Letters to the Editor
I agree, to a point
To begin, I'd like to thank the editors at the Pioneer for fostering discussion between respectable local leaders like Jim Rahi and vituperative cranks such as myself. I'd also like to thank Jim Rahi for his charitable and measured response, something of which we writers may be pathologically incapable.
I have two or three quick points. The first is that I am actually in agreement in an important area with both Mr. Rahi and Mr. Hoff, who also replied to my letter. While I am inclined to accept the majority view of scientists regarding the general outline of human-driven climate change, I also believe that the most dire and apocalyptic prophecies of progressive climate change doomsayers are certainly melodramatic overstatements. I do not personally believe in an imminent species-wide extinction event.
Years ago, my wife and I had our honeymoon on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and I will wager here and now that when we return on a future anniversary we shall not find the island, let alone the entirety of human civilization, annihilated by global warming.
It's a matter of rejecting extremes. Like the conservative claim that climate change is merely a "hoax," I find progressives' alarms of an impending Armageddon at best implausible and at worst some sort of demented fever dream. C.S. Lewis had a line about the devil sending errors into the world in pairs that would fit well here.
Mr. Rahi describes my letter as ad hominem, a feisty bit of Latin meaning "to the person," a crude debate trick in which one attacks an opponent's character rather than their argument. My flair for the dramatic and affection for hyperbole notwithstanding, that was not my intent. I know nothing of Mr. Rahi personally or professionally, save for the courtesy he extended in his reply and the lingering but distinct possibility he may not exist. I have no reason to doubt he is an upstanding gentleman of sound mind and morals, and I would not dare to impugn his character.
My concern, rather, is with the way we adopt language and marshal it for our various purposes. Call it a professional quirk. As a former Marine Corps translator and an occasional freelance writer, I perhaps spend much more time thinking about words than the average (or sane) individual. However, even the average (or sane) individual will have noticed the increasingly wild and hostile language in our country's discourse over the last several years.
The more time we spend in front of the television or scrolling through social media, the more we adopt the contentious and inflammatory language of the nation's two bitterly divided halves. Our words are often used to rally people who already agree with us instead of persuading critics and opponents to our point of view. We deploy particular words or phrases simply to show what team we are on.
Even in small towns like Madras, our language can often be determined by the agendas of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, which do not know (or likely care) that Madras even exists. Left or right, our words (and hence our thoughts) are controlled by Big Media.
The antidote for this growing national madness is to refocus on the local. We need our own language. We need to strengthen and sustain local institutions threatened by that merciless monstrosity called the internet: places like clubs, businesses, and, yes, the newspaper.
Another would be to host more local events to draw us out of our castles of endless digital entertainment and into real face-to-face relationships. (Madras is doing quite well in that regard.) Yet another would be to foster more local dialogue, such as the sort to which Mr. Rahi kindly invited me.
On that final point, however, I must remain on guard. I have heard from no less an authority than the president of the United States that the media simply must not be trusted. For all I know, Mr. Rahi may be a prank by the Jefferson County Democrats. They seem like a wily bunch, and I have read and heard many credible Republican climatologists who say the Democrats are full of hot air.
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