If an enemy wanted to cripple the United States, the most sophisticated way would be through the political equivalent of a computer virus or malware: to insert a person or a movement into our country’s operating system which would harness the system itself to bring it crashing down.
Now we have Donald Trump nominating a CIA director who supports torture; a treasury secretary known as the “foreclosure king;” an attorney general with a history of racist views who supports government seizures of property; a labor secretary who opposes government regulation and the minimum wage; an EPA administrator who has been a longtime enemy of the agency and who doubts the overwhelming scientific evidence that human activity is causing the planet to warm; a housing and urban development secretary with no government experience who believes the Egyptian pyramids were built to store grain; a secretary of education who doesn’t support public schools; a national security advisor who says that fear of Muslims is rational; a chief strategist known for racism and misogyny; and an energy secretary who wants to shut down the very department he’s been nominated to lead.
These nominations are like nominating the president of the American Tobacco Company to be Surgeon General.
Actually, this is an exact parallel to the nomination of Rex Tillerson, the chairman of ExxonMobil, to be Secretary of State. Setting aside concerns about Tillerson’s disturbingly close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin and Tillerson’s financial stake in the Russian oil industry, Tillerson’s nomination is of concern because he heads a company that has made billions by working against the public interest. Even though Exxon’s own research confirmed human’s role in climate change over 30 years ago, Exxon promoted climate misinformation for years, much as the tobacco companies promoted misinformation about the health risks of smoking.
Tillerson is perhaps the most egregious climate rogue in Trump’s gallery.
Climate change puts us all in the same boat together. And when over 98 percent of the boat’s navigators are convinced, based on the evidence, that we’re heading for an iceberg, but the captain maintains course and ramps up the speed, we’re in for a Titanic disaster.
And, as with the Titanic, things on board may seem just fine until it’s too late. And then the orchestra and the fine china and the ladies and gentlemen listening to the orchestra and eating off the fine china will sink just as certainly as all the rest of us in lower-class accommodations.
With climate change now accelerating at an alarming rate, the coming months may represent the final struggle to prevent the destruction of life on earth as we know it.
Fortunately, the United States still has a lot going for it. Trump’s election does not have to be an extinction event. The majority of Americans rejected Trump in the last election. And within the Republican party there must be more than a few who mourn their party’s degeneration from Lincoln’s malice toward none and charity for all to Trump’s charity toward none and malice for all.
Encouragingly, the latest survey from Yale, conducted after the election, shows that nearly eight in 10 registered voters support taxing and/or regulation of the pollution that causes global warming. Half support doing both.
The specter of Donald Trump as president has me thinking about my work years ago in a state mental hospital for adolescents. We had our share of difficult children who were hungry for attention and occasionally tried to bully each other.
Our guidelines for working with them were: Ignore them when they act out inappropriately to get attention; set clear, consistent and firm limits; model appropriate behavior; and keep everyone safe. So, ignore Trump’s grandstanding and obsessive tweeting; oppose his unacceptable nominations and policies; be inclusive, welcoming, and community-minded; and work to limit the worst of climate change.
It’s up to us to be the anti-virus for the malware in our democracy.
Chris Hoffman lives in Boulder.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.