Have we reached a fork in the road?
We've used and abused other humans and our environment, living extremely comfortably. For decades it's been clear that our luck was running out – and should.
Less clear is the nature of the reckoning. Materially, would the pie (world economy) grow, allowing our extreme economic advantage (being 6% of the population, controlling 60% of the resources) to decline in relative terms, nonviolently, and without causing us real suffering? Would technology, ingenuity, and some self-discipline mute environmental disruption?
One way forward starts with facing the situation realistically and trying to deal with it: protect ourselves from violence, retain what we can of our lifestyle, but recognize that we cannot rule like lords forever. Face the urgent climate-change danger and try to take the lead in mitigating it. This path would dent our pride and necessitate sacrifices, but hopefully not unbearable ones.
The other is doubling down. Telling the world to bug off, that we'll hold on tight, usurp what we can of the world's growing wealth, and leave others to clean up our environmental and political messes.
Be not some shining example of democracy, but a pariah among nations.
We seem to be stumbling down that second path, mapless. Planless.
Take our border. It's not the “emergency” Mr. Trump claims, but a humanitarian crisis. Certain Central American nations are almost uninhabitable, which is partly our fault. Traffickers mislead folks about their chances for asylum here, while Trump's huffing and puffing draws greater attention to the border. As people reach New Mexico's remote Bootheel, we're asking too much of Border Patrol folks. People have died. We must add personnel and infrastructure there, try to help repair the damage in Central America, and warn people they have little chance of gaining asylum.
The border patrol agent on Wednesday's Sunshine Week panel at Zuhl Library noted that, whereas bringing undocumented people into the U.S. used to be a “mom-and-pop operation” costing $300 a head, traffickers (cooperating with drug cartels) now charge Central Americans $7,000 to $9,000 and get them to the U.S. border in five days. They also mislead their passengers, leave folks in unreasonably dangerous places, rape women, and otherwise act inhumanely.
Trump's proposal to wreck our economy further and screw up the southwestern environment to build a huge wall is absurd.
But following Trump and his enablers could increase the need for a wall!
Our country is a bastion of privilege.
In South Africa, decades after apartheid ended, millions of blacks live in abject poverty in shacks without water or power, while whites, 8% of the population, still own 73% of the land, including vast, beautiful farms. Occasionally, a white farm family gets murdered, perhaps with extra brutality. Some well-armed whites are preparing seriously for civil war.
U.S. citizens could become those folks, following Trump. Climate-change is harming many nations' ability to grow food. (Our Southwest may become too arid to support agriculture or humans.) As hunger increases the rage and violence of people in “shithole countries” we've helped keep back, desperation could cause much greater illegal immigration. If we remain arrogant, will some armed border-crossers start killing seemingly rich ranching families for the fun of it – and for revenge?
Sorry if that's bleak. Fortunately, we can correct our course. We will get past Trump, but must realize he's more symptom than cause. We must watch all our political and business “leaders” closely.
[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 17 March 2019, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and on KRWG's website. A spoken version will air during the week on KRWG (Wednesday morning and afternoon and late Saturday afternoon) and KTAL 101.5 FM (Thursday late afternoon). KTAL can be streamed at www.lccommunityradio.org .]
[It felt weird to finish the column, send it in, and start reading about the Christchurch massacre, which sounded like something out of the world the column envisions. Tragic. Seems unsurprising that the murderous white supremacist idiot cited with approval fellow racist Trump as "a symbol of white identity." That's what Trump has tried to portray himself as. His spokewoman's evasion was amusing, when she was asked if Trump was disturbed by the killer's favorable mention of Trump; and she sounded a little like Louie in Casablanca shouting "I'm SHOCKED to find that there is gambling going on in here! as he pockets his winnings. Trump himself kind of undermined that line by stating that the white supremacy movement wasn't a problem.]
[I am sorry if the column's bleakness depresses readers. There are some pretty bleak aspects to our world right now. I am guardedly optimistic that we'll steer clear of the worst responses-- although those seem the responses Mr. Trump favors. His responses tend to remind me of an infant pushing over its milk cup in frustration, or a baseball pitcher who's just given up six earned runs in an inning and breaks two fingers punching a water cooler or the dugout wall. Understandable, of course, but generally not real helpful.]
[Meanwhile, Las Cruces had a couple of interesting visitors this weekend and will have another this afternoon. Friday evening, Ron Stallworth spoke on campus, in a great writers' series Russ Bradburd and Connie Voisine run. Neat guy. You know him as the Black K Klansman -- the police officer who infiltrated the KKK, by letter and phone and through a white officer when a personal appearance was required. Saturday afternoon, a lady named Carolyn Brown spoke. Dr. Carolyn J. Brown, as distinguished from the one who writes romantic cowboy stories or something. This one lives in Jackson, Mississippi, where she wrote biographies of two interesting writers there, Eudora Welty and Margaret Walker. They were roughly contemporaries, two very fine writers, one white and one black; and what kept spinning in my head was their combined story (which Carolyn had discussed in a presentation a few years ago), black and white, two lives so similar and dissimilar, both largely lived in Mississippi. To learn more on Ms. Brown's three books (the third the interesting story of an early 20th Century woman painter from Mississippi), Google her by her subject's names, to avoid the other Carolyn Brown or start at her website, http://www.carolynjbrown.net. (I hope to interview Ron and his wonderful wife Patsy on KTAL some Wednrsday morning soon; and Ms. Brown and I recorded an interview later Sunday afternoon, which we'll play on the show in a few weeks.
Third -- and related only in that all three speakers have stories to tell us that illustrate hate and prejudice, in one way or another -- will be Eva Schloss, speaking this afternoon at the Performing Arts Center on campus. She was Anne Frank's neighbor, playmate, and posthumous stepsister. (She and her mother lost family in Auschwitz, as Otto Frank lost his in Bergen-Belsen, and when they returned to the Netherlands Eva's mother and Anne Frank's father married.) She is one of the few around who can speak firsthand about certain matters, having barely survived Auschwitz -- though her father and brother did not.
Just ten days ago Ms. Schloss met with 55 teenagers from Newport High (in Orange County, California), some of whom had been photographed giving Nazi salutes with cups arranged as a swastika. Per The Los Angeles Times, she commented: "I was their age when I realized my life was completely shattered and I would never have a family again. She said the students apologized and said they hadn't meant any harm. She expressed surprise that they could have been unaware of the pain the use of Nazi symbolism could cause, adding, "I hope the school and students have got the message and things will be different."Ms. Schloss also said she believes anti-Semitism is on the rise in the United States and Europe and that the conflict between Israel and Muslims might be contributing to it, adding, "This causes a lot of difficulties. “It’s perhaps understandable why they support the Palestinian people’s cause."
We're looking forward to hearing her talk. (Tickets are not cheap, however; and I've heard they may have sold out; but particularly NMSU students might want to give it a try.)]