(A note from Marilyn: Long-time contributor and friend Cristina White continues to tend Left At The Altar better than I do. This important post is cross-posted at my other blog, Biocentered. Follow Cristina at ZenCrunch and Letter Pen Press.)
As of this writing, Donald Trump has another four weeks in office. It is a time when more than three hundred thousand Americans have died, three thousand are dying every single day, thousands more are sick, and untold numbers are standing in food lines, suffering economic hardships not seen since the Great Depression. As this onslaught continues, day after day, Trump has marshaled the full force of the federal government: not to relieve the physical and economic pain brought on by the pandemic, not to help the incoming Biden administration transition to the White House so that it can more effectively begin the healing we so desperately need. No.
Trump is using the power of the presidential office to destroy a protected wilderness in Arizona’s Coronado National Memorial, a huge swath of natural habitat in the far south of the state. He wants 450 miles of new barriers built before his term ends. The demolition companies hired to clear land in order to build Trump’s wall are cutting roads into a mountainside and sheering off slices of earth that nourish and sustain wildlife and plant life. The construction companies that follow the mega-demolition crews are driving concrete and steel into earth that for centuries has helped protect both natural and human habitat. The owners of Diamond A Ranch sued the government last week in federal court. In part, their complaint refers to explosives being used to level cliffsides for access roads and “…demolition dust, shrapnel, and boulders the size of automobiles are tumbling down Roosevelt Reservation onto ranch property.”
Opponents say the wall will worsen flooding. Massive steel and concrete structures cross dry creek beds and riverbeds. When the heavy rains come, those waterways become torrents that carry tons of debris. That debris can collect and clog around the steel bollards built into the waterways, causing floodwaters to back up; those floods can destroy properties that for generations have been safe havens for people and domestic animal life.
The ecological rape of the land is systematic: the work goes on day and night. Light towers kept on through the night enable the late shift crews to keep at it—build that wall, no matter the cost to the public purse or the defacing and destruction of the natural beauty that drew many people to live and work here.
When Donald Trump says America first, what he means is me first. Me first is not sustainable, and it violates a basic tenet of our democracy: to preserve and protect the common welfare. What underlies our common welfare is a foundational truth: we are all interrelated. That truth is one that Trump doesn’t understand; it’s a concept he’s not even able to compute. My guess is that most of his followers either don’t understand this or actively disagree with it. And his enablers choose to ignore the truth of our interrelatedness—that choice increases their profits.
Climate deniers who are ignorant of the consequences of violating our interrelationship with each other and the natural world are enabling Trump to carry out the carnage that he predicted in his Inaugural Address. Those who profit from that same ignorance are most culpable in the wreckage happening right now along the Arizona border.
Building a wall is not the answer to illegal immigration. No one is asking me, but if they did, I would submit that the answer is four-pronged. One: we need to invest in the health and prosperity of our neighbors to the south. Two: we need to help legitimate authorities root out and dismantle the corruption and violence that cause Mexicans and Central American people to flee their own country. Three: we must establish policies that make it possible for communities on both sides of the border to peaceably interact and support the business and welfare of their common livelihoods. Four: we need to return to practices that once enabled agricultural workers who are citizens of Mexico to cross the border legally, earn their living in the seasonal work required to tend our farmlands, then go back to their homes and families in the land of their birth. These are pathways to sanity—each of these four solutions is a win-win for America and Mexico.
If the pandemic has shown us nothing else, surely it is clear that each of us is dependent on the health of us all, and that the good health of our citizenry sustains and enlivens our economic health. As Jim Hightower’s father Walter Thomas Hightower used to say, “Everybody is better off when everybody is better off.”
To get to that world where we are all better off, we need to remember what Ann Richards told us: “Life isn’t fair, but government should be.”