problems in just a few short years, my lack of a local social network became intensely painful again. By this time, I had many dear friends but most of them lived far from where I eventually settled, close to my husband’s job. We had moved to a small town and found the gossip mill to be as vicious as it had been in high school.

The terror of being alone returned. Days spent working alone at my computer were tortuous. I dreaded the approach of weekends alone. I had long since internalized the belief that being alone was a sign of failure and utter rejection. I frantically joined whatever my husband was doing or volunteered in community organizations to make sure I was not alone. And then I found myself miserable and exhausted among people I didn’t really know and couldn’t visually recognize if I did.

I sank back into deep depression and saw no hope of ever getting out.

Unfortunately, I didn’t even keep good journals during that period, so I don’t know exactly how things changed. I know that the circumstances didn’t change. I couldn’t afford therapy and because I maintained a basic level of daily routine through sheer stubbornness, I didn’t end up with medication for depression.

What changed was my assumptions about the purpose of life. Through a mix of extensive reading, spiritual practice and writing a memoir, I came to the conclusion that the core message I had absorbed in my childhood—as well-intentioned as it might have been—was wrong.

Friendship is not the only thing that matters. The number of people who like you or spend time with you is not the primary measure of happiness.

For some reason, our society tells children that in an attempt to make disappointments in academics, sports, competitions and even family conflict feel less bitter. But it is no more true than the hollow hope that money will make one happy.

The second realization came from taking the Myers-Briggs personality test, which showed that I am clearly an introvert, defined as a person who needs significant amounts of time alone. I knew that I often didn’t enjoy social occasions and often felt exhausted around people for long periods of time. But I had believed this was simply a failing on my part.

Once I realized that I actually needed solitude and I let myself think of all the things I loved to do alone—writing, crafts, studying herbs, making videos, reading—I felt an odd slow-motion liberation.

It didn’t happen in one day or even one month or one year. But slowly I decided to build a life in which I would be happy even if I was alone. I did not give up on social interaction. I still welcomed time with friends but I didn’t strive after it. I focused my attention on those things I could more directly control. I built my home around my interests and scheduled my time around what fulfilled me.

Recently, the question of how to work one’s way out of depression connected to loneliness was put to me on an advice forum.

My answer begins with examining the reasons why a person is alone more than they would like. This examination assumes that if the person is asking this question, they are not “just bitter and driving people away” as is one common assumption about lonely people. If a person is truly seeking social contact and interested enough to ask the question and look for ways to handle their own depression, the loneliness is likely not simply “their fault.”

So, there are three other possibilities:

1. You may be truly objectively isolated (living in a place far from other people or amid people where you are a member of a very small and rejected minority..
 
2. You may be an extravert but have some disability or other difference that makes social interaction difficult and causes other people to be prejudiced against you.
 
3. You may be an introvert, meaning that you really do need to have time alone, but you have developed the common assumption that being an introvert is "bad"  and being alone is a sign that you are a failure or a loser. Even if you don't think these things consciously, they may be in your subconscious. 

In the first instance, loneliness is an environmental hardship but it doesn’t reflect poorly on you. It may be a struggle to stay out of depression anyway. Keeping active, maintaining a daily routine and maintaining long-distance contact with friends can help, if the main issue is geographic or other physical separation from others.

In the case of discrimination, depression is harder to avoid. You may be physically with people but still excluded. Still there will be those who accept you. They may just be few and far between.

In the end, you are left with a somewhat more difficult situation. You are geographically separated from those who do accept you, but you can still maintain long-distance contacts and maintain your routine.

It is the third instance, that needs the most internal work but also the one that is the most solvable. If your loneliness stems mainly from the fact that you are actually an introvert, changing your thinking can significantly help. Realizing that solitude can be a good thing is powerful anti-depression medicine. It is unlikely to happen over night, but finding joy in your interests and activities alone can go a long way toward fighting depression.

My struggle with loneliness and depression was a combination of these three factors. I am an introvert, but not an extreme introvert. I need time alone to recharge but I can be very social and gregarious with people. I didn’t always understand that you don’t have to be shy or self-contained to be an introvert. I am talkative and expressive. I just get my energy and rest from being alone.

I took on the common western assumption that being an introvert is "bad"  and that the "key to happiness" is the number and volume of one's friends. As a result, I became seriously depressed. I thought I had to be social all the time to not be “a loser.”

I was terrified of being alone. When I was alone I was miserable, always thinking about why I had no option to be with someone. To avoid this, I ran community organizations, volunteered and got involved in all sorts of things. While this had its uses, I was exhausted and rarely enjoyed the social interaction. I was always under strain because I am an introvert by temperament and that means that I really physically need time alone to recharge, even when I didn't know it.
 
The key was understanding that being alone is not bad or a sign of failure, that I could enjoy my interests alone, that I needed solitude on a deep biological level and that some people would not accept me no matter what I did or how many “social skills” I learned. The first step was throwing off the stereotype I had absorbed from pop culture that says that your happiness is based on how many friends you have, on being one of those smiling faces in a big crowd on a Facebook photo and getting a ton of "likes" under it.

I learned to live in a way that I truly enjoy rather than in a way that I thought I was supposed to enjoy. Your way may be different from mine but the key is finding what it is, what makes you happy and what fulfills you.. If you are at least partly an introvert, you will have interests that can be pursued alone.

