From Swamp to Cesspool

“In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!”

— Donald Trump, Tweet, Dec. 28, 2017.

There is something that has bothered me about Donald Trump’s dishonesty and refusal to face reality, and China has it right: “This is not how a U.S. president should behave.” You know things have gone south when it’s easier to agree with the Chinese autocratic rulers than a US president. Ouch.

Trump labels himself a master of marketing; he prides himself in his use of slogans. “Build the wall,” “Lock her up,” and “Drain the swamp” all fell under the “Make America Great Again” umbrella. His marketing taps into base emotions: anger, confusion and fear. He makes promises that replace proof and evidence with indignation for the time when white men ruled over women and people of color. When no one worried about “the environment.”

When Trump tweets about global warming he showcases his ignorance and lack of care about the difference between “weather” and “climate.” In November the Washington Post reported he’d made “1,628 false or misleading claims over 298 days” on a marvelously rich diversity of topics. Repeatedly, climate chaos is one.

Climate change is a big deal, so crucial that our military has been responding to the security threats it poses for over a decade. But maybe Trump doesn’t know that weather is more short term and climate is more long term. Maybe he doesn’t know that it can rain in a drought year, and maybe he didn’t get the memo in 2014  that you can still make a snowball even though it is the hottest year on record (when Senator Inhofe brought one to the Senate floor in a spectacular display of willful ignorance).

But Trump is unwittingly correct that his policies do drain healthy swamps. Problematically, they substitute toxic cesspools.

Swamps are rich in abundance. They are valuable pieces of ecosystems. Critically important for freshwater and oxygen, spawning grounds for fish and other wildlife, and a natural mechanism for flood control and carbon storage. They may reflect low commercial values but awareness of their importance is no secret… aaand this was a key metaphor in the Trump campaign. He promised he would “drain the swamp.”

Instead, he has made a cesspool. Cesspools are places to dispose of pollutants and sewage. There is causal linkage to decreased public health and increases in mortality.

And so, this is what we see Trump has created. He’s been unrelenting in taking away important protections and regulations. Simultaneously Trump’s administration has left numerous key positions vacant and has seen increasing numbers of vacancies due to the toxicity of the environment.  The U.S. Science Envoy, for example, spelled out IMPEACH in his resignation letter, and the remaining members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned en masse with a resignation letter spelling out RESIST.

Trump is bringing “that good old Global Warming” and he’s shown no interest in protecting life. It isn’t a secret. These are promises he campaigned on, and he’s been unfazed by the mandate of the popular vote or public opinion. He only gets away with this damage when we let him. We can resist and we can impeach.

Part of the resistance will require that we refuse to make enemies of those who have different ideological positions. This is what the preeminent scholar in my field of Conflict Transformation calls resisting cultural violence.

Common ground in shared values and interests is the greatest way to resist Trump’s efforts to divide America. But, we can come together—without party affiliation—in condemning this administration’s behavior on the world stage. Just like I was critical of drone warfare civilian casualties under the Obama administration (even though I voted for him), Trump supporters do not have to defend any of his mistakes.

None of us have to let his lunacy change who we are, but we can’t be lazy. He is trying to erase “E pluribus unum”—out of many, one—with his recycled slogan that asks us to go back in time but we can demand common good and human dignity. Now. Or else.

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Wim Laven is a doctoral candidate in International Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University, he teaches courses in political science and conflict resolution, and is on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association. 

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