It’s been an awful long time since I wrote to you. This newsletter thing had a kind of regular patter going on for a while, and then – Ffft! Nothing.
The truth is I’ve been writing a lot since then, just not for you. Yes, I’ve been operating this cannabis newsletter – which has been taking off! We now have three reporters, other than me writing, which is hard to imagine. It’s really been great.
But I’ve missed writing for you, because it exercises another part of my brain, and I liked reading your responses. So, for old times’ sake, here’s a few quick thoughts that have been rattling around in my brain. Please feel free to write back and tell me how wrong I am.
1. National politics
I’m absolutely tired of it and I want it all to just stop. Yes, I still subscribe to an insane number of national politics publications, but I can’t, won’t follow the tiny details and ins and outs any more. It hurts too much. I feel like I’m watching slow motion train wrecks driven by the power of massive egos. While I can’t countenance any of the authoritarianism and election result lies foisted on us by the Republicans, I just don’t see moral clarity and leadership from Democrats either. Yes, there are good people among the Democrats (I’m struggling to see the good Republicans, because well, The Big Lie), but they are so chaotic and weak at a time when vision and strength are desperately needed.
It’s so hard to read the news. I feel like reading the news is a form of self-harm.
2. American Football
I didn’t watch a single game last season, and I’m pretty sure I won’t this season either. The amount of brain damage going on is astonishing. By now it should be pretty clear to everyone involved that college and professional football players are risking their lives and families’ happiness by hitting the field. The connection between CTE and full contact sports like football and hockey has been well established.
In the last year, I’ve been piecing together stories of my dad playing ironman football in high school (he was team captain) with the fact that he began to experience dementia at the age of 61, and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s just a few years later.
Why do we enjoy watching people ruin their lives?
3. The personhood of animals
Over 20 years ago I traveled to Thailand and had a number of interactions with elephants there. Less so now than in the past, but elephants have been deeply woven into Thai society for work. So you can sometimes find them on city streets with their handlers, lifting things, getting stuff done. But what I saw were a kind of people. Each one had a different personality, and mothers brought their young to work with them.
Pushing me over the edge was an interview of author Richard Powers, where Powers pointed out that at the turn of the last century, there was a push in the scientific community to eliminate anthropomorphism of animals, to stress the dominance and separatism of humans. In a way, it gave us license to do whatever we wanted to animals. Paraphrasing Powers, “If we allowed ourselves to believe that a cow has feelings, we’d never allow the slaughterhouses we have today to exist.”
This thinking has been deeply troubling to me, as I really enjoy eating meat, but more broadly, I’m beginning to believe that I am responsible (both individually and as part of collective humanity) for tremendous harm to a great number of persons on this earth. This may seem outré thinking, but I’m willing to bet my grandchildren will think a great deal more about this than we do today.
Since it first came out in 2019, I’ve watched the Mr. Roger’s doc, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”once a year. Each time, the sheer determination to provide love and understanding to all people in all circumstances, brings tears to my eyes. It’s a combination of wistfulness that we could have this all the time, plus amazement at his purposefulness.
I wish I had Fred Rogers’ strength to treat everyone with such focus, openness, and attentiveness. I have been thinking regularly about how to be more like Fred.
When you think about it – the strength and will such behavior requires – it is a kind of masculinity. The reason why Fred Rogers commands our attention is because he is a man. Let’s admit it: We take this kind of behaviour for granted in women. But for a man to do this in our society and age, it requires a certain kind of bravery and strength.
That’s all for now. I’ll try to visit again before the holidays with some real thoughts.