You may have been discouraged from doing things alone and warned that if you “shut yourself away,” you will never have any friends. That is only a danger if you see being alone as a failure and a sign of rejection. If you are enjoying yourself and allowing the solitude to refuel you, you will likely reemerge ready to take on the social world on a regular basis.

Who would I have been in the days leading up to Nazi Germany, Stalinist Prague or US slavery times?

In 1996, I sat in a class of American college students on a study-abroad program in Olomouc in the Czech Republic. A Czech man just a few years older than us came in to give a lecture about life in the 1980s under Stalinist totalitarianism and the Soviet occupation. I don’t remember the exact details of the lecture but it was good. It was moving and detailed and real.

I was the only one in the class who knew much of it already and who spoke Czech. I had been to the country before in 1992 and had my mind exploded during a week in a rustic cabin with a group of young people who had been quiet dissidents three years earlier, copying down illegal protest songs by hand in tattered notebooks.

Creative Commons image by Xabier Otegi

Creative Commons image by Xabier Otegi

I absorbed the university lecture eagerly, asking several questions at the end to draw out interesting parts of the man’s story. Then I made myself stop. I didn’t want to hog the space and I knew I should let the others ask. But when I looked around there was not one hand raised.

One of the American college students, sprawled in a chair at the back of the class, drawled, “Yeah, that’s the difference over here. Americans would never have put up with that.”

It sounds like a cliche but I really felt like something hit me in the chest. I had no breath. Before I could recover, the class broke up and the lecturer exited quickly, while my classmates put their notebooks away and went out for an afternoon of Czech beer.

Listening to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the US supreme Court and the protesters screaming for all they were worth from the gallery, I thought of that remark and of Jan Palach, the student who lit himself on fire in protest of the Soviet invasion of 1968. Palach is a symbol of the final and most extreme protest when oppression has become so immense that dissent is easily silenced, dismissed, buried or imprisoned.

Things have gone from bad to worse in the US in the past two years. The quiet corporate coop that made a mockery of electoral democracy for decades has become overt. The extreme racist, misogynist, eco-cidal ideology that was threatening before has taken more and more power by more and more unjustifiable means.

Plenty of readers will sneer at my title and say that I should not compare this to Nazi Germany, Stalinist Czechoslovakia or slavery times. We are not seeing people shot in the streets… well, except when they are black and vaguely suspected of something. We can still protest. We cannot compare ourselves to Jan Palach and those who had all of their other options taken away.

And that is true. We still can protest. And that is why those screams made me think of Jan Palach. Those protesters hauled off by security were mocked by many. They screamed as a man credibly accused of sexual assault, a man with clearly stated misogynist and extremist views was given lifetime power over us.

They yelled and made a scene and they were ultimately powerless to do anything. The charade of “democracy” went on with smug indifference. Those in power snicker and call their “tantrums” futile and petty.

But it is not nothing to scream at injustice and the destruction of a democratic country. It is not nothing. It is the one thing that still stands between us and the likes of Jan Palach. We can still scream where it is heard. He couldn’t without ending up being tortured in a dark cell.

There is a meme on Facebook that says “You now know what you would have done in Nazi Germany. You’re doing it right now.”

The idea is that the early days of Nazi Germany did not look so different from our current situation, a terribly polarized country with a ridiculous, extreme right-wing faction gaining popular support among a certain frustrated portion of the population while most of the traditional powers tut-tutted and insisted that any resistance be done through their channels. Most of the middle class and intellectuals were sure for a very long time that it wasn’t really that bad, that these nuts would not get total control. They considered the Nazis to be deplorable certainly but not a real threat.

And most people either were swept up into the extremism because they were easily swayed by advertising and razzle-dazzle or they disliked the extremists who gained power but just grumbled quietly about it and mostly made sure not to take any great personal risks.

The thinking behind the meme is that the beginnings of Nazi Germany looked a lot like the United States today and so it is now easy to tell what kind of person you would have been then. And in some ways that meme is right. We have far different technology and public discourse and we are more aware of totalitarianism than most people were then. But the same dynamic is clearly visible, the same divided groups and the same vulnerability to manipulative extremism.

I don’t compare our times to the height of Nazi Germany, Stalinist Prague or slavery times. I do compare our times to the run-up to such moments in history. We are still in the stage where we can scream and not be shot—most of us. We are not yet faced with the choice Jan Palach perceived—to live in utter oppression or to die loudly enough that the scream will at least break the oppressive silence.

And so I ask myself who would I have been in the days leading up to the darkest times in history?

And today I know the answer.

I would have been a writer who wrote the truth even if it meant losing jobs—and eventually a career—over it. I have done that. I have lost jobs and lost my hard-fought career in newspaper journalism with one of the best national newspapers in large part because I wouldn’t tow the line and I broke out of the mold of the celebrity-focused, reality-impaired news too often. I had a couple of run-ins with censorship of historical facts and ended up on the NRA’s journalist “hit list” before I was done.

I would have been a member of a vulnerable group who could not get work or participate in mainstream society in my own country because of the self-destructive way that country was organized which directly excluded my group. Because of that I would have been forced to leave the country and spend my life far from my home and family. I left the United States twenty years ago because as a legally blind person I could not be independent and fully participate in society without public transportation, which is today one of the greatest needs for everyone to combat climate change. Because I am legally blind, the community I emigrated to does not entirely accept me either, but I do have public transportation and so I can have a normal life, a family and a job. The same was true of many who fled destructive regimes for other reasons—less-than enthusiastic welcome but a chance to live.

