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.
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.
- 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.