Why I’m so scared of a Donald Trump presidency.

There’s a post going around Facebook these days that asks: Why are you so scared [of a Donald Trump Presidency]? In it the author implies among other things: that people shouldn’t be afraid of potentially being pushed into war by our new President, because the country is already at war, and that we shouldn’t be afraid of racial divide because the country is already divided. After having read parts of this effort to school those of us who’d voted for the status quo over the potential for turbulent change and are now concerned, and after having heard one Trump-supporter refer to the growing number of protesters angry over the election results as ‘children throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get their way,’ my heart sank even deeper into the pit of my stomach.

They just don’t get it.

For me, the grim feeling that keeps me up nights has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton having lost. I’d never liked her or the President-Elect, probably because each had been in America’s spot light for my adult life. I remember when Hillary tried to co-president with Bill and how the country resented her for it. I remember how she campaigned for her ‘socialized’ health care system and how furiously people opposed her. I remember the scandals.

I remember Donald Trump’s rise too. How he built Trump Towers, now a landmark in New York City. How he overspent by millions on airlines and yachts. How he defaulted on loans, went bankrupt and couldn’t pay many of the workers who’d built his Atlantic City casino. (Recently, he’d claimed he’d refused to pay because of their shoddy work.) I remember too, how he picked himself up, sold his name to businesses around the globe, and then rebranded himself as a reality TV star.

In comparing both candidates on toughness, resilience, survival, they’ve each held their own.  Still, as I watched the way each carried themselves during all the debates and listened to the tenor of their discourses throughout the campaign, I perceived in them two very different types of human beings. Trump is the antithesis of political correctness. A thin-skinned businessman, who’d never held a political office, he saw an untapped vein of potential voters and delivered what they wanted to hear in sound bites and tweets. Clinton, a thirty-five year veteran of politics, with two terms on the Senate and twelve years in the White House as First Lady and Secretary of State, did her homework before each debate, knew her stuff, held her own against a bare knuckle street-fighter. As I watched them go toe-to-toe I was impressed with Clinton’s smart answers and I was disturbed by how disrespectful Trump was to his opponent. He rarely chose a substantive response over sticking it to her.

For me, the devil that perpetuates my insomnia lies in part with the character of this man who will soon become our Commander and Chief and in part with the support he’d gained despite it. While it cannot be denied that Trump’s capacity for diverting attention from his flaws and failings is impressive; in that he’d kept his campaign alive by artfully dodging questions about things like his tax returns, which he still has not produced, it bothers me that his supporters seemed not to have cared about the dodging. Whenever a question about some potentially damaging situation arose, rather than answer it, Trump would call out his opponent on issues unrelated again and again until the question was dropped.  Whenever the media reported on some issue, like the pending civil suite by students who’d attended his Trump University, Trump would repeatedly top the story by firing off allegations sure to stir his base until it was forgotten. Yet, for his supporters these tactics never diminished his appeal.

I, like many others who’d voted against Trump, am struggling to understand how his practice of the art of the dodge, and his hateful language, and his disrespect for others, and his never owning up to his mistakes were not deal breakers for most Americans.  But my tantrum here has nothing to do with wanting a recount of the election. Election Day has past. Forty three percent of Americans chose not vote. Donald Trump was elected President. Done. My fears have nothing to do with the possibility of him pushing us into war. We are always at war. We are always at risk of a hit to the homeland. But during this campaign Donald Trump had driven American politics to a new low, and to me he is no more than an opportunist who’d brought out the worst in us as a Country. After all those nasty exchanges, tweets that played the blame game, personal attacks, accusations, and frightening promises, he owns the backlash of assaults on American Muslims and Latinos, protests and riots. They are responses to his rhetoric. Yet, he has made no tweets to help us heal and unify. Based on his history, he is not a man who owns his mistakes.