Whether I stayed or left, I would have been active in protest movements, organizing as long and as hard as I could. I led protests against the war in Iraq in my city, even though it cost me another job and impacted my health. But for a long time I would not have been among those who dropped everything to protest full-time or risked the most. I participated in actions to support Greenpeace blockaders who did risk their lives to protest US imperialism and environmental destruction. I was terribly afraid when I was almost caught by military police while bringing food to an encampment. All I risked that time was a trip to the local jail, a fine and a record. But I quaked with fear and because I was trying to adopt children and didn’t want the possible bureaucratic repercussions, I didn’t ask to take on a riskier role in the protests.

In those other times, I still would have adopted children from a vulnerable group, despite disapproval from many sides. I have done that. I would have been one of those people who held down a hearth and cooked food and let people traveling to protests or fleeing from danger sleep in their home. That too I have done.

Creative Commons image by Michelle of flickr.com

Creative Commons image by Michelle of flickr.com

I would also have been among those who eventually became too exhausted by hand-to-mouth work and health problems to go to most protests. I am exhausted. Most protests are too far and too difficult for me to get to anymore. Then again, needy children keep me tied down. I would have been one of those who found a small corner to hide in when I got older and less physically strong. I would have continued in small ways to resist personally and to give help to the endangered ones who crossed my path.

I would have been among those who wished to do something significant, to join the “real resistance,” but didn’t first because of fear and later because of those who already depended on me. I have fantasies of helping refugees from war-torn and climate-devastated regions. I have fantasies of going off to live in camps at places like Standing Rock to put my body between the corporations and the destruction of the earth’s climate and our children’s future. But I haven’t done it. I am less afraid now that I am older. There is less at stake because there is less of my life and no career or adoption process left to lose.

I would have been a quiet ally to those most targeted by the oppression. I would have stood up for them against social bullying and helped if I could. But I wouldn’t have had either the energy or the capacity to do much that really mattered, because I am also not among the privileged and because even when I don’t fear for my own life and livelihood, I fear for my children, and because of distance and lack of funds and reticence toward cold, hard living.

I would not have been a hero or one remembered by history. I would not have been a collaborator or someone who willfully didn’t see what was happening. I would have been willing to sacrifice a job or a career, but not my family in order to tell the truth. I would have done small things to help those worst affected and felt guilty that I didn’t do more. I would have been among those taking carefully measured risks. And unless I was among the unlucky few—like say Heather Heyer— I wouldn’t have paid the highest price. I know because that is the kind of character I am in our current story.

Have you let yourself think this through? Who would you have been?

Avoid falsely easy answers. You may be among those targeted by hate today but there are likely others who are in greater danger—assuming you have the leisure to be reading my blog.

If you are among those most targeted today, consider that victims also had options back then. Would you have been among those who left early, who found a way out or a way to fight back? Would you have been among those who covered their ears and prayed that it would not go so far? Would you have been among those who blamed your friends and neighbors or joined with them in mutual aid to survive? What is it you are doing today? Are you lashing out at allies or frozen with fear or getting your children to safety and building alliances?

And if you are part of a group that is not yet targeted, who would you have been then? Would you have been the bystander who knew a bit of what was going on but chose not to get too involved? Would you have been the one who who shut their ears and eyes to the suffering of others and the devastation of their homes? Would you have had the courage to use what rights you had to say “no,” to protest loudly when you could and to give aid quietly?

Who would you have been? A lot of the wondering has been resolved in the past two years. Who are you now?

Children of drought: Dry dust and roaring flood

Wet, singed air. A heavy blanket of heat interrupted by eddies of cool. That sizzling sound that comes from the earth. Blessed, blessed rain. After long drought, rain at last!

There is nothing quite like the smell and the sound of rain on a parched landscape. The Summer Solstice brought the rain here--unexpected, unpredicted by the weather services. The storm winds lashed the land and broke our prime plum tree like a match stick. Still it was a gift at that.

We'd had three months of drought and the impact on agriculture and the municipal water is dramatic. Our small town is trucking in drinking water daily. and what is usually a lush verdant landscape in June is parched yellow and brown like the semi-desert where I grew up.

This isn't the semi-desert though. It's soft, green Central Europe.

Creative Commons image by Kate Russell 

Creative Commons image by Kate Russell 

Yet climate change has brought the drought, pushing the arid climate of the Balkans north over the past ten years. Both winters and summers are drier and warmer. For several years there have been water shortages but this year is the worst anyone can remember.

And with the drought comes another kind of desperation up from the south. Trails of refugees,, clinging to tiny boats to cross the salt water and then walking in lines so long you don't see the end.

The media doesn't report their stories much. You see a mother with a small child alone, no men. They two are huddled against a fence, sleeping on pavement for three days while they wait for authorities to say whether they will be deported back to a place with no food and certain death in the war. We know little more of their stories. 

And most people don't care to know. It isn't about opening up to a ragged and persecuted few anymore. Now we are seeing the first lapping waves of what will be a roaring flood. Climate refugees.

In Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Egypt they once fed themselves. It was dry but they had methods of conserving water. Now, there simply is no water to conserve. Nothing will grow without water. And there are millions upon millions of people who cannot under any circumstances be fed in those lands of much greater drought. And we are well aware of the chaos even our little drought has caused.

I sat in a cafe with my husband on the eve of the Solstice. It was our first time out together in months. The kids are on their annual overnight school trip  It was a rare treat and we sat eating grown-up cuisine and little goblets of iced coffee and tiramisu. 

Gods, we needed it.

We had been at each other like irritated cats for weeks. Every criticism bites and there is plenty to criticize. We're exhausted and neither of us gets done what we're supposed to most days.

He talked loud about despair: "The politics in Europe and America are just spiraling into hate and I can't even blame them. Left or right, it doesn't even matter. Someone is always there to take advantage of the frustration and hype fear."

I try to get him to speak more softly in the restaurant, but he doesn't care anymore. "Yeah, people hate immigrants. But these aren't the kind of immigrants we used to get. Those were the small business people who wanted to seek a better life, political dissidents and intellectuals. Now we get everyone, whole countries, because they are starving. Climate change, you know. The deserts are taking over. People fight over land. Wars and hunger push people out and they come here. But we're too small and if we really took them in, we could end up a minority in our own country."

Before you sneer at that final line, ask a Native American if it is possible for migrants to take over and make you a minority in your own country. Climate change is that kind of phenomenon--so massive that it will likely move whole populations within our lifetime. 

I tell him about the children in cages along the southern border in the US. We know more than most about the trauma of separation that will follow those children for a lifetime. Our own children started their lives in orphanages. They were materially comfortable, but one screamed almost non-stop for the first two years he was home, a high-pitched terrified scream that both drove you away and broke your heart at the same time. The other kid still totters around speaking in baby gurgles most days nine years later, even though she tests average for IQ. 

This is not an "Oh well, they had to go to mandatory summer camp," kind of thing, Separation from family in childhood, being housed in impersonal environments and the terror of not knowing when or if familiar people will return cause lifelong trauma.

Creative commons image by Freedom House of Flickr

Creative commons image by Freedom House of Flickr

My husband shook his head. "What are we supposed to do?" He gestured helplessly toward the main road of town. Cars were backed up miles, not even crawling. We got to the cafe on bikes. 

It's a single lane road. In places two large modern cars cannot meet and pass each other safely unless one stops. Our once rural area is over-crowded and parched. The local school is bursting at the seams. That's what he means.

In America, there is lots of open space and the refugees are more like a trickle than a flood. Here in Central Europe--without large oceans to both sides--the decisions about compassion are getting harder. 

"What we do is be the kind of people we want to be. I don't know if we'll survive, but I won't send innocent people back to die at the hands of terrorists and I won't support putting children in cages." That's my answer. Not a great one. Principled but light on solutions.

My husband has always espoused humanist values and I realized that this past year he has not wanted to talk politics and social issues the way he used to. He hasn't just been prickly at me. He's frustrated, even hopeless. He turned his face away, but he still had lots of words--loud and angry words and none of them constructive. 

When he quieted, I gave him what little scrap of hope I still have. "When I was a kid in the 1980s, the intellectuals and activists--the people like we are today--were convinced there would be a nuclear war. A lot of people really believed my generation wouldn't grow up."

He nodded and let me speak for once. He had been on the other side of that possible war in the old East Bloc and doing  mandatory military service for a totalitarian Communist regime for part of that decade. 

"But it didn't happen. Then there were parts of the ocean that were technically dead. Environmentalists believed they would take centuries to recover. But they recovered faster than expected. Now if you look at climate change and migration, the bare facts are grim. It looks like we're headed for massive disaster in a few short years. And it is a very serious situation. We have to do what we can. But the earth regenerates better than the bare facts indicate. It's about resilience. I don't know what will happen, but it is likely to be something no one is predicting right now."

For once he didn't argue or criticize. I can't say I gave him hope exactly, but for a few days afterward things have been more peaceful at home. The rain helped. We walk around each other on egg shells, trying to be polite and considerate in the hectic schedule and amid the needs of the troubled children we've made our family with.

Each day we choose our own qualities, our soul, our values.

If we choose to put children in cages today or put up razor wire to keep out starving refugees, we become that. If we choose to struggle for what we can, to fight climate change with our garden beds and bicycles and hand-lettered signs, to fight drought with rain barrels, drip lines and solar panels, to fight hunger with lentil soup and tortillas and to fight despair with stories and songs, then that is what we become. 

Are we choosing to live our values and thus make our own survival harder? I don't know for sure. I only know that survival without meaning is the road to depression.

Give a damn about something... anything

Last year was a doozy and our prayers for next year are uncommonly humble. Never before has that sentiment ricocheted around the on-line and offline worlds as it does now.

I have never been much for New Year's resolutions, partly because the New Year isn't a great  breaking point for me, but also because my self discipline is strong when it's there and nonexistent when it's not. Trying to manufacture it with a calendar marker isn't much help. 

IMG_0535.JPG

Cutting out sweets when I just received my favorite goodies over the holidays--and have been virtuously not devouring them all at once--is decidedly unappealing. The weather makes anything more than my indoor workout unrealistic. And everything else I should be doing, I am already working on. 

