It’s late at night, and the fire in the fireplace has burned down to a bed of coals. My wife and dog have gone to bed, but I’m in the middle of Ken Follet’s most recent novel, A Column of Fire, and can’t put it down.
At first I don’t hear the knock on the door, but I finally realize someone is out there. It’s a cold, winter night, and I wonder who it might be.
It’s an old man, with long hair and an unkempt beard. I hesitate, but invite him in to come in and get warm. I throw a couple fresh chunks of wood on the fire and ask “Would you like a Tom & Jerry?”
“Make it a double, with bourbon,” he said, with a sigh of relief. “I’m glad you were up. I was hoping to have a chance to chat a bit before I finish my final rotation on Sunday night.”
“Oh, you’re Father Time, the 2017 version,” I commented. “I was wondering if you might be stopping by. I haven’t had one of these visits for several years. So,” I ask, “after some 360 rotations around the world, what do you think?”
“I think you’d better hurry up with that drink, while I take a moment to gather my thoughts.” He stared into the fire a few moments and then took a few sips of the hot drink I’d fixed, and said, “This, my friend, is one mixed up world. When I came on the job back last January, my predecessor warned me this wasn’t going to be easy.
“I tour the world every day, so I see a lot of stuff, but this country of yours is one messed up place.”
I tell him I kind of agree with him but I’d like to hear just what he means.
“Every day I see what’s happening to this great planet. It’s an oasis of life in the solar system, the only place that supports plant and animal life and you’re destroying this paradise.” He paused a moment, “Well, maybe not you, personally, though if you’re living in the U.S., chances are you’re part of the problem.
“Every day I see the world’s last glaciers melting a little bit more. Country-sized slabs of polar ice break off from Antarctica and go floating off into the oceans, and ocean levels creep up a bit.
“You and I both know that your addiction to fossil fuels is a major reason your climate is warming, and you don’t do anything about it.”
I start to say, “It’s complicated…”
“Like heck it is!” he interrupts. “Your scientists, for over a century, have been warning about changes that were going to happen and then started happening, and your politicians are like ostriches with their heads in the sand, who then give more sweetheart deals to companies that burn carbon and pollute the air. That idiot of a president you have goes out to promote coal. ‘Beautiful clean coal,’ he says. Bah, humbug! There is no such thing as clean coal. Geez, don’t get me started.”
“I think you’ve already gotten a pretty good start,” I interject. “But where do we go from here? Everything is so political these days.”
He took another long sip of his drink and studied the flames in the fireplace, while he pondered his reply. Finally, with a degree of hesitation, he said, “My job is to keep track of the passage of time and at the end of the year hand the job over to the next guy. By the way, we’re really not babies when we start. But, we’re not supposed to get involved with politics.
“I will say this, though. You and your fellow citizens need to stay involved and informed of what’s going on. Yes, things are politicized, but as some say, all politics is local. Stay involved and vote.”
With that, he stood up, buttoned his coat and headed for the door. But, before leaving, he added, “Be good to my replacement next week. It’s an election year and it’s going to be tough.”