To my dear friend,

When I was in elementary school I used to check out a book from the library repeatedly. It was about bigfoot. It was a large book, probably from the early 80’s or the late 70’s. Like a lot of books from that era, the glossy color photos were not dispersed throughout the book, they were all bunched together in the middle of the book. These photos were the kind that you usually saw associated with bigfoot. The one still frame from that film of the bigfoot walking, right where it had turned its head to the camera. A few other blurry photos. An assortment of photos showing casts of footprints, left by supposed bigfoots. There was also one where a guy was holding a big chunk of bigfoot hair. The ten year old me would literally have daydream fantasies of trekking out to the pacific northwest and finding actual proof of a bigfoot.

As a young adult, around the time that I started my long march through academia, I had begun to shed almost all of the cherished cryptozoological fantasies of my youth along with almost all of the conspiracies I had once devoted so much thought to. I remember thinking back to that photo in the bigfoot book where the guy was holding the chunk of hair, and how technology had gotten to a point where that question could be answered using PCR and molecular phylogenetics. And sure enough people did test these claims, every piece of hair that had been tested was found to come from a bear, or a pig, or raccoon, or dog… never once did the hair claimed to be from a bigfoot jump out as a heretofore unknown species. The closest I think a test ever got to a hominid was hair that had come from an orangutan… but even that was an actual orangutan not something closely related to an orangutan as a bigfoot could be claimed.

So I put that one to rest as well. I am open minded enough to say that I am not completely against the idea of a giant long lost hominid surviving into this modern era, and then becoming the foundation of a lot of mythology, but I would confidently say that there is no evidence that support this idea in a way that is even remotely consistent with what people say a bigfoot is. Generally when I see a person say that they have seen a bigfoot I feel bad for them. I wonder if it is like people who love WWE wrestling, of course they know the truth but it is fun to pretend. They often also believe in an assortment of other creatures like the loch ness monster, the lake champlain monster, ogopogo, yeti, jersey devil, etc. Mostly they seem a little crazy to me. I think that for a lot of these people it is a way of making themselves feel elevated above the “elites”. If all the scientists say this thing is not true, but I know that it is true, then I am in some way greater than the elites.

This virus has cracked open the world of crazies, and every conspiracy theory ever conceived has had new life breathed into it. The far right, where conspiracy meets religion, is about the worst of it (though black supremacy, hotep conspiracy is in absolute terms probably worse, there are just far fewer of those types of people, so in cultural weight they matter less). These conspiracies are nuts, but they hover around enough true things that it gives them a gleam of fact. My uncle is a class A right wing conspiracist.

He has always been conservative, as long as I have known him he has been that proverbial “right wing uncle”. Super patriotic (or nationalistic). Supports the troops and every war America has ever fought (except those started by those lousy democrats, those are all war crimes…). He is very intelligent and most of his arguments are valid, even if they are ultimately unsound because of false premises. Years ago it was fun to get into discussions with him about any manner of topics, but these last several years (starting around the time that Obama was elected) it has become tedious. What is the point of arguing anything with someone if they dismiss any and every piece of evidence that you bring to them. Global warming… NASA is a fraud, IPCC is run by communists, all the scientists are in it for the money and they are all paid off, you can’t predict anything with a model, etc. Genetics is a fraud so that scientists can get a lot of money and sound smart. The Catholic church abuse scandals… all of the so called victims are in it for the money. And on and on.

It got to the point where I would find myself being extra careful not to stumble into a political discussion of any kind. And to him everything leads to a political discussion. One day he brought up this news story that he read about a county in Florida that bans people from going on the beach for certain stretches of the year because of sea turtles that come and nest on those beaches. “Even people who own the beach outside of their house… and these are multi million dollar houses. And the commie government wont even let these homeowners use their beaches because a turtle might want to lay their eggs there.” To which I responded, “yeah, screw those turtles and their millions of years old instinct to nest on those beaches. Do they even pay any property taxes?” To which he responded, “you don’t know that. You don’t know that it is these turtles’ instinct to lay eggs on that beach.” And then when you try to explain how this can be known, he just says, “I don’t believe that.” That is a standard response. At one point when I still thought that he argued in good faith I showed him some scientific papers on something, but A) he couldn’t parse them, B) he still didn’t believe it. So like I said, I am very careful to avoid anything that can drift into a political discussion, because those discussions always diminish my respect for him.

