Guest blog – What will you do as Rome burns? by Laura Kammermeier

Laura Kammermeier is a writer, birder, environmentalist, and communications consultant. She is also a news junkie, a defender of freedom, and an activist. She’s really teed off right now. She lives in New York state.

 

Laura can be found on the web at MyDigitalNature.com and NatureTravelNetwork.com.

 

 

 

What will you do as Rome burns?

Everything you heard is true. Not unlike those that determined your Brexit fate, the lunatics are now running the American asylum.

Defying all that is (was?) great and good about this country, a portion of the American electorate has installed a malignant narcissist as the 45th President of the United States.  But how, you ask? The reasons are long and complex and amount to this: while we were busy reading novels, watching birds, and solving actual world problems, a dark form of nationalism was incubating in Petri-councils across the country. All it took was extreme conniving of the extreme right and a massive inoculation of Trump (he has the best ratings!) to turn it into a raging, nationwide infection. Sad!

So while we “normal” Americans gasp, cough, and wheeze, exhausted from our efforts to cure ourselves, the infection spreads its way into federal policy, lower offices of government and onto the street and subways, where legal citizens are badgered and bullied for looking, acting, or thinking differently. Suddenly, even an iota of informed thought places one into the “elite” class – subject to the tyranny of petty Trumpets.

We are in the acute stages of this infection and it won’t get better soon.  Every day, an ignorant man-child sits in luxury bathrobe at The Resolute Desk (The Resolute!) aiming mucous-filled slingshots at time-honored institutions, policies, and people while trying to replace truth with “alternate facts” that push the administration’s “shock and awe” agenda.

There will be many casualties of this administration. But the one Mark invited me to speak about was the environment, which has already taken a major hit and lay on a gurney, heading if not to the morgue, then for reconstructive surgery.

Let me share with you how fast a cookie crumbles:

  • On day 1 (Jan 20th, 2017) of the new Administration, all references to climate change are deleted from the White House website. Then, #45 (he who shall not be named) vows to destroy Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan, a government-wide plan to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change.
  • By day 2, “alternative facts” enter the common vernacular as we argue about the President’s size (inauguration crowd size, that is).
  • By day 4, a communications gag order is placed on federal scientists associated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (the agency that regulates our food and agricultural sciences). This was later lifted, but the idea was clear: there’s a new Sherriff in town.
  • The next day, the administration imposes a freeze on grants and contracts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the lead government agency that regulates the safety of our air, water, and soil. Federal employees are also banned from giving social media updates and speaking with reporters.
  • By day 5, the administration’s assault on the media is so ripe, the Republican chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee says “Better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”
  • On day 6, America is downgraded to a “flawed democracy” according to the taxonomy used in the annual “Democracy Index” from the Economist Intelligence Unit.
  • On day 8, the administration releases an Executive Order banning entrance to the United States of refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, to deleterious effect, and resulting in the blockage of thousands of legal U.S. residents (including scientists, tech employees, graduate students, military friends and advisors, etc.) returning to American from trips abroad.
  • Emboldened by the political climate, on day 15, an extreme-right Florida Republican, perhaps dizzy from the moist heat or bitten by a coral snake, introduced a bill (H.R. 861) to completely abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.

And in the background of all this, a fight to hand over federal public lands (including those that protect threatened and endangered bird species such as the Gunnison Sage Grouse) to the states (who want to sell oil and gas rights on them), festers.

Now, while Democrats don’t expect this “Destroy the EPA” bill to get anywhere the trouble is that the infection is spreading and one absurd folly after another is befalling your American brothers and sisters.

Eh. Who needs the environment when you can live in a bubble of small-minded greed, gleefully bouncing off other putrid bubbles as you rise, rise, rise into the political stratosphere! But know this, one day, when they least expect it, their bubbles will POP! And they will fall back to the earth leaving nothing but a wet smudge where their relevance used to be.

We are indeed living in Opposite World, where a climate-change denier is put in charge of the Environment, a public school critic (who has never been enrolled in public school) is placed in charge of Education; a southern-styled racist is put in charge of justice; and an oil tycoon is put in charge of State affairs (and gets to decide what sanctions we place on the oil-rich Russian nation).

I can’t tell you how any of this shakes out, but I do want to leave you with two messages.

The first is:  WAKE UP and DO SOMETHING (at home)!

