Train Wrecks

Alan Zendell, December 18, 2017\

Today’s unfortunate, tragic train accident between Tacoma and Olympia, Washington elicited a couple of perplexing reactions from President Trump. As emergency crews were desperately trying to stabilize train cars hanging over interstate 5 so they could be searched for dead or injured passengers, Trump was on Twitter. His first message was a political shot at someone, I’m not sure whom, but probably the collective administrations that preceded him. A few minutes later, after someone (General Kelly?) got to him, he tweeted what he should have in the first place – you know, “our hearts and prayers go out…”

As typically insensitive as the timing of the first tweet was, it decried the “seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East” while our internal infrastructure crumbled. Since seven of the last nine Congresses were controlled by Trump’s party, I’m still wondering who that was aimed at. On the other hand, I can’t argue with the message. It’s the same message Progressives have been sending since the misguided invasion of Iraq in 2003. Had the president begun his administration with it he’d have achieved a major bipartisan victory, done some real good for the entire nation, and would probably have approval numbers twice as high as they are currently.

Do I believe that our amoral president who cares only about creating chaos so he can emerge as our savior, or perhaps he would say our last Great White Hope, gives a damn about our infrastructure? Not for a second! But he does have cunning political instincts and he craves adoration and adulation, which raises the question, why didn’t he lead with what he said today a year ago instead of the insanity over border walls and repealing Obamacare? That’s a real head-scratcher.

If he really wanted to attack the Bush and Obama administrations for being lax about our infrastructure he had more than enough ammunition from the I-35 Mississippi River bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007 and the Philadelphia train wreck of 2015, which together resulted in hundreds of injuries and/or fatalities. The latter actually occurred a month before Trump announced his candidacy, but he chose to attack immigrants instead of disintegrating roads, tracks, and bridges. Again I ask – why?

The answer, of course, is Steve Bannon. Under Bannon’s tutelage it was more important to reverse the browning of America, to exalt the values of the Alt-Right movement to a fake legitimacy, and to trash everything Trump’s predecessor achieved. And mostly, it was more important to put a stop to the massive transfer of wealth that threatened to begin to level the economic playing field in America. It was most important to assure that the half of one percent Bernie Sanders loves to taunt retained their hold on 95 percent of America’s wealth, even if that meant depriving tens of millions of people of health care.

Today’s train disaster in Washington State, well beyond the pain and injury it caused, shined a light on the utter contempt for everything decent that has driven Trump’s first year in office. And though that cynicism has Steve Bannon written all over it, the buck stops at the White House. Trump’s extreme narcissism was what made him succumb to Bannon’s full-throated seduction. Most of America recognizes what a despicable human being Bannon is, but what does that say about Donald Trump letting himself fall under his spell so easily?

The truth is that most Americans, even I could have forgiven those things about Trump that make the sound of his voice and the sight of him make us shudder with rage. Had he kept his most basic promise that he was out for the good of the common working people, that he would be the president for all Americans, we could have forgiven his lack of moral center, perhaps even his treatment of women if he’d owned up to it and expressed genuine contrition. None of us is so pure of spirit that we can’t give credit for good works, no matter who performs them.

But Trump has done none of those things. He has thrown his weight behind greed, bigotry, and outright misogyny. And he has lied his way through an entire year when he could have done so much good.

There’s a lesson in all this. If the great majority of Americans want our infrastructure rebuilt, with all the new jobs that will accrue to that effort, it’s time to make their voices heard. Remember that there’s an important election next year, and people whose first concern is being re-elected are likely to listen when those voices become the roar of an angry, frustrated crowd.

If we’re not too lazy to act, maybe we can avoid an even worse train wreck, one that could take decades to recover from.

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