Since the election in 2016 of president Donald Trump, the United States mirrors brightly its dark history.
Trump, a self-proclaimed billionaire, promised to clear the Washington, DC swamp of corruption, but, in fact, he built a tower of additional corruption, lies, and fantasies in the old swamp.
What infuriates me more than anything else from his sleazy policies, is his audacious and dangerous contempt for the natural world and public health, what we usually call environment. He is deluded that his money protects him from poisoned air, water, and food, even the higher temperatures of global warming.
Pope Francis sponsored a group of experts who concluded that: “With unchecked climate change and air pollution, the very fabric of life on Earth, including that of humans, is at grave risk.”
But Trump cares less about the planet or people. Like the monster Cyclops Polyphemos, he is only interested in his stomach. He is ignorant of our dependence on the health and diversity of the natural world.
The other delusion underpinning his crazy attack on the environment is the economic mantra of Wall Street: perpetual growth. That way the have-nots get the crumbs of rich people buying expensive goods. That way the so-called middle class is too preoccupied with growth and fails to turn its energies against the few who control most of the country’s money and wealth.
The other thing that angers Trump and the oligarchs is that science-based environmental regulation is revealing ecocide to have been primarily their product. The trashing and killing of wildlife and the natural world – ecocide – is a crime against humanity. And, of course, raising global temperature is adding ecocide to that of business as usual. The anthropogenic hurricanes that destroyed Houston, Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico left no trace of understanding in Trump and his officials. They think of them as natural disasters.
That’s why Trump appointed Scott Pruitt at the helm of EPA – to deny climate change and unleash the remaining fury of corporations in extracting all that is left in the natural world: fish, water, trees, food, fossil fuels, minerals, gold and silver: without regulations or taxes.
Environmental protection also bothers Trump and the oligarchs because it nullifies their pseudo conservative views of each man for himself, ultra-individualism tied to empire and personal rise to riches at all costs, no regulations of any kind, and limited government for fighting wars.
The US Environmental Protection Agency banned DDT in 1972 and the eagles survived. But this decision that benefited all Americas was a slap in the face of fanatical farmers and agrotoxin merchants who hate any government intervention. During the 1970s and 1980s Congress passed legislation protecting air, water, and endangered species from the excesses of agriculture and industry. Congress also legislated restrictions of handling and disposing of toxic wastes.
These laws documented the abject failure of private businesses to be responsible citizens. EPA came into being primarily because these businesses threatened not merely the natural world but people on a massive scale.
For example, unregulated industrial agriculture is chemical warfare.
The deregulatory mania of the Trump administration is opening Pandora’s box of other hidden fantasies of America. This is a country that speaks of exceptionalism despite its atrocities and murder of millions of indigenous Americans.
The seventeenth century was a time of the scientific renaissance in Europe. But the seventeenth century resurrected the inquisition and medieval witchcraft in Massachusetts. The protestant pilgrims to American shores calling themselves Puritans instituted a miserable theocracy that branded indigenous Americans soldiers of the devil, the easier to slaughter them.
Fortunately, the eighteenth century gave America its men of reason. Their Declaration of Independence from British royal control and the Bill of Rights set the rules for civilization in the American Republic.
Yet even the Founding Fathers continued the Puritans’ war against indigenous Americans or Indians. They also imported blacks by the thousands from Africa to work the plantations as slaves.
This is the historical caldron that gave birth to Mormonism, Scientology, Christian Scientists, and Pentecostalism, all fictional “religions.”
These outrageous creations are not that outrageous if you dig deep enough in the religious fanaticism of Puritanism, the genocide of the Indians, and the propaganda, hucksterism, and falsehoods of big business and TV and radio-talk shows.
This organized madness of selling and believing whatever you want -- this is a free country -- the country that gave us Trump, highlights America in the pages of “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History” (Random House, 2017).
The author of this timely and extraordinary book is Kurt Andersen, a first-rate fiction writer. He writes so well and knows so much about America’s religiosity and cultural history of cruelty, fanaticism, fantasy, and bigotry that the book reads like a marvelous and hilarious novel. Bur this is no fiction but fractions of bitter truth for reality-based citizens. Andersen explains how and why Americans invented and built the fantasy-industrial complex.
Trump emerged from that complex. Andersen denounces Trump’s “lies, brutishness, egomania, and absurdity…. Donald Trump is a pure Fantasyland being, its apotheosis… He’s driven by resentment of the Establishment. He doesn’t like experts because they interfere with his right as an American to believe or pretend that fictions are facts, to feel the truth. He sees conspiracies everywhere.”
I don’t buy Trump resents the Establishment. He is the Establishment. The rest is bluster. Look at his billionaire friends and advisors. Look at the tax giveaways he and the Republicans are cooking for the rich. Andersen also muddled Greek history. The early Christians, not different than the Puritans, did the many gods-worshipping Greeks in. The Greeks never found freedom “too scary” or dropped into superstition. In fact, they invented science and advanced technology.
This still leaves a powerful book. Andersen says he is despairing of Americans’ “devolution towards unreason and magical thinking.” But he is also optimistic many of us will take up the necessary struggle “to try to make America reality-based again.”