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Climate Change & Squirrel Hill

Anyone who has read, listened to, or watched the news in the past five years—at least via a source that acknowledges climate change is real—has heard more or less the following statement:

No particular hurricane or other extreme weather event can be precisely ascribed to climate change as its cause; however, climate change does increase the likelihood of such events.

Hurricane Isabel from the International Space Station.

Mike Trenchard</a>/Wikimedia Commons

And so too with the tragedy this weekend at Squirrel Hill, and with the bombs mailed to politicians and supporters on the left. We cannot say for sure that they are caused by the current political climate—they might have happened anyway—but we can sure as hell know that the current political climate increases the chance that such tragedies will occur again.

We know that the over-emission of CO2, methane, and other gasses that trap heat in our atmosphere is the primary cause of climate change. That over-emission is itself the blossoming of the seed that was planted in the late 19th century with the start of the Industrial Revolution.

What, then, is the cause of the change in our political environment? And from what seed did it come?

The seed question is complicated and I don’t pretend to have an answer. But, just as we cannot go back and stop the Industrial Revolution from spawning an outbreak of CO2 emissions, we cannot go back and change the events that initially led to today’s political climate.

However, just as we can stop driving gas-guzzling SUVs, convert to energy efficient appliances, and install solar panel after solar panel throughout the country to reduce today’s emissions, we can put an end to the forces that are worsening our political climate.

The number one force that is worsening our political climate is, without a doubt, our President. He is the primary culprit for at least two reasons:

First, he consistently degrades his opponents and seeks to make them seem less than an inherently valuable, dignified human. Whether it is by calling them rapists or murderers, suggesting their countries of origin are shitholes, separating children from parents against their will, claiming he can grab them by the pussy, or by calling them the enemy of the people, he tells us over and over again that these people (immigrants, women, the press, and so on) are less than others, not worthy of respect, not worthy of fair treatment. This degradation is made worse by the fact that he is President and, like Presidents before him, has the largest megaphone in the world. Further, by degrading some people, President Trump gives his tacit approval for the degradation of all people, including our country's Jewish community.

Secondly, he has advocated actual violence or vengeance against those he degrades. He has offered to pay the legal fees of his supporters who would “knock the crap” out of protesters; he has stated that he’d prefer a security guard to “punch him [a protester] in the face;” and, he has given his support to a candidate for office who assaulted a member of the press. It goes without saying that there is violence inherent in grabbing women by the genitals and in separating children against their will from their parents. Again, his advocacy of violence against some people provides tacit approval to violence against all people, including the Jewish congregation in Squirrel Hill.

I won’t claim sainthood for Democrats. I am opposed to the idea of harassing members of the Administration or GOP politicians when they are on personal time at restaurants and so on. People on the Left should stop that and should stop encouraging that.

Like it or not, Trump is the President of all Americans and his behavior and rhetoric create a climate for all Americans, not just those on the right. Thus, the shooting of GOP Congressman Steve Scalise in 2017 was more likely to occur in the era of Trump-inspired division and Trump-inspired violence. When the President dehumanizes one group of individuals and supports violence against those individuals, all ears and eyes are listening, watching, and absorbing. The Scalise shooting just happened to have the wrongdoer on the Left and the victim on the Right.

In my view, the single most important act that can cool the overheated political climate is to peacefully remove from office the person causing the most disruption to our political climate. I am a liberal Democrat but I believe the best way to ensure that President Trump is not worsening our climate beyond 2020 is for another Republican to unseat him in the primaries. That would ensure a return to a more reasoned general election and guarantee that regardless who wins the general election, Trump will no longer be President.

I would rather have a Nikki Haley, John Kasich, or another Republican as my President—someone with whom I may disagree on policy but with whom I share a common sense of decency and respect for fellow humans—than face the possibility of a second term of Donald Trump. If such a candidate runs against President Trump, I will gladly cast a vote for her or him here in Virginia where we have open primaries. I encourage others from across the political spectrum who see how President Trump is overheating our political climate to pledge the same.

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