But this year there is one thing I have to make a resolution on. I must resolve to care.

I am known for my passionate opinions and passionate work. And having been born under the sun sign of Aries, my passions are near the surface. But there is a downside to that too.. Too hot a fire burns out quickly. 

This past year, my personal life as well as global political and publishing trends have conspired to strip me of much of what I thought made life worth living. The things I cared passionately about have been trampled into the mud by stampeding events. Family crises resulting in escalating stress with no hopeful end in sight derailed my writing career, which was hobbled by the miserable publishing climate as it was, and I'm not even going to start on politics, since you've heard it all before. 

Mostly the things that I still have from last year are the humblest things--a home, some chickens, a duck, two cats, a garden, some members of my family. I am immensely grateful for them. But the thing that has been most dramatically taken away has been my passion. 

I know from watching other people sink into dullness that passion is the key element in life force. The passion of hopes and dreams is lovely. The passion of love and commitment in a relationship is precious. But even the passion of anger or revenge has it's virtues. I don't care much anymore what passions you may have, but I know that having some passion is essential.

All year we heard that this is NOT the time to talk about climate change--after a natural disaster that cost many lives--or about guns in America--after a tragic mass shooting--or it isn't the time to silently kneel for lives lost in your community--during a public and symbolic moment. The core message is that we must curb our passion, stifle the fire because cool heads will make better decisions.

But do they?

I see a first grader playing with trash right outside school and all the adults walking by, picking up kids, going about their business. And the older kids too. I stop and pick up the trash, making a stern note to myself to wash my hands. The older kids stare at me. Why do I care? It isn't my trash--or is it?--they must be thinking. 

I care. In the past I have really and truly cared about picking up the trash in my community. This year I have to choose to care, but I still care.

I disagree with people about a lot of passionate issues. Someone wants to agitate for a political candidate that isn't my cup of tea, though I don't think the candidate is evil. Or they simply care more about gun violence than climate change and I think the priorities should be reversed, if we had to ultimately choose. Or they insist that STAR voting is superior to any other type of voting reform. Others are vehemently trying to build a voice for their marginalized nation or refugee group. 

And you know what? I want to hug every one of those people and say, "You go, human! More power to ya. Have courage and strength. Don't give up."

Because when you get right down to it, these people give a damn and that is far more important than what precisely they give a damn about. 

I invite you to make this resolution with me, if you're struggling. Don't force yourself into a virtuous change of routine that will fizzle out in a couple of weeks. Just resolve to care about something specific. Choose something local and concrete, like your family or your place or your local school. Or choose an issue. But choose something beyond your own person to care about. 

Yes, it's risky. You may well lose that thing or your cause may be lost. That hurts and you may have to choose again.

But what you gain is purpose. If not exactly hope, then at least you gain a temporary antidote to despair. Despair and it's close cousin indifference are the worst destroyers of our world. 

Therefore, I invite you, even if your passion is something I may disagree with. Give a damn this year. Choose and follow your passion. This is how we ensure that we will have a future. 

Clash: Conversation between the wealthy and the poor at the dawn of a new class war

I love cultural experiences and I've joined a lot of different groups in order to understand different perspectives.

Recently I had a conversation with a group of wealthy intellectuals who I had come to know and enjoy, though their culture is quite different from mine. Yet in this case the clash of cultures and understanding proved too great for much accord and the divide worries me. 

Creative Commons image by Hamza Butt (

Creative Commons image by Hamza Butt (

I will not use names or other identifiers here because the point is not to call anyone out but rather to show a crucial gap of understanding that is developing in our society, due to different groups living inside social bubbles of their own race and class. Because in this particular conversation there was little or no variation between members of the group, I will use an agglomeration of real statements to both shorten and clarify the discussion.

As such, this is a recreation of a lengthy discussion I had with a group that is essentially a foreign culture to me. We are all either Americans or Western Europeans. We are all intellectuals and significantly educated. Most of the group previously had expressed support for the US Democratic Party and/or liberal-leaning views. So we share a great deal, yet I was an exception in the group because I am not of the same economic class. 

I will call one side in this discussion Wealthy Liberal Intellectual (WLI) and the other side Scraping-by Progressive Intellectual (SPI) to illustrate where the divide is, although I was the only person in the latter group at this time. 

Here is how the discussion went:

WLI: Trump's attack on health care is unfortunate. We should be compassionate on health care. However, I doubt the media reports about people in the US being denied essential health care before the ACA are entirely true.  I have certainly never encountered a real person who was denied essential health care in the United States.

SPI: You may not have previously encountered a person who was denied essential health care, but now you have.. I can give you several specific examples in as much detail as you would like. About ten years ago, for instance, I was injured in a fall in the US. My shoulder was partially dislocated, two ribs were broken and one punctured my lung and the lung collapsed 10 percent. I was driven to an emergency room and eventually had an X-ray that showed these issues. I was given a sling and proscribed pain killers. This cost was $3,000. I couldn't pay all of it right away and some was paid for by an emergency fund. However, I was not kept in the hospital for observation. My shoulder was also not repaired but left to heal badly and crooked in a way that causes permanent deformity, pain and weakness in that shoulder. When I later sought advice for the pain from doctors in Europe, I was told that A. the shoulder needed to be operated on immediately to prevent long-term harm and B. the lung issue was life threatening at the time and I was lucky to have survived without adequate medical care. Those interventions would have been extremely expensive and they were beyond what I could pay at the time. I was told that my lung was in a dangerous condition and that I should probably stay in a hospital overnight, however, it would take months to find out if an emergency fund would cover it and I would have to risk putting my family in serious debt to stay. I was not informed at all about the need for an operation to my shoulder. I can give other examples from just my own life and that of my nearest family and friends. This is the reality of the majority of people in the United States before the ACA.