This virus has pushed him from being a difficult person sometimes, to being outright hostile. His views are remarkably inconsistent, on the one hand he doesn’t believe that the virus is real, as in all of the numbers you hear from every outlet are false, and on the other hand he believes that the virus was a Chinese military creation designed to destroy America… specifically Trump’s America. He believes that this is not really a threat to anyone that doesn’t already have some other problem (it’s their fault if they die), and that the only way to make this go away is for “everyone to get herd immunity” (the fact that a person doesn’t “get herd immunity” rather herd immunity is a phenomenon that happens in a population seems lost on him and for some reason he believes that 30% of people infected is what this means, rather than the 70% plus it actually is.) He doesn’t seem to grasp what viral load is, and why that makes a difference. He doesn’t really understand how the immune system deals with a virus, especially a new virus (he seems to think of the immune system as though it was a shield or a wall, and that the virus breaks through this shield through brute force if you don’t have a strong immune system). He seems to think that everyone that doesn’t die from this virus emerges unscathed. He thinks that this is like the flu, in that it is primarily a respiratory disease, rather than the vascular disease affecting respiration that it most likely is. He believes that the fatality rate is about 0.1%, and more importantly he denies that hospitalization rates for symptomatic cases are what they are, somewhere between 10–20%. Now… all of these things, as you read them you probably began to imagine ways to counter or answer his opinions… but here’s the rub, he just refuses to accept any of those pieces of evidence. So these arguments are completely pointless. Any scientist or doctor is in it for the money (people only and always being motivated by money is a very very common theme. And I think that it is a kind of jealous projection). In fact anyone that doesn’t have an opinion on it almost identical to his own is either brainwashed or a shill. These are frustrating conversations.

The reason why it was necessary at all was that he lives with my grandmother. She is 95 years old. Since this began I have been hesitant in wanting to go visit her, which sucks because I love to have my kids over to her house, but I also know that I would be devastated to be the person that brought the virus to her, and I work in a place where a dozen people have had it, and two even died. But he has convinced her that this is all a big hoax and that she doesn’t really need to worry about it. So every week she calls to ask if we want to come to Sunday dinner, and most every week we say no. But I wanted to make my position clear. We want to limit our exposure to my grandmother in case we are the carrier, and the fact that my uncle works all over the city and up in phoenix and he refuses to wear a mask in any situation means we want to limit our exposure to him. He takes that quite personally, despite the fact that my age alone does not mean I am not high risk, I am fat and I have both blood pressure issues and likely heart issues. If I get this, chances are not good.

I know he sounds like a dumb redneck yokel, which is unfortunate, because he really is not. It is one of those cases of high intelligence, but narrow education, and worse where he seeks confirmation of the fringe. He often refers to what I call “secret information”. This is where when there is a large general consensus concerning a subject distributed through various forms of media and scholarship, he will read something on a blog that says exactly what he already believes and thus it trumps all the other information, or he will speak to a person that tells him the exact thing he already believes. For example, he believed that Osama Bin Laden was killed way back in 2001 when we attacked the compound at Tora Bora… and that it was never revealed to the public. The reason why was not that Bush and Co wanted to maintain a fiction so that they could continue their illegal wars (as most conspiracies would have suggested), no, it was because genius Bush knew that Americans would grow weary of the long fight if they knew Bin Laden was already dead, so this untruth was sustained so that we could rid the world of terror. Then… when the Obama administration actually did kill Bin Laden, he said that was a lie. His proof… one day when he was still living in Colorado he saw a truck broken down on the side of the road, and in this truck was a man that claimed to be a Navy SEAL, and not only a Navy SEAL but one of seal team 6 that was on the raid where they claimed to kill bin laden, but it was all a lie, and that was why Obama had that helicopter shot down the year after that killed all those other Navy seals. (There were witnesses to the event of meeting the guy at his broken down truck… so he did actually hear this story, but this story had been bouncing around the internet for sometime, even before this). The entanglement of lies, and deception and that it essentially describes one of the most horrific acts of treason in American history of not just Obama but of all the other military personnel involved is just waved away. He believes it to this day.

So after this very annoying conversation it eventually trailed off into talking about building a light for a terrarium. He showed me a photo of a pet rattlesnake that one of his clients owned (he is a contractor). And then he said, “I want to show you this photo.” He went to his computer and opened up his email. I half feared that it was going to be some obviously photoshopped image of Fauci in China meeting with Putin, Xi and Hillary Clinton, but as the image began to download I could make out some trees, and a blurry dark figure among them. He asked “know what that is?” My first question was where was it taken, and he said in the mountains north of Tucson. I looked again, not really seeing anything more than the first time I looked, but I offered “A bear?” My uncle then responded, “It’s bigfoot.”

Sincerely,

your friend Bigfoot

I write things, usually in the form of letters to friends.