My fear is that this is who he will continue to be as President; a man who blames the media for inciting protestors that have come out because of his hate speech; a man who has speculated about how the media would react more critically if it were HIS people protesting. That prompts the question: Aren’t we all HIS people now? Whether we love him or hate him, trust him or fear him, he will soon be OUR President and we, the people of a richly diverse Nation, are his. My fear, based on his rallying cries and whom they were meant to call, is that he and many of his supporters don’t see it that way. I’m afraid that over the next four years he will enact legislation that will unfairly impact some minorities, like women, Latinos and Muslims. I’m afraid that enemies like ISIS and Putin will exploit the discord this might cause. I’m afraid for our relations with foreign allies now and in the aftermath of his Presidency. Will reading Trump tweets about conspiracy theories regarding foreign leaders who disagree with him become our new normal? Based on his hateful rhetoric during the campaign, which had served to deepen divides within our Nation, will he now point fingers at people and countries around the world and add to the dangerous divides there as well?

One more thing high on my list of Trump-related fears, I’m afraid of climate change, which science has proven is a progressive event brought on by manmade carbon emissions that will have devastating consequences, and Trump has said is fake. When leaders of many countries had come together earlier this year to sign the Paris Climate Agreement, I felt hopeful about our future. There are changes we must make for our children. Deep down we all know it. Trump plans to bow out on that agreement, to cut the program that the EPA had put into place, which would have regulated the amount of carbon emissions large industries produce, and to channel money away from development of green technology.  He plans to push coal, the Keystone Pipeline, oil drilling and fracking; all things that might serve us economically now, but which will lead to continued rise in global temperatures.

I would love nothing more than to be wrong about why I’m scared; to wake up one morning four years from today (that is, if I ever do get a good nights sleep between now and then) and say, “That Facebook post was right. I was being silly and childish.” But for now, I take solace in the final comment of one of the guys from The Circus, a Showtime series that had followed the election since the primaries. In regard to Donald Trump’s looming presidency he projects that: “Our highest hopes may not be realized, but our worst fears probably won’t be either.”

I’d settle for that.

Post-Election Day Blues

It’s 5 o’clock on the morning after Election Day. I descend the stairs from the bedroom my husband and I share to the sound of heavy rain beating against our metal roof. Blue light from our big screen TV flickers in our living room, where my husband is sprawled out in his LazyBoy. He’s wearing his favorite Jerry Garcia boxers, drinking Higher Ground coffee, watching the election results.  “You’re up early,” he says.

“Couldn’t sleep.”

He takes a sip from his eighteen ounce, Steal-Your-Face mug. “You know, it’s not the end of the world, hon.”

Is he kidding! I’m thinking of spending the next four years curled up on the couch, watching cute pet videos because of it. “The guy from Celebrity Apprentice just became the most powerful person on the planet. Somehow, I feel like it might be.”  The media keeps showing Hillary Clinton supporters crying. I guess they believe it might be, too. “We had an opportunity to elect a good, solid leader and a champion for climate change reform. Instead we picked Donald Trump.”

My husband snorts. “At least Vladimir Putin is happy.”

I go the kitchen, grab my favorite student-painted coffee mug and pour myself a cup. The mug feels warm inside my palms.

“That’s the last of the Higher Ground coffee, by the way,” my husband says.

After I’d blogged about how some coffee companies are destroying the rainforests, my husband said he’d consider switching from Eight O’clock to Higher Ground. “A subscription for two pounds per month for six months is $180.00,” I told him. “I’ll go ahead and place the order.”

“Well…” The doubt in his eyes feels like a kick to my stomach. He’d changed his mind. How could he!

My heart plummets further. I glance down at the dark brew inside my brightly painted mug. Even my coffee is making me feel hopeless today. “You said we could change brands if you liked the taste of the new coffee. Remember?” I’d ordered three different types from the eco-friendly roasting company.  We liked the Birmingham Humane Society blend best. The fact that part of the proceeds go to the humane society is a big plus, too.

“I do. But…”

“I’m not giving up on my blog, my journey towards going green, and my dream of saving the planet.”

“I’m not saying you should.”

“No. You’re saying that it’s all fine as long as you don’t have to change anything.”

“Hey, don’t get mad at me just because Trump won.”

I try to hold back tears. Can’t. “I’m fighting really hard to believe that anything I do matters. ”

My husband comes over, wraps his thick arms around me. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how much I really needed a hug. “But small changes can add up to something that matters,” he whispers.  “Isn’t that what you say in your blog?”

“I really believe that, too.” Sniffle. “There are things we still have control over.”

“Like whether or not we buy our coffee from a planet-friendly company,”  my husband says with a smile.

“Yes.”

