"Are you/we in a place where the only books that appeal to us simply reinforce how bleak the outlook for the future is (or that it is even worse than we thought)? ...Given Al's main points, if you were his editor or sounding board, where would you have encouraged him to take the conclusion?"
Good questions, and questions that have been on my mind a lot. (Hey--his ability to alternate between brilliance and reading my mind is why I married him....)
* * *
Let me begin with a fairly convenient truth: I just wrote a nonfiction book about a very bleak subject. When my cowriter and I sat down to write the conclusion, it hit me straight in the face that the book's conclusion needed to be in some way redemptive. We didn't exactly have to write a happy ending, but we couldn't leave readers with the unspeakable horror of the story without ending on a note that made it all seem like something other than an incitement to severe depression. We tried and we tried to figure out that redemptive ending. What we came up with--which personally I think only partially works--is a call for us as a society to try to come to grips with the difficulties of both our past and present, and a plea that we take this understanding forward to craft our politics and our activism.
I say this is a convenient truth because the experience of struggling at the end of a story of misery to make it into something moving--even radicalizing--for readers is something I share with Gore. And the funny thing is that he tries out the exact same tactic that I used--and he does it far, far better than I ever could--although he does not end the book with it. When he uses this rhetoric, his words are powerful and inspiring:
"...This is a moral moment. This is not ultimately about any scientific debate or political dialogue. Ultimately, it is about who we are as human beings and whether or not we have the capacity to transcend our own limitations and rise to this new occasion. It is about whether or not we can see with our hearts, as well as our heads, the unprecedented response that is now called for; whether or not we can--in Lincoln's phrase--disenthrall ourselves, shed the illusions that have been our accomplices in ignoring the warnings that have been clearly given, and to hear clearly the ones that are being given now.
"...We are now at a true fork in the road. And in order to take the right path, we must choose the right values and adopt the right perspective. This is the time for those who see and understand and care and are willing to work to say, 'This time the warnings will not be ignored. This time we will prepare. This time we will rise to the occasion. And we will prevail."
* * *
Am I so convinced the future is bleak that I cannot hear hope--no, not hope but CERTAINTY--that we will make it together through the valley of the shadow?
No--but my own hope and my own commitment to the future is too fragile to be brushed aside in the end as less important to the future of justice than some new way to show video on television.