In May 2016, I picked up a book that, unbeknownst to me, would become one of the formative tomes in my life philosophy.
I had ordered it off the Internet on an inspired whim, after reading an archived New York Times essay from twenty years ago that had heaped lavish praise on the now-forgotten book.
Finding this particular book was no easy task. It lay untouched in the backlog of Amazon, gathering dust without any ratings or reviews. When it arrived in the mail several weeks after I bought it, I slid my knife into the cardboard packaging with the perverse glee of a kid opening a long-awaited Christmas present. The tome that I now held there in my hands was thick, old, aging. It looked like an antique, and when I buried my nose into the binding, the thin, oiled pages smelled like ancient Egypt.
For the next four weeks I buried myself in the hypnotic perusal of its pages, which enraptured me with its story and subsequent essays, sitting cross-legged on a bench under the blaring sun at school, or nestled quietly with my dog at night. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could’ve pulled me away from it.
That book was Our Lord Don Quixote, by Miguel de Unamuno.
I‘ve tried and I’ve tried again, but even then, words still cannot communicate the sadness, frustration, fury, nor angst I feel when faced with the fact that Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.
I’ve thought about this sobering reality many nights, and through many nights of troubled, uneasy, contemplation, I’ve lost countless hours of sleep. The image of an America run by Trump is an image I cannot erase from my mind:
A slimy, opportunistic billionaire, fanning the flames of racism and disillusionment as a means of consolidating his power; a nationalist propagandist and racial ideologue as the Chief Strategist of the Oval Office; a climate change denier placed like a gag at the head of the EPA, deliberately choking the one organization that has the power to curb the impending overheating of the Planet; and an entirely red Congress that will accept many of the policies laid forth by the Oval Office with complacency, maybe even happiness.
In the month since Trump was elected, I’ve thought about what the environment will look like when I finally have kids, ten, twenty years down the road. Will there even be an environment? Will it be one worth living in?
Since long before I was born, in the late ’90s, climate change scientists have been steadily unifying around the alarming fact that Earth has barely a few decades before complete ecological catastrophe ensues, engulfing all living beings on the planet and commencing what will be, as termed by evolutionary biologists, the most recent mass extinction in our history. The last time such an extinction occurred, the dinosaurs were annihilated.
But that’s talking theoretically about the environment. That’s to say nothing of what will happen to the environment on the ground during a Trump Presidency: to the forests, wetlands, and wildlands which I have so cherished through my life.
I’ve grown up exploring the wild lands of Florida. When I was a kid, I liked nothing more than to lay forward on the prow of our bass boat and feel the cold air rush past as we went down the St. Johns River, a watery mirage of herons, gators, and cypresses slowly sliding past.
Two sources close to Trump revealed past Saturday that Rex Tillerson, Chief Executive of the oil-giant Exxon Mobil and longtime associate of Putin, is expected to receive the Secretary of State nomination this weekend.
This means two things: one, that Big Oil will has a newfound opportunity to tighten it’s decades-long chokehold on American politics. Two, that Vladimir Putin will be confirmed as one of the most strategic victors of Trump’s election win.
Rex’s expected nomination comes as unsurprising. Trump has been slowly betraying the populist, anti-corporate message he touted proudly throughout his yearlong campaign, during which he threatened to penalize companies for sending America jobs overseas, and has instead been appointing to his Cabinet an unsurprising series of corporate leaders (just last week he appointed Gary Cohn, the second-in-command of Goldman Sachs, one of the worlds largest financial groups, as the Director of the National Economic Council).
But the appointment of Tillerson has a deeper significance. Tillerson has personal ties to Vladimir Putin, the despotic Russian leader who has loomed over global politics the past fifteen years. He is an advocate of the same neoliberal policies that have screwed countless American workers, and is against political sanctions (especially in the case of Russia). Now that he could be Secretary of State, he has the perfect platform to expand the reach of his shady corporation. Everything about the man suggests conflicts of interest.
I do not write about politics because I want to.
I write about politics because it is my responsibility as a human being.
You will notice, if you’ve embark on the adventure of following my blog, that an increasing frequency of the writings published here (for a while, at least) will be politically oriented: largely polemical opinion pieces concerning the domestic and foreign affairs of the United States.
This can seem contrarian to my generally free-spirited, adventurous personality. I’ve never aspired to achieve the label of “political writer,” and whenever I think of such a person, my mind conjures up a paltry image of a lonely CNN nerd, so brainwashed by the robotic propaganda of his party (whether Left or Right) that he is utterly out of touch with reality, incapable of understanding anyone who so much as raises a finger against his worldview.
If we were in a different world, or in a different situation, I would much rather get to my writings about fishing, adventuring, and philosophy first (I will get to them, eventually).
Our parents always taught us that actions speak louder than words.
Now that Trump has secured his position to the most powerful seat in the world, and has finally begun to act, we’re beginning to see the true color of his character come through.
Throughout his yearlong, poisonous campaign, he promised a retaliation against the neoliberal billionaires that traditionally corrupt Washington’s politics, and opened the floodgate to a wave of racism that’s been seething beneath America’s surface since time immemorial. Under his campaign, and now his future Presidency, instances of hate crimes, Islamophobia, and xenophobia have risen astronomically.
Trump has busied himself the past few weeks appointing his Cabinet Officials. From his appointees, who will assist him in making his most important decisions, we can deduce the following: that he has turned his back on cleaning up corporate corruption, but is driving forward full-speed with his promised policies of racism and ignorance.
Despite the alarming developments, an astonishing number of intelligent people, with regards to Trump, tell me to “not worry about it.”
On Tuesday, November 7th, 2016, the Empire of Illusion succeeded in taking over America.
For the past fifty years, two versions of America have been jockeying for control of the destiny of the nation.
The first America, now a minority, is a dying tribe of literate folk who function in a print-based world, people who regularly question themselves and can soberly address the complexities of the world.
The second America- which I will call the “Empire of Illusion” (and I borrow the coinage from Chris Hedges, who wrote a brilliant book of the same name)- has retreated into a fantasyland of blind patriotism and false certainties. This tribe, which has steadily grown in numbers over the past half century, sees the world as black and white and is incapable of discerning truth from illusion.