WLI: I'm sorry that you feel life has served you so poorly. You were given health care. You probably shouldn't be complaining about it. And as you can see there was an emergency fund. that you benefited from.

SPI: I didn't say life had served me poorly and I am not complaining. I'm merely presenting the facts of a case. According to medical doctors in Europe this did not constitute "essential emergency medical care." It resulted in long-term harm and deformity. My shoulder is still not the right shape and it never will be because the surgery cannot be done once the injury has healed poorly. There was a very small and inadequate emergency fund. These are simply facts. I have been very fortunate that I did not have much worse complications. In fact, I was fortunate to live and not lose the rest of my sight due to that particular accident. I am also fortunate to have access to European health care, something most Americans don't have. Far from saying life served me poorly, I'm saying I am one of the lucky ones who survived this disastrous system. These problems affected at least half the US population and still affect some. It is immeasurably worse for families with serious and chronic illnesses, such as cancer. 

WLI: This is, if anything, an isolated case. I wonder what you're trying to prove and why it is so important to you to go on about this.

SPI: I read your statement saying that you had not encountered a real person in this kind of situation. I wanted to give you this information and experience outside of your previous experience, because it is the experience of a great many people in the United States.

WLI: Many people still come to the US for health care from countries that have universal health care. Many of our members live in countries, like the UK or Canada, with universal health care. There are major problems there and the United States is still the world leader in medical technology. We would not be able to provide this technology if it didn't offer significant profits. 

SPI: I have experience in a country with universal health care as well, in the Czech Republic, which is not even a particularly wealthy country. I'll admit that health buildings here are often a bit spartan and hospital rooms can be small or if they are large they are shared by multiple patients. But the quality of actual care both in terms of human care and technology is sate of the art. Last winter I had high-risk eye operation to save my residual sight. There have only been about 500 similar operations in the whole world and it is one which requires very specialized technology and a precisely skilled surgeon. 

WLI: You should respect the experience of those who know more than one system. I have heard of there being long wait times for critical procedures in some countries with universal health care. I wouldn't want to give up the benefits of the American system.

SPI: You dismiss any facts I present. When you won't look at specific cases, it is no wonder you haven't noticed any person who was denied health care in the US. Ignoring the facts and continuing to promote this system, when you have said you are for human rights... It's disgusting. It is a life and death issue for a great many people. I have experience with more than one system, in the US, in the Czech Republic and in Germany, even in Zimbabwe and Ecuador. Why is my experience invalid compared with the experience of others? And can you give any specific examples of problems in countries with universal health care? I have never encountered long wait times in countries with universal health care, except for transplants which always entail a wait. 

WLI: You need to apologize. You just won't listen and you want everyone to feel sorry for you. I don't see why we can't all contribute to society, why you seem to think some people should get everything for free. 

SPI: I think it is important to gain experience from beyond your own circle of friends and your own bubble of experience. This is why I'm presenting these facts. I can give details and other cases if that would help. 

WLI: You just honestly don't get it, do you? The group feels you need a time out. 

SPI: I have been considering leaving this group. I have noticed in the past that this group is very dismissive when I post about climate change, even though you claim to be concerned about these types of issues. However, I enjoy other parts of this group and I like to know people from beyond my usual circle as well.

WLI: I have no doubt that our children will have it easier than we do, just as we have it easier than our grandparents did. That really isn't an issue worth worrying about.

SPI: Climate change is already having a devastating impact. You are intelligent and you have seen the data. You know that we have incurred ecological debts that someone will have to pay in the end. 

WLI: There will be other resources in the future. Once it was coal and iron. Now it is oil. In the future it will be wind and solar. Each generation uses different resources, so each generation will be better off than the one before. There is no ecological debt.

SPI: I am not sure the endless resources theory will work in practice, but even if it did, this is more about human-induced climate change, which is already impacting a great many people and making life, let alone business, much harder. It is growing year by year. Do you still say that the next generation will have it easier?

WLI: My son and daughter are successful in business and my granddaughter is looking into modeling. Sure, I think they will have wonderful lives. You think you are the only one who has had a difficult life and had to struggle to get somewhere. That isn't the case. It's just that you talk so much about how rough you've had it. 

SPI: It takes my breath away and makes me sick to my stomach to read this. I don't think I've had it bad. I am much more concerned about the next generation.

WLI: I've had enough of your insults. You're blocked. Have a good life.

Her War: The day the dream died

What goes through the mind of a parent in the moment when they find out that their child's difficulties are not "a phase" or something she'll grow out of? What are the thoughts of the captain of a tiny vessel with a crew of four struck by a hurricane? 

