My wife Kate and I are part of the urban chicken movement. We’re permitted for four chickens, which we raise in a coop in our yard. As an urban chicken farmer, I’m often reminded of the Woody Allen joke: “A guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, hey doc, my brother's crazy! He thinks he's a chicken. The doc says, why don't you turn him in? And the guy says, I would but I need the eggs.”
Well, Kate and I need the eggs. Raising chickens in the city is a difficult economic proposition under any circumstances. Unless you’re careful, the costs add up, you get attached to chickens long past peak production, and next thing you know you’re running a geriatric facility for wayward hens. It’s a challenge. Which is why it was a shock when we recently got an estimate for $10,000 to fix a drainage problem in the coop.
As a conscientious chicken farmer, I did the math, and it turns out it would take 37 years to pay off the drainage fix in eggs. As I said to Kate, “You know what’s not going to happen? That.”
So we were on a plane on our way home from DC and talking through solutions. I suggested maybe we just needed to find a drainage fix we could do ourselves, and then offhandedly added: “Say, by drilling holes in the pavers.” You’d think I had just told her that Trump doesn’t lie. It was beyond Kate’s comprehension that she would be married to someone who would suggest something so moronic, so stupid, so riddled with complete and utter insanity. Such is my life.
Kate had a better idea. “Why don’t we move the coop to the hammock area.”
Now, our yard is not huge, but the previous owners did a good job of segmenting it into regions: deck, garden, yoga pavilion, etc. The hammock area is a particularly secluded spot where I’ve spent many a day lying in the sun thinking big thoughts. It’s my favorite part of the yard. Before Kate even got to explain her idea, I rejected it out of hand.
And here’s where it gets dicey. Because, as Kate reminded me, it was International Women’s Day, and here I was, the man, once again silencing the woman, denying her voice, making her invisible, the way the patriarchy has done for millennia. I decided that the best and safest course of action, both for my marriage and my corporeal integrity, was to sit down, shut up and listen.
Kate explained: the hammock area is on a slope. If we locate the coop at the top of the slope, the rainwater would run down and not pool up in the coop, but rather drain gently down to the gravel below (where, as an aside, water pools up every spring when the snow melts).
I suggested she think it through:
Bob: Where would the coop go? Kate: Near the fence on the slope.
Bob: Why would the drainage would be better? Kate: Because the water would go down the slope.
Bob: But doesn’t water collect at the bottom of the slope every spring? Kate: Oh, I guess it does kind of pool there into a big lagoon.
Bob: And with the coop there, what would also go down the slope? Kate: Shit.
Bob: And where would the shit come from? Kate: The chickens.
Bob: And what would happen to the shit? Kate: It would collect in the lagoon.
And then, the realization – Kate: When you put it like that, it kind of sounds like I’m suggesting you drape your hammock over a steaming lagoon of shit.
Which made me think of Trump.
And not just Trump, mind you, but the whole enterprise that is the Trump administration, and the steaming lagoon of shit it has become.
This week we learned that Trump “stands by” his story that President Obama “tapped his wires” at Trump Tower. Despite a lack of evidence. Despite affirmative statements from people who would know saying that there is no evidence. Despite untold hours of investigation from the media and from congressional committees. Despite everything, Trump stands by his claim. (Though in his defense, he did say that he wasn’t talking about Obama doing it personally, but really anyone; and he wasn’t talking about Trump Tower, but really anyplace; and he wasn’t talking about wiretapping, per se, but really any surveillance (as anyone would know because “wiretap” was in “quotes” for “2 of the 4 times” he mentioned it). So there’s that).
And it’s not just Trump’s own inability to admit he fabricated the claim out of whole cloth. Every day, he trots out his minions to dig the hole deeper. Yesterday we learned from, press secretary Sean Spicer, quoting an entirely unsourced Fox News story, that Great Britain was colluding with the Obama administration to secretly tapp™ Trump’s wires. (So, apparently, the Brits were in on it. How high does this thing go??!!!)
This is a dangerous world. There’s a mountain of shit happening daily that could blow up at a moment’s notice. As a country, we don’t need to make it worse. Yet we have an administration doing everything it can to fuck it repeatedly for no good reason. We have lost our credibility as a country, lost our position of influence, lost claim on world leadership. And it’s been less than 60 days.
Today is day 58 of the Trump administration. There have been any number of compilations of the lies of Trump and his lackeys (e.g. here and here) – from lies about things that don’t matter, to lies that are easily disprovable, to lies that threaten the very fabric of our democracy. But what this latest episode confirms beyond the shadow of a doubt is that we can’t trust a thing that Trump or his administration says. Our President is not a reliable source of information. He is a liar.
Reagan, at the height of the cold war, with the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation, said of our country’s chief adversary, “Trust but check.” Because at least some trust is a necessary precondition for productive international (and, I might add, human) relations. But the reality is that with Trump, there is no trust. It’s only check. We have no choice but to assume everything Trump says is a lie.
So here we are, our great country, left with the reality of a narcissistic, lying sociopath in the White House who we have no choice but to constantly fact-check, constantly distrust. We as a society have developed ways of dealing with dangerous, sociopathic, lying narcissists: were Trump not President, we would place him into protective custody where he would no longer be a danger to himself or others.
But he is President, and we have an administration institutionally designed for self-preservation, and we have a constitution we want to believe in, and we have a rich history of democracy and democratic institutions we were told would protect us from situations like this. To admit to the current the reality would mean that our form of government, our institutions, our free and fair elections, and our democracy, have failed us.
And so, instead, as a society we do what we can to normalize the situation, to pretend it’s not real, going through the motions of investigating the easily confirmable question of whether Obama really did tapp™ Trump’s wires, going down the rabbit hole of investigating the truth behind one baseless and obviously self-serving delusional statement after another. Why? Because we need the eggs.
Kate and I are still looking for a solution to our drainage issue. At this point, anything would be better than a steaming lagoon of shit.