Dear great, great-niece or nephew,
I’m writing you knowing that by the time you read this I’ll have died. I’m writing this two weeks before my 100th birthday. I can’t imagine I’ll last much longer. I’ve given this letter to my lawyer, Rachel, with instructions to share it after I go to that gigantic Feminist March in the Sky, presided over by the late, great Gloria Steinem. I’m currently sitting in my van, a womb-like space complete with a candle and my small dog Scalawag. I hide her in a bag, having trained her to stay quiet.
There used to be a running gag from the older generation to the younger that went something like: “When I was a kid, we had to walk five miles through the snow just to get to school!” or “When I was a kid, we didn’t have TV; we had to read instead!” You get the drift, but these clichés were used to demonstrate how much better off you young-uns have it.
We can no longer lay a guilt trip on you for how much better you have it. You are suffering from our neglect, hubris and “can-do” exceptionalist attitudes that we could continue to live life while ignoring the earth and its limits.
You are, no doubt, already keenly aware of significant catastrophes we’ve endured. Seniors have been left to die unless they can justify their existence; the West and East coasts seceded from the union of what is now called “Middle America”; a vast water pipe is shared cross-country so we can at least have a gallon a day per person, no exceptions! I share my water with Scalawag. She is truly the only thing that keeps me sane.
Rather than the major events, I’ll share with you the more quotidian aspects of life before the rapturists hijacked the center of America and took over.
When I was your age — yes, I said it — people were told to rinse cans and bottles with running water to recycle them. In some cases, the impulse to recycle and the mandates to separate trash were on the right track. However, there was a colossal exposé that revealed the recycling industry mainly was a sham. So not only did we waste precious water for no reason, local governments mostly jettisoned materials into landfills rather than have brilliant new scientists obtain grants to create effective re-purposing on a massive scale.
By the way, you know Exxon as a water monopoly. Long ago, they made tons of money in the fossil-fuel racket. Eventually, they finally saw that more incredible wealth would come from taking over the remaining aquifers and re-routing perennial floodwaters from the other parts of the country to the West.
And it wasn’t just water… Oh, the food we wasted! It makes me sick to even contemplate. (Ooh, I never saw “plate” in “contemplate” before.) We’d leave good food on our plates to prove to others that we weren’t pigs. Some of us, using impossible standards, intentionally limited our food intake to be thin. We threw away more food than was eaten in many countries around the world simply because it wasn’t “attractive.” Oh, and people would intentionally avoid life-sustaining wheat products because they thought gluten was terrible for them, even when there was never any credible proof. I would happily lick plates now.
We used to walk and hike — can you believe it? It’s true; there were no restrictions on access to wilderness areas. Now only rich people can visit the National Parks… what’s left of them.
I got to go to Africa and see elephants, lions, zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, hippos and baboons. I even saw penguins off the southeast coast of South Africa. I’ve seen whales! I’m so hoping that the Ark Project (not to be confused with the Christian Ark theme park in Kentucky) successfully saved the DNA of all of the animals we’ve lost. Last I heard, that DNA is sharing space with the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Let’s hope the rapturists don’t confiscate the seeds and genetic materials as being the work of Satan.
The rapturists simply dug in their heels more intensely, once four — yes, count ’em, four — specific end days came and went. These people, who sold everything and waited on their front steps — and waited, and waited, and waited — won’t give up until everyone converts. Some of them bailed on Revelations and joined the dominionists (aka “rapturist light”), but the majority simply came up with another date. Meanwhile, we of the nonrapture beliefs didn’t dare laugh out loud, but we certainly did in the privacy of our own spaces. Yes, we cling to our humor because we must.
I hope you can forgive us. If you don’t, I understand. Please join your local undergrounds. Norway continues to be a free country with lots of activists and lots of beachfront property. And if you get a chance, when you go by fenced parking lots with lots of vans, stop and visit one of your elders. We have precious memories that we’re literally dying to share. Love, Aunt Ellen.
Ellen Snortland has written commentary for decades. She also teaches creative writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.