This mother sat in a park outside City Hall to hear the verdict of the specialist over the phone. The child, who she called Chickadee in moments of tenderness because she came one spring eight years ago to save the mother's grieving and broken heart, was with her. The mother made Chickadee sit on a bench a little distance away and gave her a tablet with games to play--a rare treat to keep her occupied during the call with the psychologist.

Creative Commons image by Paul Stainthorp

Creative Commons image by Paul Stainthorp

She was too young to overhear her own fate.

"I disagree with the findings of the previous report on her intelligence." Those were nearly the first words spoken over the cell phone.

The mother's heart leapt with momentary hope. She held her breath, waiting to hear that the child who had brought such joy and then so much chaos and conflict, was troubled, learning disabled, hyperactive BUT exceptionally bright. How many times do you hear such stories. She would fight for such a child, fight with every last reserve and--by all that is holy--they two would win. 

The next words hit her like a sucker punch. "In some areas she has average intelligence, but in many areas she is far below average. She may have the symptoms, but to be diagnosed with dyslexia, there has to be a certain minimum intelligence."

The mother kept notes, scratching at a notebook, frantically trying to record the specialized terminology, even though she would receive a written report. It felt like the only thing to do. She knew most of the terms. She had done piles of research already. She was one of those parents, the kind that take a threat to a child as a call to arms. She would document, read, discuss, advocate anything into submission.

"Very low scores in visual/spacial skills. Very low auditory processing, and short term memory is far below normal. That goes along with the attention disorder," the psychologist is not dry on purpose. She is hurrying between meetings, giving this mother as much information as she can in a short space. Her interjections are friendly, checking to see that the mother is following and not drowning in the information.

She says she is fine. She has the notes down, and she understands the terms from her research. 

But she is drowning. She doesn't know it yet, but she is drowning as sure as the captain of the tiny swamped vessel at sea--gulping in mouthfuls of brine and salt spray.

"She is very immature, half her chronological age. If she was four or five and she behaved this way it would be fine. She is very impulsive. She will need constant attention, careful monitoring at every moment."

The mother looks up and sure enough the child is not on the bench where she was supposed to wait. She gets up, turning around in the dappled sunlight of the park. The light and shadows blur before her eyes. She feels sick.

"She will have great difficulty copying from a blackboard. She cannot understand auditory instructions or information of any significant length. She will not understand lectures or audio books. She will always have difficulty reading. Yes, she should be tested for dyslexia anyway, but she may not have the intelligence for that diagnosis." 

The mother wonders if she herself will fall to the ground, but she doesn't. She walks by instinct. She knows where the child's impulses will take her. She has spent eight years connected symbiotically to this child. She knows her better than anyone else. She notices the path the child's distractable brain would grasp at and she goes down it. She finds the child on the steps by the rushing traffic. 

Safe. For now. No one picked her up this time.

"I recommend a psychiatrist, special education services, testing for reading disabilities. There may be medication for ADHD. You may be able to apply for educational accommodations.. The one positive thing is that she has some episodic memory. Sometimes I see individuals who can't remember much of anything. She can remember those things she experiences, but she will not understand anything abstract."

The call ends politely with tasks assigned to both sides and assurances of further contact. The mother takes the child's hand and they hurry from the park with promises of ice cream. 

That very afternoon, the school holds a ceremony, graduating the first graders as "readers." A local children's author visits and places wide turquoise ribbons over the children's heads. The children sing and the parents clap. Chickadee does not perform a poem alone, but a friend helps. They have developed hand motions to go along with it. 

Then the results of a standardized test are put up on the screen in the classroom. Reading and comprehension scores. The class is one gentle curve--some a bit below average but more than half well established as strong readers. Only one is the far outlier, far behind the others. 

She's a pretty girl with striking eyes. She stands in the middle of the class with their proud reading ribbons. But she cannot read much. She may never get beyond that stuttering, gasping pace. 

Only the mother knows which child the outlier is, silent in the crowd of parents. Most are quietly relieved. It is not their child left behind. Some are vocally disappointed, their children below the average line. They promise extra rigor at home. They are troubled and motivated to work harder. No one wants to think about the outlier. 

What goes through this mother's mind?

Grief.

I looked forward to showing her the wonders of facts, history and geography. She has no interest and cannot grasp even the beginnings. I dreamed that we would do art projects together. She grabs the supplies and smears them in a random mess, shouting, “Look! Isn’t it great? Clap for me!”

The dreams are gone. The chipper, inspirational quotes about overcoming disability are lies told to absolve the rest of the world of the need to feel compassion.

Despair.

I love to read stories to my children. She doesn’t want stories. She doesn’t understand and has no interest in anything with depth. I can’t read to my son because she is screaming and destroying the house. My son isn’t disabled and yet his bedtime stories are curtailed.

Aching boredom.

Endless days of baby talk and the toddler in a child’s body that changes far too slowly if at all. Teaching the same simple things over and over day after day for years and years and years--knowing it is futile and that very little you do will ever make any difference.

Heavy exhaustion.

Serving and supporting her incessant, second-by-second needs means both parents are in deteriorating health and the second child, who is six, is mostly on his own. He has to be better than other kids, take care of himself, do with far less attention and grow up fast.

Utter isolation.

I’m supposed to be positive and “inspirational” as a parent of a child with this kind of disability. I will only be judged. No one has any interest in the reality.

I will never be one of those parents with older kids who can get back to their own life. I will never have time for myself again.

Fear.

