When a loved one is stolen from you by death, you immediately get clear about priorities and what’s important. Think of it as a refinement process unlike anything else most people will ever experience.
I haven’t been consuming news of late, no longer obsessing over the minutia of the daily cycle of events like I once did. When your son has been ripped from you by a senseless and careless act, the buffoon in the White House and his boorish antics seem trivial. Of course that also doesn’t mean that what’s taking place doesn’t have consequences.
During Mark’s final video, the day prior to being killed by a woman who happened to be a supporter of the man seeking to dismantle the country that I’ve known for 50+ years, he ticked off a litany of things that concerned him about the man who had just been sworn into office as our 45th president.
“We now officially have a president,” said Mark, “that does not believe in climate change. He wants the world to burn so he can profit. We have a president who hates women, who discriminates against women, who physically abuses women. We have a president who hates minorities, who wants to make minorities suffer. we have a president who hates disabled people, who doesn’t want to help people when they are in need. All he wants to do is profit. If you support this man, you do not support human life on this planet, plain and simple. You do not support the future of earth as a planet…”
Nothing that has happened over the past 57 days indicates that Mark was at all wrong or made any kind of misstatement about President Trump. In fact, in what may have been the closest to a rant that Mark ever recorded or posted, it was clear that he was channeling something akin to what could be called “righteous indignation.” I say this because Mark didn’t get angry often and it was never for show.
I’m a fan of Chris Hedges. He’s one of the last of the true journalists. He never dances around the edges of any topic that he’s writing about. His work also resonates with prophetic urgency.
In a recent article written for Truthdig, where his columns appear weekly, he wrote:
The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminate and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.
Early last year, I was headed down the wrong path. I was in danger of completely turning my back on the progressive and radical beliefs I’ve held for much of my post-Xian walk, dating back to the mid-1980s. I experienced something similar to a psychotic break, a condition I’ve begun calling “my ideological break.” Mark was concerned for me, but in his kind and compassionate way, he told me what he thought, but he never cast me aside. No doubt he was concerned and in fact, when he came home last April and saw a book by a deranged xenophobe on my side table, he asked me, “why do you have that book, Dad?” I lamely tried to defend what I was reading at the time. I’m not proud of that period, upon reflection.
No matter what, Mark and I never had a falling out. There were stretches in his life when we didn’t correspond and communicate as regularly as we had the past few years, but we always knew that the other person was a phone call, text, or a car (or plane) ride away if anything ever went down.
In the months preceding Mark’s walk that would ultimately end tragically, we talked about where I’d been for a brief season. I half-joked with Mark that perhaps I had fallen off my bike while on a training ride and had bumped my head and had been suffering from some kind of amnesia or worse. I say “half-joked” because there wasn’t any good explanation for what I had been thinking for several months. Also, I don’t want to make light of what could have happened to me when I had my own brush with serious injury a few years ago. Still, it’s been hard for me to come to terms with how I had been blinded from seeing the truth right in front of my face.
The best I can come up with is that my own strong dislike and lack of support for the West’s neoliberal drift and a candidate who embodied all of that swung me too far to the other extreme in a reactionary fit of pique. There’s a great deal that could be written here about our failed two-party circus called “democracy,” but others have covered that far better than I ever could come close to doing.
I consider the deep conversations that I had with Mark from August, right up until he died, perhaps some of the best we’ve ever had. They were insightful, always full of love and mutual respect. I was so proud of who Mark had become as a man who lived out his ideals, literally walking his talk.
I miss having him in my corner. People like Mark are nearly impossible to find in this life.
Consider making a contribution to the Mark Baumer Sustainability Fund as a way of keeping Mark’s spirit alive. Your gift will help cultivate the traits that informed Mark’s philosophy of life—love, kindness, and working towards building a better world.