As I walk to the goat-pen, soon after dawn, white clouds cover the valley. The land slopes down toward Las Cruces, but I see no city -- just bright clouds, then dark peaks on the horizon.
We could be an island, and those peaks the mainland. A northern island. It's icy today.
We have no goats, but keep compost in the pen. We carry buckets of sink-water down there to keep things moist for the worms. As we poison our planet, composting seems right.
On my imagined island, people live their lives, don't interfere much with others, but are there for the neighbors when needed. They don't worship things so much. Going to the mainland to buy stuff is more trouble than it's worth.
But the seas are rising. I hope our island rises more steeply from the sea than Bangladesh, Florida, or Manhattan.
Doing chores on a chilly island seems about right for facing this challenging year. We face serious problems, and have chosen a government which will not help solve them. Those rising seas and melting ice-caps and rising temperatures? We will cease trying to address those issues – and even root out civil servants in Washington who've tried.
More generally, our government will adopt simplistic methods that would be comical if not so clearly futile. Our economy, in which one major problem is economic inequality, we will address by giving huge tax cuts to the wealthiest folks and minor cuts (or small increases, effectively) to the disappearing middle class. The long-discredited “trickle-down” myth. McDonald's employees, so poorly paid that many need public assistance, will be cheered to know the Secretary of Labor will be a fast-food executive strongly opposed to raising the minimum wage.
Leaders from both parties have long recognized that we must address our carelessness toward our environment, particularly for future generations. Now the EPA will be led by an oil-and-gas lawyer who has spent his life fighting it. As polar ice caps melt, as predicted, we'll fiddle – or watch “The Apprentice.”
Extremists, perverting Islam by killing in its name everyone who does not agree precisely with their program, have tried to portray events as a holy war between Islam and a diverse modern world full of Christians, Jews Muslims, agnostics, atheists, Buddhists, and people who don't much care. Now, our President-elect cooperates with them by threatening to ban Muslims from entering the country.
Religious extremists – Islamic, Christian, Hindu – have fought against science and tolerance. Now we too will deny scientific developments we don't like and blame “the Other” for our difficulties.
The Chinese are serious economic competition. So we will start by insulting them, to soften 'em up, like trash-talking in basketball. (But trash-talking often serves merely to inspire opposing players to play harder and better.) The Russian government is greedy, imperialistic, and corrupt. So we will start by expressing our admiration for Vladimir Putin while refusing to listen to the unanimous view of our intelligence agencies that he tried (perhaps successfully) to determine a U.S. election.
Will we replace the majestic eagle with the ostrich as our national symbol, hiding our eyes to some problems and to the subtle difficulties of others, or with some yappy little breed of dog that barks ineffectually at everything?
Still, have a Happy New Year! (Do not let political and social difficulties affect too deeply your heart and mind, or infect them with hatred.) Watch this government closely, but understand that we deserve it, and try to assess why. Make your world better by nurturing children, helping elders, loving friends, and maybe even composting.
[This column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 1 January, and also on the newspaper's website and the KRWG-TV website.]
[We had a couple of mornings that were beautiful in the same unusual way, with white clouds catching the early-morning sunlight and blanketing the city, then the distant black peaks looking like a mainland sixty or seventy miles away -- and with reddish or pink in the sky above those. Did remind me of islands I'd known.]
[I understand that composting doesn't weigh much in the environmental scales compared with all that we're doing, and even the part of all that attributable to me. That it's too late to prevent the problem, and probably too late to minimize it, particularly with folks coming on board who profess to believe it's a Chinese hoax. Too, although I composted for years elsewhere, because I also gardened, if my wife were not so strict I'd probably (once we moved our compost down to the goat-pen, because it attracted too many roaches) have proved too lazy to carry buckets so far so often; but it does feel idiotically reassuring. It's a reminder. It's also a wonderful opportunity to see birds, butterflies, tricks of the light, and occasional flowers or wildlife I'd not have seen from my desk if carrying buckets hadn't drawn me outside for a short walk.]
[Folks have said we should give the incoming administration a chance; and I've agreed. For one thing, there is little profit in repeating the observations we all made during the election about Trumps' past and character and unsavory connections, because those failed to convince a whole lot of our fellow citizens that he'd be medicine worse than the illness. Rather, we need to focus on what he actually does, particularly what he does to enrich the rich even further at the expense of his "constituency," mostly white mostly male folks who feel undervalued and pissed off. They have good reason to be pissed off. Trump will not prove the answer; but they will see that, if at all, only through his actual betrayals of them, not through carping progressives pointing out his many faults as a human being. Perhaps I've jumped the gun, but most of my comments in the column are based on his appointments and his post-victory conduct, not on campaign rhetoric. Sadly, he's proving so far to be about as bad as he could be.]