Earlier this year, after a great deal of thought, I decided to resign from the North American Wood Ape Conservancy. It was not an action I took lightly and the circumstances that led me to that choice cause me pain every day.
We are at a point in our history where I believe it is existentially critical for people of good faith and conscience to set aside loyalty to political brands and defend the core principles upon which the United States was founded. All of us have a responsibility to use our voices to denounce authoritarian, corrupt, and anti-democratic actions by leaders of our country. These are issues that rise above partisanship and “politics.” And the future will judge each of us for how we behave now, at this critical time.
There are people within the NAWAC who I love like brothers. Truly, family. And it’s because of that love that my decision to leave the organization is so painful. But not as painful as my disappointment in those who know better than to accept what the current president is doing to this country and who have chosen to remain silent. Men with whom I have had spirited conversions about the ideals that make our country great. Ideals that used to rise above party and labels but that ultimately they refuse to defend as leaders among their peers.
There have been actions threatened and taken by the president and his enablers that are fundamentally counter to our founding principles. They are gross abuses of power and attempts to maintain a grip on authority and power at the expense of our most basic freedoms and rights. Opposition to these actions should not be controversial. They should not be “political.” All Americans with even a rudimentary understanding of our history and the precepts of our democratic institutions should easily denounce this man and what he says, does, and stands for. Indeed, I believe it is our responsibility as Americans to do so, loudly and often.
But they do not. They remain silent. They do not exercise their rights and step up as the leaders they are to call wrong wrong. Identify evil as evil. They prevaricate and obfuscate and rationalize while one man does everything he can to divide and enrage and shred the emotional and philosophical foundations of our Union.
Their silence is equivalent to complicity. I find it to be profoundly, deeply disappointing. And it makes me fear for my country in a way I never have in my life.
Beyond all that, the leadership of NAWAC allows members who follow bizarre and dangerous conspiracy theories to remain in the group. Beliefs that have been identified by the FBI as a leading domestic terror threat. And they do so for two reasons. One, I believe it highly likely there are those within the leadership of that group who believe these outrageous things themselves. And two, they hide behind the fig leaf of not judging the “politics” of their members. They choose the easy path of non-confrontation.
Hate and intolerance are not “political.” Racism is not “political.” Celebrating and even advocating for violence against Americans is not “political.”
Allowing adherence to unfounded and shocking conspiracy theories within an organization supposedly dedicated to scientific inquiry is itself an indictment against that organization. Demonstrating an inability to deploy critical thinking skills in one aspect of life should cause deep concern when considering an ability to do so in all aspects of life. There should be no place for weird conspiracy beliefs within the NAWAC by definition.
I do not believe the NAWAC is a racist, hateful, intolerant, or violent organization. But I believe those things are tolerated and rationalized within it since those who think that way are thought to be useful in satisfying the objectives of the organization. And as someone who has devoted untold hours and energy and resources to help advance those objectives, it leaves me almost indescribably saddened and disappointed.
I cannot place the objectives of that organization, as much as I believe and support them, above the very existence of our nation and Union. I cannot associate with intolerant, hateful people even incidentally. I cannot place my love of my dear friends in that group above the threat the current president and his supporters and enablers represent to all of us.
All I can do is use my voice and whatever leadership I have earned to try and help them see the error of their decisions and inaction. All I can do is to decline my continued participation, association, and fellowship with them and their organization.