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Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Tsuga’s View - Part 4

A Long-Term Look At Environmental, Political, and Social Issues, From The Perspective Of Michigan’s Oldest (and Most Optimistic) Tree Species

Installment 4

By Marvin Roberson

The photo which accompanies this column is at the end of my neighbor’s driveway. Look at it, and think closely about what it tells us about my neighbor. It says that not only is he a Trump supporter, but that he is pleased by Trump’s angry, combative attitude (“Give ‘em Hell, Donald”). It says that he’s not only not a Clinton supporter, but that he’s a virulent sexist (note the “bayatch” reference).

But one of the things it points out to me is how strongly held his views are and how important it is to him to broadcast them publicly. He didn’t just go down to Republican headquarters and say “Give me the biggest Trump banner you’ve got”. No, he went to a professional sign painter, and paid money to have his personal brand of anger, bigotry, and sexism memorialized for all to see. He is indicating not just support of Trump, but a desire to make sure that all can see that what it is he finds so attractive about Trump are these odious attitudes.

We see this kind of this everywhere, and since Trump’s win they have only increased. Attacks on those of differing races, religions, gender identities, and national origin are on the rise. A clear sense among some that “white anger” is justified and should be expressed. A strong sense that  white privilege is under attack, and needs to be protected.

Many of us are astounded. As I said in my first installment of the Tsuga’s View, what I found most disturbing about the election was not that Trump will be president, with all that brings and means (although I’m pretty disturbed by that). No, what I found truly horrifying was that No one in the electorate could have failed to see that Trump expressed bigoted, racist, repugnant views. And yet 50 million people though that either that was not a problem, or more likely, approved of it.

During the election, a friend and I had a continuing series of conversations about this phenomenon, what it meant, and whether or not it was a good thing (before you start throwing things, remember that the Tsuga’s View is the long one, and give me a bit to explain). What our differences came down to was the question of causality, and which direction the causal arrow points.

My friend was convinced that Trump was the cause of a significant portion of this, and therefore felt that it was terrible. I feel that the causal arrow runs in the other direction, and is therefore a good thing, even though it’s also terrifying.

Here’s what I mean - I don’t think Trump took millions of otherwise reasonable, rational people, and turned them into rabid bigots. I think that we had millions of rabid bigots in this country already. They didn’t feel able to speak or act on those disgusting attitudes. However, with the rise of Trump, they felt empowered, as though it was now OK, they had been given permission to be publicly racist, sexist, homophobic, you name it.

And, in the long run, that’s a good thing. No, it’s not a good thing that millions of Americans hold those horrifyingly hostile views towards others. But if they do hold those views (and it certainly appears that they do), it is good that we now all know it. Because I don’t think most of us realized the depth, and extent, of bigotry in this country. It has been simmering under the surface, but now it’s broken through and we can all see it. And we have to be able to see it to address it - invisible bigotry is unaddressed bigotry.

I have friends (we’ll call them T and C) who live in a beautiful house in a wonderful location in northern Michigan. C is very sensitive to toxins and other problems in her immediate environment. A number of years ago, she began having some respiratory issues in their home. The problems seemed to be coming from the floor in the living room.

Now, they had a number of options. They could have just ignored it, since it wasn’t really all that bad. They could have put down new carpet, or refinished the wood, and hoped that replacing the surface would be enough. Or, they could pull up the floorboards, inspect the subfloor and joists to determine the extent of the problem, and conceivably put themselves on the hook for time consuming, expensive, and life-disrupting repairs to solve a deep-seated problem.

They pulled up the floorboards. They discovered black mold all through the subfloor, joists, and parts of the walls and basement. This required ripping out and replacing large amounts of material in the house, some of it structural. It costs a mint. They had to live elsewhere while the work was done.

However, if they had done nothing, and lived with it, the mold would have spread and gotten worse. If they had gone with a surface treatment, the result would have been the same as doing nothing, although it might have taken longer to manifest. Only by pulling up the floor and exposing the true extent of the problem could it actually be fixed.

I see the Trump candidacy as helping pull up the floorboards in this country, exposing the moldy, rotten attitudes which many of our fellow citizens hold. My neighbor’s sign is a view of that black mold. But it’s also a wake-up call that more needs fixing than we probably realized.

In previous columns, I’ve expressed the views that overall, we’re moving in the direction of Progressive victory, and that we’ll continue to do so. We elected an African-American President.  We almost elected a woman. And keep in mind, that while a bigot won the election, a woman won the vote. Hilary got over 2.5 million ore votes than Trump.

However, I’ve also expressed the admonition that this doesn’t mean we can get complacent or rest on this progress. We can’t.

But now that we’ve exposed the extent of the problem, we can get to work on it with a vigor that I think many of us didn’t realize was needed.

A friend has taken issue with my description of the current political situation as analogous to Hemlock Control (see installment #1 for a description of Hemlock Control). He thinks that it’s more akin to a crown fire which results in the death of the Hemlock grove, and a replacement with something else. I think Hemlocks (Progressive ideals, in this metaphor) are far more resilient than he gives them credit for, and that while we’re seeng a big fire coming, it’s far too early to predict the demise of the Hemlock grove

And That’s The Tsuga’s View

In the next installment of “The Tsuga’s View”, I explain why we almost all of the current attacks on the environment are, by the very way they are presented, in fact progress.

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