Sunday, December 25, 2016

A (Sarcasm- and Acrimony-Free) Xmas Day Open Letter to President-Elect Trump

Something like 97 percent of relevant experts have come to agree that human-induced climate change seriously threatens everyone on the planet. Your apparently believing those experts to be dupes of the Chinese might not be too dangerous for you and your four older children, who are likely to have left the planet before it becomes uninhabitable, but what of your little boy, and of your grandchildren? It may be that, in middle age, they’ll have remained rich enough to insulate themselves from the ravages of climate change, but what if the planet’s such a mess by then that money has ceased to have any value, and ordinary people are desperate to get their own children access to water, for instance?  You might believe Trump Tower, or wherever else Barron and the grandkids may have barricaded themselves, will be impregnable. Well, Louis XVI thought the same of Paris’s Bastille. The mightiest empires in human history have all collapsed in time.
Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that there’s a very good chance of all those scientists being mistaken. Let’s say, in fact, that there’s only one chance in 20 that they’re right. Don’t ask me to believe, though, unless they’re fleeing modern-day equivalents of the Bastille-stormers, that you’d put Barron or any of the grandkids on a plane with a 1-in 20 chance of crashing. What father or grandfather could be that depraved?

There's no  lasting upside to being the president under whose stewardship environmental deterioration accelerated, Mr. Trump. History, if there’s anyone left to study it, won’t remember you fondly.

How about if, while at the very least honouring every commitment the USA has made to impeding climate change, your presidency is that during which American medical researchers discover cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other diseases? As one now considering his place in history, do you not see medical research as having infinitely greater investment potential than more nuclear weaponry?  Surely you’d rather be remembered as the president under whom fearsome diseases were finally conquered than the one who started the war that really did end all wars — and humanity, in the bargain.

Be assured I can understand the appeal of being The Man Who Blew Up the World, but there’s a very significant downside: If humanity is wiped out, who’ll be left to marvel at your accomplishment?

You might be thinking that altruism doesn’t sound like much fun. But consider that during the presidential campaign, you professed great contempt for Sen. Ted Cruz. Isn’t now, with his being poised to try to rescind the rights of LGBT Americans, a good time to rekindle that contempt? You’re a worldly New Yorker, and know from experience that LGBT people aren’t the monsters Lyin’ Ted tries to make them out to be. In defending marriage equality, for instance, you’ll enjoy the twin pleasures of making him your bitch again and doing something (politically) brave and noble for which enlightened persons all over the world will applaud you.

The where’s-them-Doritos-at? types are likely to think you’ve sold them out by doing The Right Thing, and will flood the social media with subliterate memes calling you every name in the book — most of them misspelled. But Barack Obama was able to withstand that —with remarkable dignity — for eight years. Do you really want to be seen as less a man than Mr. Obama?

You are very rich, and must be deeply gratified by how many Americans believe your wealth to be a function of your brilliance. As you will almost certainly never be the richest man in the world — at the moment I write this, you’re not even in the Top 300, and would have to increase your wealth six-fold even to make the Top 20 — using the presidency to try to play catch-up will be an awful waste of a remarkable opportunity money  (at least technically) can’t buy. In 150 years,  are children going to be told of the greatness of such of your fellow billionaires as Warren Buffett and Nike’s Phil Knight? Almost certainly not. Surely you must find enticing the thought of 22nd-century school kids learning that you were one of America’s most remarkable presidents, one who took office amid unprecedented scepticism, fear, and animosity, but confounded the naysayers with leadership that benefitted not only your own country, but all of humanity. 

What would Phil Knight pay for the shot at immortality that’s in your grasp? 


  1. It's bizarre, but I wonder late at night if his ego may be the one factor that forces him to do the right thing.

    1. Which is exactly what this essay presupposes, madam.

  2. It hasn't forced him to do the right thing for the previous 70 years of his existence on Earth. I can't see things changing now.

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