If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. Your Brexit scenario, combined with the Farage-Trumpet love-fest, reveals a broader, existential threat to basic humanity, kindness, and informed, intelligent action and signs are it’s spreading beyond both our borders.

While we feed our kids and take them to soccer practice, people with narrow views and nefarious intent are organizing, synthesizing, codifying, and electrifying their base.

A hard lesson here is that picking your system of government once doesn’t mean you get to sit on the sidelines while it matures. Get out, run for office, organize like-minded groups, and SHOW UP at politician’s offices and carry signs. STAND UP FOR THE ENVIRONMENT like you never have before.

And stop with the Facebook slacktivism! While you sit on your high horse of informed glory, other people are out using two-syllable words to change the mindset of others.

The principle & which is quite true in itself & that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily.” – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf.

The second message is:  WE WILL SURVIVE (with a little help from our friends)

The American government was built on a system of checks and balances. That means Trump alone can’t ruin America, but his sycophants and the obedience of Republican henchmen will rattle the hell out of us. Trump doesn’t answer to us but members of Congress do, and we can and will vote them out of office. Americans are madder than hell, and our people are organizing more than ever.

This crisis has many bright spots:

  • New constituencies are fired up!
    • The Women’s March was estimated at more than 4.2 million over 600 U.S. cities and was the largest protest demonstration in the United States. Don’t underestimate the will of a woman. #NeverthelessShePersisted
    • Scientists are emerging from their labs and the field to help people identify with what they do. #IAmAScientist.
      • Researchers are resolving to engage more with the public (Nature magazine).
      • A massive March for Science is being planned for Earth Day (April 22, 2017). In less than 2 weeks, that Facebook group swelled from zero to nearly a million members.
  • Donations are soaring! People are fighting with their wallets by donating to NGOs in record numbers. During the first weekend of the ill-conceived travel ban, lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union joined nationwide protests and provided on-site legal support to those affected. The ACLU, which normally receives $4 million dollars per year in donations, received $24 MILLION DOLLARS in two days! There’s a general trend here in the U.S. that in times of lean government spending, donations to conservation groups also soar.
  • The strength of the law is being tested. #45 has been hit with more than 50 lawsuits in less than two weeks into his presidency. He will make mistakes and leave tracks. Those mistakes will be exploited.
  • Journalism is on the rebound! The Washington Post, for example, hired 60 new full time reporters in the last year. Subscriptions are skyrocketing. Reporters everywhere are being forced into old school hard-hitting journalism, a refreshing change from bland, polarizing he said/she said coverage. And more people than ever before are learning what distinguishes fake news from real.
  • Complete strangers are unifying against oppression. People are working beyond their comfort zones. I am now part of a half a dozen newly sprouted action groups and attended a citizen’s meeting last week where 38 strangers from all over western New York convened for the sole purpose of pushing back this Orwellian agenda.
  • Democrats are getting a backbone. The only party with enough numbers to challenge the new status quo is reorganizing as an opposition party and we should expect a new or emboldened cadre of rising leaders. The will of the American people, our millions of letters, our non-stop phone calls, our signs, our marches, our rallies, our voices, are giving this often passive party reason to stand firm against ludicrous policy that hurts people and the environment, which after all, is the only thing we really have.

Yes, Americans are reeling in the blow-by-blow as policy shifts and changes, implodes and mutilates, but we will emerge a better nation as our system of government and our checks and balances are tested and refined.

A writer with The Atlantic, leaves us with a reminder about our uncertain future.

There is nothing great about the America that Trump thinks he is going to make; but in the end, it is the greatness of America that will stop him —  Eliot A Cohen

But meanwhile, do your American friends a favor and buy us a pint and an hour of therapy. And shore up your own ship because we can’t fight insanity from both sides.

We need each other.

 

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28 Replies to “Guest blog – What will you do as Rome burns? by Laura Kammermeier”

  1. https://www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/us-congress-votes-corruption-overturning-historic-transparency-law-gift-big-oil/

    Great blog, Laura - you are providing hope along with groups like Global Witness (above).
    Yes, like you say, one line of attack is via Congress:

    "Trump doesn’t answer to us but members of Congress do, and we can and will vote them out of office."
    The checks and balances written into the American Constitution by its founding fathers are your trump cards.
    We'll keep spreading the messages this side of the pond. Keep going. You are in an overwhelming majority across the world. That's ordinary, decent people with normal personalities.

