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Way back in the 20th century, those of us in Mrs. Jannsen’s 12th-grade English class at Mead High School in Spokane County had to read the novel “Fathers and Sons.” Ivan Turgenev, a Russian, wrote it, and it was published in 1862, so imagine our excitement.

The book’s main character was a young man named Yevgeny Bazarov — a name I had to retrieve from the internet — but what has stuck with me is that Bazarov was a nihilist, a philosophical outlook rooted in its Latin base “nihil,” which translates as “nothing.”

“Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known...


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