“Dysmaturity” will mean she will never grow up but she isn’t disabled enough to be recognized as developmentally disabled and so protected as an adult. Extreme impulsivity will make her very vulnerable and a target for every scammer and abuser. She will be in debt. She may well be homeless unless she lives with me. She has no mental ability to plan even the most simple steps. She will never be able to plan how to prepare for school or get transportation to a job or cook a meal with more than one step.

The chaos of our daily life is not “a phase.” It is the way it will always be. It is unbearable and it will never stop.

Terror.

I know the fashionable thinking in the circles of disability rights is that disabilities, particularly neurological disabilities, should not be considered negative. They just exist, neither good nor bad. In a better world, we would all be "normal,"despite our differences.

Chickadee is a girl. She is not bad. She is not to be pitied. It is not her fault or a shameful thing.

But this is a disability. She cannot do all things. Without the blocks and missed neuro-pathways, she would have many more choices in her life. She may well have plenty of joy, if she is well sheltered by a family that designs an insular world to fit her needs. But let's face it, she will not have the choices others have.

Let us be honest about this. When a parent learns that a child has such curtailed choices a dream dies.

How to win the struggle against tyranny today

I received some hard news affecting the health and future of one of my children. And then I had to explain it to my husband after a particularly harrowing day He looks shell-shocked but also resigned, the way a lot of people look when discussing politics these past few months.

These days there seems to be nowhere to go to get away from the hard rain drumming down, whether personal or political. Any media you turn on is likely to either numb you, deepen your despair or coat everything in a somewhat sickening layer of figurative candy.

Creative Commons image by Hartwig HKD

Creative Commons image by Hartwig HKD

After my husband stumbled off to bed, I was about to turn in myself when I got a call from across the world, my adult niece phoning in edits to a manuscript. After that kind of day, there are few conversations I'd gladly stay up for, but this was one. 

Even so, as we decompressed after the editing work was done, she said almost the exact same despairing words that one of the characters in my contemporary dystopian series says, "It just seems like the bad guys win every time." 

I had not yet settled from my own fears or thought about the future for my family. Instead I was jolted into that disturbingly realistic fictional world by her momentary despair. It's a story about a kind of cult that controls hearts and minds in what looks like modern America and promotes corporate interests to the extreme. Those who resist the resulting tyranny always seem to be on the retreat, trying to shelter the most vulnerable among them and to salvage a sense of personal freedom. 

I wrote this some years ago, based on a premise and plot designed twenty years before that. But its relevance today is often uncanny. I wonder if George Orwell ever wished his book 1984 wasn't so right on.

Two years ago, when the Kyrennei Series first became public it was considered a dark and sometimes painful story. This was strange to me because I wrote it out of a sense of hope. Not the "smile and all will be well" sort of hope, but the sort of hope that keeps me going when both the present and the future look bleak. 

I wanted to reach out to my niece across the 5,000 odd miles between us and give her a hug. Not that she can't stand up on her own. She's been doing it for some time. But simply because I understand.

Here is the antidote to despair that another character offers in the story and the answer I gave to my niece on that midnight call: "I don’t know where this tyranny came from, but the hatred and greed that drives it seem to be endemic to humanity. I don’t think it is going to go away. That doesn’t mean we don’t win though. With every kid like Rowan who can raise his head, despite what he has been dealt, we win. With every child who grows up free, with every refugee rescued, we win. We win every day that we remain free in ourselves because that’s a day when we don’t lose."

I wake up in the dawn on too little sleep and muddle through the morning routine, which involves actions of resistance to the corporate and social oppression in the real world--chores for our urban homestead (part of mitigating climate change and ensuring my family's relative independence from corporate, chemical-laced food supplies), getting children ready for school while denying demands for sexualized clothing for an eight-year-old (part of the struggle to foster an informed and free-thinking next generation and to give one young woman time to understand gender dynamics before making her own decisions about her body as an adult) and dispensing herbal medicine that has kept us healthy for ten years without pharmaceuticals (part of the struggle to avoid being held hostage by corporations due to health needs).

Mine is a humble role in the struggle, feeding chickens and children. But every action is part of remaining free.

When there is a moment of peace, I light a candle and take a cup of tea.  Part of my mind is still with the fictional characters who cropped up the night before. A phrase from the freedom fighters in the book is still going through my head, "One more morning."

That's all they say. I made it to another dawn without giving up my hope and inner freedom. This day, I won. 

There are those who hold power in our real world who do resemble villains from a dystopian fantasy. And they have said in no uncertain terms that they want to destroy all who resist them. Larry Klayman, an influential lawyer, is heading efforts to put opponents of the Trump administration in prison. Neo-Nazi groups openly declare that they wish to destroy people of color, people of other faiths, immigrants, refugees and their friends. Donald Trump himself has declared that those who wish to protect the earth from climate change and other effects of corporate excess should be wiped out once and for all. 

It is not fun to contemplate. But contemplate this. They are failing. 

They can do many harmful things, but every time we get back up and resist in public or private ways, we win. Their stated goals are thwarted when we create moments and spaces of freedom. 

This is not a matched fight. One side desires control and mastery over others. The other side wants only peace and freedom in their own homes. While it is terrible in many ways, it gives us many chances to win. 

Know that you are not losing. Your persistence is their worst fear.