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  2. A Liberal's view of a democracy that works; one that gives them the result they want. A Liberal' view of a democracy that doesn't work; one that gives them the result they didn't want.

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    1. I think that's clever sounding rubbish, Julian. Yes, people are more likely to question irregularities in elections when their side lose but if you think that is exclusively a liberal trait you must live with your head in a bucket. Remember when Trump thought he was going to lose the US presidential election? He was crying foul (or tweeting it) for all he was worth and making accusations of voter fraud even before a vote had been cast. I don't imagine you would describe Trump as a liberal, now, would you? Then again, if you'd care to look a bit further than the US and Europe you find well known liberals (hollow laugh) such as Yahya Jammeh in Gambia and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe who respond to elections that don't give them the result they want simply by ignoring them - you can't really see nice Tim Farron or jam-making Jeremy Corbyn doing that, now, can you?!

      But even allowing for 'sore loser' syndrome it seems to me (and evidently to millions of others) that the US Presidential election was far from being a beacon of democratic fairness to be envied and imitated by those benighted souls around the world who live under various forms of tyranny. The election was characterized by bare-faced lying and the dissemination of fake news (laughingly called 'alternative facts' by the hideous bunch of creeps Trump has surrounded himself with), bullying and shouting down of opponents and critics (other candidates, supporters and campaigners and journalists), hacking of opponents' computer systems, flagrant intervention of the FBI at the most critical point of the election and so on. The fact that many people wanted - and got - something different from the same old Washington political establishment does not excuse any of this.

      Meanwhile, the US system of democracy, though besmirched and abused, has not been destroyed and people such as Laura who protest and campaign against all the damage that Trump and his cronies are wreaking are doing no more than exerting their democratic rights in what is still a free country.

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  3. "... Godwin commented on the Nazi and fascist comparisons being made by several articles on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying that "If you're thoughtful about it and show some real awareness of history, go ahead and refer to Hitler when you talk about Trump. Or any other politician."

    Popcorn for breakfast again

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  4. As it happens, this week a trade union representing staff in Natural Resources Wales wrote to our fellow environment workers in the US EPA, sending them our solidarity and best wishes.

    There is precious little practically that we can do, but we hoped that simple 'thinking of you' message might at least provide some encouragement.

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  5. One might imagine some of the politicians in the UK Government watching this and wishing they too could follow America's example and cull any environmental safeguards and wildlife protection at a more rapid pace than they are doing?

    Just wish the usual suspects would enter the fray, but Mark, Chris, Dominic and others have stepped up to the mark (no pun intended) and along with this excellent piece to show what our cousins across the pond are doing, we must think global and act local all the while sharing notes and networks?

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    1. Yes, my word choice above was intentional, "Emboldened by the political climate...."

      The political climate has led to violence and nasty citizen-on-citizen interactions on our public streets. The political climate led to a bill to abolish the entire agency on which our environmental protections lie. The political climate led to the shootings of 6 Muslims at a mosque in Canada. Trump and his cronies are creating an atmosphere where racism and bigotry are ALLOWED, even supported. As we speak, protections that we had in place for gays, LGBTs, refugees, etc are being reversed.

      The issues are many, and your citizenry is indeed subject to the whims of those in charge, no matter how nefarious or immoral those whims are.

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      1. Laura,just another sore loser.You have every right to speak as you see it but to insinuate that those who voted in UK for Brexit are lunatics is unnecessary as we already have lots of the educated middle classes???????????telling us that.All it means is really they are not as educated as they believe.
        It would be better if you kept your criticism in your own country but obviously being a sore loser you need the compassion of our sore losers who seem to be unable to accept a democratic decision.

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        1. Dennis,

          In your last sentence, you mention compassion.

          Perhaps more than knowledge the Brexiters and Trumpeters lack, it is compassion for others. And an inability to see humanity across all races and tribes.

          Thank you for your comments.

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        2. Yes Dennis, some of us are sore losers, as will be the wildlife and environment in the USA and here in Brexit Britain. As an avid participant in Mark's blog I assume you have some interest in nature and its preservation. How do you square that with your criticism of Laura (tacit support of Trump?) and your obvious support for leaving the EU and the effective legislation it has provided for nature and our environment? Already the nasty party is meddling with dismantling the Nature Directives, do you think that British governments are going to provide better environmental protection than the EU? Or don't you care so long as all the 'red tape' is swept away so we can trade freely with our precious ex-colonies and all be so much richer in every way? What is so alluring about Farageland, I would really like to know.

