Days of Drought: A Landscape of Desperate Times

The photographs are difficult to see. Receded murky waters reveal river beds that resemble threadbare ancient shrouds. Earth once fertile lies cracked and brown like mosaics now devoid of their artful tiles, the missing grout leaving gaping. mazed striations.  In Thailand, India, African countries, even in Central America and Poland, the earth is browning, farmers are losing their livelihoods, thirst is taking hold, economies are struggling, political instability threatens. Societies are drying up.

In the wake of Donald Trump becoming the Republican nominee, and the terrifying prospect that he could actually become president, the dark days of drought seem like a stark, strange and alarming metaphor for the browning of America, a phrase meant to allude to the brown-shirted storm troopers of fascist Germany. 

Take a hard look at what’s going on in America. 

We are now a nation in which legislation has been proposed or passed that discriminates against the civil and human rights of immigrants, the LBGTI community, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, and women. Some states have moved to legislate where you can pee, or people to whom you can deny services.

Some have moved to criminalize or deny abortion, even though it is still a constitutional right, and some have proposed or enacted laws that can put a woman in jail for murder if she suffers a miscarriage. That’s a Draconian measure reminiscent of Romania’s (assassinated) 1980s dictator,  Nicolae Ceaușescu, who forced women to undergo monthly pelvic exams to ensure that pregnancies were carried to term. (It resulted in huge numbers of children abandoned to orphanages so poorly run that development disabilities were rampant.)

Gun violence, police brutality and other forms of institutionally sanctioned killings take place every day in this country, while the sponsor-driven media seems to be stuck in its own brain-dead “brand.”

 In short, we are witnessing the drying up of a society once thought (somewhat erroneously) to be a democratic icon as it approaches its own demise. It’s a society, and a once-proudly diverse culture, that now appears to be devoid of the ability to govern, to engage in civil discourse, to show compassion or intelligence, and to behave respectfully, let alone humanely. We are, it seems to many, decidedly on the brink and facing a disintegrating future as Donald Trump continues to spew invectives and to reveal his utter incompetence as his poll numbers rise.

There are those who are loathe to compare Trump’s victory and possible presidency to Hitler’s totalitarian regime, but look at their similarities: Both ran campaigns grounded in fear-mongering based on hate, economic frailty and stereotyped, scapegoated minorities, both were anti-woman (Hitler believed women’s national loyalty resided in bearing as many babies as possible), both fostered incipient violence, and both were authoritarian and dangerously devoid of reason.

There’s another comparison that some have called upon to sound a note of caution and that is the fall of the Roman Empire.  Scholars point out that the causes of the Empire’sdownfall included an antagonistic relationship between the Senate (their Congress) and the Emperor (President), rampant political corruption, heavy military spending, a failing economy, and a decline in ethics and values. It is also be worth mentioning that slave labor (income inequality) was a factor, as were natural disasters (like drought).  As one source put it, “Life became cheap … and judgments about what was valuable or important in life declined. There was a total disregard for human and animal life.”

As I was mulling this commentary over in my mind, I happened to read a sentence in a clever, somewhat bizarre novel call The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink. It’s a riff on everything from politics and social activism to sex, marriage and the quest for a meaningful life. The sentence that jumped out at me read:  “The injustice of mortal existence cried out with greed for euphoria.”  It was followed by, “Delicacy had no place in [his] world.”

Donald Trump is playing on people’s desperation for euphoria, it seems to me. But delicacy has no place in his world. Neither do facts, fair play, intelligence, good judgment or any of the other critical attributes required for sound, safe, humane leadership. 

Those attributes are like tributaries that flow into a flourishing river. When they go dry, so does the river that carries our commerce, feeds our fields, quenches our thirst, and keeps us civilized.  America simply cannot allow the river to become dry. Our future depends upon the metaphorical waters that give life, today and for a long time to come.

That’s why Donald Trump must not win in November.