I wish I, too, could live and let live when it comes to global warming and the accelerating climate crisis.

My son’s statement stopped me short.

I’d been holding forth, again, about the string of horrifying decisions the Supreme Court released over the course of the preceding two weeks. They were all bad, but in my view the two worst came on June 24th and 30th

I don’t need to tell IV Words readers that the 6/24 decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the Constitutional right of people to get abortions. None of us is ever going to forget the decision or the date, no matter how hard we might try.

Then came the 6/30 decision in West Virginia vs. the EPA, which struck down the Clear Power Plan. No more Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil-fueled power plants. No environmentalist is likely to forget that date or decision, either. The only good news – if, in this context, you can call it that – is that the EPA can (and in fact must) regulate methane leaks and emissions. 

Regardless, over the course of his 18 years my boy has suffered through these kinds of diatribes dozens of times without much comment. He’s a laid-back guy. Chill. Live and let live. It’s one of the things that makes me love him so much.

But this time, uncharacteristically, his frustration came out.

“All you ever talk about is politics,” he said, obviously irritated.

“Well, just about everything in life is political,” I responded. 

(Condescendingly, I’m afraid.)

“Look,” he said, meeting my eyes. “I’m gonna live until I’m – what? – 70, maybe 80 years old? Ninety if I’m really lucky. That means I have about 70 years left at the most. I can go around thinking and talking about politics, protesting and being angry about everything all the time – like you – or I can think and talk about other things and try to be happy.

“That’s what I’m gonna do.”

Stopped short.

Sometimes his stripped-down wisdom blows my doors off.

Ignorance is bliss, they say, but that’s not what this is about.

Merriam-Webster says “live and let live” is “…used to say that a person should live as (they choose) and let other people do the same.”

The Grammarist blog expands on that, saying, “It is foolish to squander the time you have to live your life here on Earth by telling others how to live their own lives… Wise (people) know that living life to the fullest without worrying about controlling others is the path to satisfaction.”

I truly believe every interaction in this world is political, that pressuring elected officials to finally take expansive and meaningful action on the climate crisis is crucial to the future of the human race, and that right now, in this exact moment, my job as a father is to pressure those officials and cajole others to do so, too.

As I said last week, I am a climate-crisis warrior. Because I am, I believe we need to rise up, all of us, every single day, to ensure there is a livable planet for our kids, their kids and their kids after that.

Even so, I can’t hold anything against anyone who decides life is too short to live that way. I cannot – for even a single nanosecond of our lives – blame my son or anyone else for their decisions to chart another course through life, to walk a path that leads them to acceptance and peace.

I can only envy them.

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4 Comments

  1. So, I’m late to the party, but for what it’s worth, here’s my take.

    First of all, your son’s comment, “All you ever talk about is politics,” rings familiar. When my daughter was living here at home she rolled her eyes, and made comments about my having news during dinner (it’s how I was raised), and talking politics before, after and during dinnertime.

    I don’t believe that everything in life is political but it certainly can be contentious (after what happened to Trey Lance yesterday, you’d think that the rest of the world has stopped).

    Where I have to take issue is with your final paragraph, “Even so, I can’t hold anything against anyone who decides life is too short to live that way. I cannot – for even a single nanosecond of our lives – blame my son or anyone else for their decisions to chart another course through life, to walk a path that leads them to acceptance and peace.”

    Folks, and I know plenty, who choose to walk a path” of acceptance and peace,” may at some point in their lives find that their peace has been rocked.

    Young women who live in states like Louisiana and chose to remain detached had their peace shattered when they woke up on June 25th (particularly if they were making plans to have a pregnancy terminated).

    People in Texas who disconnected when Rick Perry and Greg Abbott were elected had their peace frozen when their grid took a dump a couple of winters ago.

    I recently saw a snippet of a focus group in which the participants (about 15 in total) were asked to raise their hands if they planned on voting in the midterms. Not a single hand went up and one young woman asked, “What are midterms?”
    The next question was, “Who can name their congressman?” Blank stares and the same young woman said, “I don’t know anything about congressmen.”
    One day, they’re going to wake up to an inconvenient truth and ask, “How could this happen?”

    One study has shown that a preponderance of voters don’t know who or what they will vote on until they are in the voting booth.

    My daughter once talked about moving to Texas because it’s not as expensive as the Bay Area. I responded, “Well, that’s fine, except when you get out of bed in the morning, you’ll find your feet planted firmly in Texas.”
    “I can deal with the politics,” she responded. (I should add that my daughter, while not liking the news and political discussion, is still aware of the current politics).
    “Oh, you think so? Will you be able to deal with a state government that has banned a book that you read in high school that your own son won’t be able to read? Will you be happy if you go to the polls one day and find that your name has been purged just, well, because, and you didn’t realize it?”

    Your title, “Peace, Even as the World Burns,” says it all. My state is literally burning up and the fire season is now year round. Our democracy is burning. Our peace of mind and peace in life is on the brink. So I do resent people who choose to disengage because once their peace is shattered, my peace will be shattered as well, in part because of their disengagement.

    Sorry for the long missive. Happy Birthday BTW.

  2. When a child becomes a parent, their life changes overnight along with their view of the world and the future. Fortunately, generation after generation, there are parents fighting for the future of their children and grandchildren.

Let me know what you think!