A few weeks ago, I wrote an article, one I didn’t submit. I’d given it to my son to read. His response was: “You need to see a psychiatrist.”
No, I’m not depressed. I’m worried, anxious—about our planet, the future for my children and yours.
I read the other opinion pieces here, the writers who keyboard their desolation and then close with a sentence or two of hope, some ounce of inspiration. My article offered only tons of despair.
After my son suggested a psychiatrist, he added:
If this is the way you feel, this will have to be your last article. If there’s nothing anyone can do, then writing more articles is meaningless. Would you tell others to give up, that activism is a waste of time.? Black Lives Matter? Would you have told Martin Luther King Jr. to give in to injustice?
Since my son is a bit of a prepper, I asked if he has any hope. He hesitated and then said, “Little.”
It’s not just endless war—the sheer horror of the slaughter the US Empire exacts. It’s more. It’s oil seeping into our oceans. It’s radiation. It’s fracking. It’s factory farming. It’s what we inhale, absorb, ingest. Last week, I saw new recommendations for colon cancer screening—colonoscopy at age 45 instead of 50. More and more young people, even teenagers, are being diagnosed with this disease. Is it diet? Is it a diet that’s marinated in pesticides?
Yesterday morning, my son called. “Check your email. I just sent something.”
I read aloud as he listened:
All the harbingers of collapse are visible: crumbling infrastructure; chronic underemployment and unemployment; the indiscriminate use of lethal force by police; political paralysis and stagnation; an economy built on the scaffolding of debt; nihilistic mass shootings in schools, universities, workplaces, malls, concert venues and movie theaters; opioid overdoses that kill some 64,000 people a year; an epidemic of suicides; unsustainable military expansion; gambling as a desperate tool of economic development and government revenue; the capture of power by a tiny, corrupt clique; censorship; the physical diminishing of public institutions ranging from schools and libraries to courts and medical facilities; the incessant bombardment by electronic hallucinations to divert us from the depressing sight that has become America and keep us trapped in illusions. We suffer the usual pathologies of impending death. I would be happy to be wrong. But I have seen this before. I know the warning signs. All I can say is get ready.
No attribution, but none was necessary. Immediately, I said, “Chris Hedges.” There should be a word that defines the identifiable hopelessness of Hedges.
Back now to my bleak essay—which I concluded with the following message to jihadists:
You’ve seen your friends and loved ones brutalized by war, your towns and cities rendered uninhabitable. You know the US and allies talk liberation, democracy, but only deliver carnage as they claim the resources of your country. You’ve turned your understandable rage outward, killing civilians, seizing the only power you have: creating fear. But do you really think that detonating an explosive, driving down a sidewalk and mowing down a crowd of civilians, stabbing men, women, children while you yell, “Allahu Akbar” will effect change? It won’t. Tragically for you and for all of us demanding peace and justice, the US will not end the bloody rampage.
Therefore, your violence will not accomplish anything for your cause. Sure, you might be hailed a martyr by those who believe as you do, but the savage machine of Empire and capitalism will continue its destruction of our planet until even those who benefit from greed, the filthy wealthiest, will be forced to move to higher ground, away from rising sea levels even as carcinogenic and neurotoxic pesticides follow them like a stalker.
Maybe I do need the care of a psychiatrist. Wonder if Hedges sees one.
Missy Comley Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.