“Then that’s what we should do.”

Nuff said for now.

 

 

Hope and a box of Kleenex

There are many brands of facial tissues out there, but to me the name Kleenex is synonymous with the product. That’s probably because the maker of Kleenex, Kimberly-Clark, invented facial tissues almost a century ago. Like many people, my husband and I have used that brand for most of our lives. He buys in bulk at Sam’s Club. So we always have one of the colorful cardboard boxes of fluffy wipes at the ready. At least four times a day, I pull out a tissue from one to blow my nose into–––and that’s when I’m healthy. When I’m sick, and because I work with toddlers that happens a lot, it feels like a zillion times.

Four tissues a day and the planet

In trying to make our lives greener I’ve been becoming more conscious of how the little things my husband and I do impact the globe. And, I’m always searching for that middle road between living green and living comfortably. With single-use items, like tissues, the impact of my four tissues a day plus is embedded in a cycle that starts with how the basic materials are acquired.

For the paper industry, that usually amounts to cutting down lots of trees.  This industry has been accused of unapologetically deforesting virgin woodlands, which the planet needs to manage the carbon emissions we people produce. On the list of Planet Earth’s biggest polluters the paper industry is number three, right behind oil and clothing manufacturers. So, my assumption was that: even four tissues a day amounted to a heavy environmental toll.

A hankie to the rescue. Me thinks snot.

The problem is, the soft tissues we love all come from wood fibers, and there are no great alternatives to them. Tissues made from recycled content are generally scratchy to the snout and not strong enough to hold up to a sneeze. There are tissues made from bamboo and sugar cane fibers, but to me that’s just swapping one raw material for another. Hankies are the number one green alternative to single-use tissues. But the thought of sneezing into one and unknownthen putting it in my pocket seems way too  unhygienic –––and gross.

It’s a good thing then, that my assumption about Kimberly-Clark was wrong.   

Kimberly-Clark is an American paper company that started in the 1800’s. It now has mills all over the world. It’s the largest producer of tissue products. Between 2004 and 2009, Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council targeted the giant in their online Kleercut  campaign. They accused K-C of clear cut logging: a practice where acres of forests are cut down and not replenished.

The demands of the campaign included:

 A victory for us all

In 2009 Kimberly-Clark agreed to the terms, which made Kleercut one of the most successful online environmental advocacy campaigns. It also made Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace partners in improving the impact of paper companies on the planet;  of which many have put up barriers against positive environmental change and have engaged in greenwashing to hide that from consumers.  Kimberly-Clark has since created a plan for sustainability that is not just for show. It has also become more transparent.

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/sep/08/greenpeace-kimberly-clark-kleenex-tissue-paper-canada-forests-ngo-corporate-collaboration

(Thanks to Samuel Wicks of the NRDC for directing me to the above article and for educating me about this great accomplishment.)

A final thought

Now, I’m not saying that just because Kimberly-Clark is doing the right things, I should continue to use 4 tissues plus per day. It’s important to reduce our consumption of single-use items, like tissues, to slow down the cycle of production, and lessen the amount of trash we bring to the landfill. So, I’ve bitten the bullet and have been using hankies (cut up old shirts, old linen napkins, old baby washcloths are hankies to me,) which I keep in my night table and at my desk. It felt weird at first to blow my nose into something that’s not paper, but now I’m okay with it. I just have a separate hankie-receptacle that I toss the cloths into when I’m done using them, the contents of which I boil before throwing in with a load of wash. But the truth is, because most of these are rags that I would have thrown out anyway, I could just as easily use toss them after each use.

But the story of Greenpeace and Kimberly-Clark has made me feel encouraged about my efforts to save the planet. I realize what I’m doing is tiny in comparison. But here’s the thing, while Greenpeace and the NRDC had gotten the ball rolling, part of the reason that K-C decided to change was because it made good business sense. If we as customers make it known that we care about the planet, and if we use our buying power to choose  companies that care about it too over ones that don’t, then green production becomes smart business, as Kimberly-Clark had realized. If a big paper company like Kimberly-Clark can adopt planet-friendly ways, maybe others in the paper industry will, too. It’s a reason to feel hopeful and to keep striving to improve our own habits, no matter how small they seem. It’s also a reason why my husband and I will continue to buy Kleenex.