Saturday, February 25, 2017

Some thoughts on Donald Trump             

We Who Prayed and Wept       
We who prayed and wept
for liberty from kings
and the yoke of liberty
accept the tyranny of things
we do not need.
In plenitude too free,
we have become adept
beneath the yoke of greed.

Those who will not learn
in plenty to keep their place
must learn it by their need
when they have had their way
and the fields spurn their seed.
We have failed Thy grace.
Lord, I flinch and pray,
send Thy necessity.
                                    -Wendell Berry

            This poem by Wendell Berry has always been a favorite of mine.  Not just because I am a huge fan of Mr. Berry’s work, but because the poem is prophetic.  At least in this winter of Donald Trump, it seems prophetic.
            I hope anyone who reads this does not see it as a purely political piece.  On the other hand, I will make no effort to hide my dislike of Mr. Trump’s plans for the nation.  Especially when it comes to my favorite cause, the environment.  Mr. Trump rejects the scientists and humanitarians who are alarmed by the trend toward the heat-up of the planet.  It is an old trick of his – disregard the science if it leads to results incompatible with his worldview.  In the 1930s, they called it “The Big Lie,” the idea that no matter how carefully proven a fact is, a falsehood repeated often enough becomes “true,” and thus trumps (excuse the pun) the truth.  For reference, think back over how much argument there has been over how real, or malleable, the truth is.
            If his cabinet nominations are any indication, Mr. Trump wishes to stop the efforts of many to stand against the coming climate change.  The government’s efforts, feeble enough, would all be rolled back or eliminated.  No, Mr. Trump, climate change is not a myth, no matter how much you deny that it is coming.  In fact, it is already here.
            Did readers experience the eerie warmth of this last week, starting February 19, 2017?  Did people notice that maple buds reddened, that forsythia bloomed, that by Friday the temperature was nearly 80?  In Ohio, in February, that is scary.  As I asked a number of people who were celebrating this natural disaster, if it is 35 degrees above normal in February, what will July look like?  Perhaps this is a side issue, but I would ask my fellow persons, especially those of us over the age of fifty:  is not the earth quite obviously warmer than it was in our childhood?  I am sure it varies from place to place and from year to year, but from my perspective, summers are warmer, and winters are milder.  The humidity is higher; I am even more certain of that.  In some ways, I do not even care whether humans are causing global warming.  The question for all of us, our leaders especially, is what is to be done?
            Mr. Trump’s answer appears to be “nothing.”  At a time when many knowledgeable people call for a steady reduction in carbon emissions, Mr. Trump and some of his cabinet picks want to go in the other direction.  Even sadder, is that so many people, especially the rural people with whom I grew up, agree with Mr. Trump.  They seem to agree with, or have been hoodwinked by, Mr. Trump’s agenda and praise for big oil, big industry, and his inhuman efforts to stop refugees and immigrants.  Mr. Trump is pitting rural Americans versus urban Americans.  He ignores, or is ignorant of, the fact that we were once the United States.  It may be too early to say, but more and more our country looks like it will break into a loose federation of city states, facing a hostile hinterland.
            As of this writing, the outlook is bleak for those who share my concern.  This, perhaps, is the time to “pray and weep,” as we count votes in Congress and opinions for and against.  I am not a climate scientist.  But sooner or later – I think sooner – we are going to have to endure a horrifically hot spell.  So hot that people, rural and urban, are finally going to understand.  The sad fact is that by then it will be too late to do much of anything.
            And so, we flinch.  I prayed that Donald Trump would not be elected, but he was.  My theological understanding is not advanced enough to make any judgments on a prayer not answered.  But it has occurred to me that Mr. Trump may be God’s “necessity.”  Certainly not the way he thought, perhaps; not a hero, but a “last straw,” a dark Lucifer-like tempter who will push mankind over the brink.
              I do not believe that Donald Trump is the Devil.  I very much do believe that we “have failed Thy grace.”  We wanted to live like gods; we would have been better off living as pastoralists.  Since the Industrial Revolution, we have committed the sin of Eden again, this time using fossil fuel to make ourselves like God.  Many will not approve of my pseudo-religious comparisons.  But within the context of Mr. Berry’s poem, Donald Trump may fit the role of facilitator. 
Life is a wondrous thing.  I hope it will all come out right.  But I certainly flinched when he was elected.  I think a good many people did as well.  Will it be enough?

P.S.  You may take these arguments (hyperbole?) in whatever way you like; literal, figurative, or poetic.