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  6. Fantastic read and excellent food for thought. At the end of the day, no matter what side you place yourself on, if you don't have clean air and water, your politics aren't going to matter. Everyone should be paying attention to the dismantling of agencies put in place to keep the place we call home healthy. Not saying things are perfect but selling off land, dismantling whole agencies, removing regulations for the sake of removal, is shortsighted and petty. We do need to come together despite the fact that we probably don't like each other very much.

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  7. Excellent piece Laura and wish you well for the forthcoming war, because many battles need support and victory, before we see the end to the 1% who would control us all.

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  8. A really good guest blog Laura, many thanks. My thoughts are with you, your fellow Americans, and indeed all the other survivors of the 'Bowling Green Massacre'.

    A few days ago my attention was drawn to the points below which have been circulating on social media, I think the point about assigning Trump's actions to the Republican Party is a particularly important one.

    1. Don't use his name;
    2. Remember this is a regime and he's not acting alone;
    3. Do not waste precious time arguing with those who support him--it doesn't work;
    4. Focus on his policies, not his orange-ness and mental state;
    5. Keep your message positive; they want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies will grow;
    6. No more helpless/hopeless talk;
    7. Support artists and the arts;
    8. Be careful not to spread fake news. Check it;
    9. Take care of yourselves; and
    10. Resist!

    'Keep demonstrations peaceful. In the words of John Lennon, "When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you - pull your beard, flick your face - to make you fight! Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor."'

    'When you post or talk about him, don't assign his actions to him, assign them to "The Republican Administration," or "The Republicans." This will have several effects: the Republican legislators will either have to take responsibility for their association with him or stand up for what some of them don't like; he will not get the focus of attention he craves; Republican representatives will become very concerned about their re-elections.'

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    1. An excellent post and your comment very good too, Ernest.

      As the Republican Admin has to be here after TM so rapidly invited them would it not be good if there were nobody (much) to listen to him, wherever he speaks?

      And nobody (much) in the Mall - a narcissistic Republican Admin will not like being ignored.

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  9. Great Blog , Laura. We need hope and we need solidarity right now.

    But that said I think we liberals do need to take the time to understand why we lost, here and in the USA. There's a huge group of people that business as usual has not served well, and Brexit and Trump's victories are the result of our collective failure to spread the love, and the money, in our own countries.

    The fallout for the environmental cause is almost collateral damage from the anger directed at those who've done very well indeed from those who have had very bad things done to them for too long without anyone at the top appearing overly bothered by the unfairness of it all . Those angry people need hope too, and we need a political narrative that gives them hope. We need a better story than the compelling gut nationalism and xenophobia that Trump and the hardcore Brexiteers have been selling.

    Right now I don't think we, we of the liberal globally conscious well educated middle classes, have a story that those angry people find persuasive. Just repeating they were hoodwinked won't cut it, even though its true, because its the same as telling them again that they are stupid and we know better.

    If we had had a more compelling story that spoke to *their* needs and ambitions maybe they would have voted differently. Certainly we need them to vote differently next time.

    So yes we need to protest, but we need to listen too.

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    1. I agree with this comment a lot.

      Although I believe the rise of nationalism and xenophobia is rooted primarily in the failings of neoliberal economics and globalisation, we shouldn't overlook the serious failing's of the left in the last 40 years - but perhaps that's a discussion for another day.

      I found this Ted Talk by Social Psychologist Robb Willer very interesting, especially the part about about moral re-framing and environmental attitudes.

      https://www.ted.com/talks/robb_willer_how_to_have_better_political_conversations

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    2. Jbc, I agree with your comment too: but I think what we need is the HOW to do this. Democrats tend to be the intellectuals, who want to have a complete discussion about a topic, whilst the average Trump voter listens to, as Laura said, two-word phrases. Additionally, the Repubs lie. A lot. Is that how Dems should "tell the story?"
      Repubs also obstruct the rule of law. So, how should Dems react while wanting to preserve some form of law and order?? My US Congressman just wrote a letter that The Plain Dealer - Cleveland, Ohio newspaper - published, proclaiming that we Ohionans voted for the SCOTUS nominated by Trump because we voted for Trump. Well, I didn't, and I voted for Obama twice, and Obama, low and behold, presented a nominee for SCOTUS that the Repubs refused to acknowledge for almost a year, saying: we should wait for the will of the people to decide. What?!?!?! Please, anyone, give us advice on how to deal with belligerent obstructionists, who then act as if others are unreasonable because they want to do what THEY did. It's appalling. People who are not bullies don't know how to respond to this manipulation. Agree with Laura, we need to organize and help each other!!

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  10. Hi Johnathon, just came in from my normal pastime of putting my head in a bucket and caught up with your reply. Actually while I was in there I was thinking about Tim Farron and how he called for a second referendum; spooky really when I read your post. Must be a telepathic thing ?

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  11. Boris Johnson loves referring to the second world war - in a sort of childrens war comic way.
    Sadly, very few people seem to actually take in what happened in the 1930s - because there are increasingly frightening parallels today: racist nationalism, populist demagogues, outright lying (a major and effective tool of Nazi Germany), the failure of compassion (heroic stories of the 'English Schindler' and similar hugely creditable actions rarely mention the obstacles the British state put in the way of Jewish refugees). Few seem to realise that it is rather more than the new widescreen TV or car that is at stake here.

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  12. Great blog, thank you. Like many others, I was finding some US belief systems increasingly hard to understand, even before Trump. Like the percentage of people who do not accept the theory of evolution. The whole Trump thing has magnified that. But I don't see liberal values as under threat except in the sense that that always are - and they always need protecting. So your call to arms is excellent, though I am worried that in the first place it is the Republicans who must stop Trump and that they will fail to meet that challenge in your nation's hour of need.

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  13. All, thank you for your comments. Even the ones that say I'm just another "sore loser".

    I'd like to assure these two gentlemen that they have no idea what kind of "loser" I am, nor the attention I've paid to, and the effort I've put into, my country's politics for the last twenty years. Nor do those comments reflect anything more than a reactionary statement that ignores many facts - all that add up to "This presidency, and this spread of nationalism, is not normal, and not okay".

    That nationwide AND global protests are STILL continuing four weeks into this presidency, that your own government discusses whether to ban my president from entering your parliament, shows you that the shite has hit the proverbial fan and it's not "my guy vs. your guy" any longer.

    Nationalism and authoritarianism are on the rise. Democracy depends on an educated citizenry. We all must agree on what a fact is, and work with actual facts as we develop opinions. And stop reducing opposing arguments to a "you're just a sore loser" catch prhase.

    Heads up, world.

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    1. Hi Laura, I just read your comment above and am a little worried that you might have misconstrued my meaning in my reply to Dennis’s comment. I am not sure if I am counted as one of the “two gentlemen” you refer to. I thought your blog was excellent and support your viewpoint. My comment was responding directly to Dennis and, I thought, clearly expressed my differing opinion to his. I too get tired of the ‘sore loser’ jibes which attempt to discredit opposition to what is happening (be it Brexit or Trump), and my meaning of being a ‘sore loser’ was a literal one, in referring to myself and others who stand to lose the wildlife they care about....yes, I am sore about it, wildlife conservation has been, and still is, my lifelong passion and career. Anyway, I hope I have clarified my point, and I take inspiration from the ideas you suggest to resist the forces and challenges that now confront us.

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  14. “If anyone knows about misleading a nation into a dangerous course of action, it’s me” said Tony Bliar, who has spoken out about Brexit, explaining that if anyone should know about the consequences of misleading the voting public over a course of action that would be both costly and unnecessary, and probably illegal, it’s him. Bliar said it was time to rise up against Brexit, seemingly unaware that people rising up against the war in Iraq made literally fuck all difference to those in charge at the time. He told reporters, “The Brexit campaign was predicated on lies and mistruths, something I obviously know a thing or two about. Remember the WMD dossier? The Leave campaign made claims that will become demonstrably false over time, and people will be increasingly cross with the people who made those claims. That is my opinion as an expert in these matters. They might not have had a ‘dodgy dossier’, buy they did have the Brexit bus. Potayto potarto. Bliar went on to encourage people to continue to speak out against Brexit, insisting that the government will definitely be listening. He concluded, “One word of advice – If you’re going to organise a mass protest against Brexit, you might want to gather more than a million people when you do so. I say that because a million people in Hyde Park is actually quite easy to ignore.”

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