The Politics Of Plastic Peannuts

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Have you ever had to hunt for an item in a shipping box filled with plastic peanuts? It requires a careful search and a wide hand to avoid damaging an item: and so we arrive at today’s political metaphor—one that informs our search for the tenets of a political economy built on lies and denial, on blame and wealth—and on excess and waste. Statistics about this economy, unemployment, interest rates, never share the details of a community or a family. Debates about their validity (both the statistics and the experiences of communities and families) are distractions from progress and innovation. For many Hispanic families, with their state attorney generals threatening to sue the federal government for prioritizing deportation as a way of managing its resources (dangerous criminals first, children raised in America, last) it’s the worst of times, no matter how low the unemployment rate is.

The 800,000 young adults who attended college, obtained driver’s licenses, and borrowed college loans are about to see it come to a abrupt halt, if many state and federal officials have their way. These young people, many making an effective contribution, can’t hide in the peanuts. They face punishment for their success. They face a country under Trump and Republicans willing to put law above justice.

A sheriff who violates the constitutional rights of his detainees and who is convicted of being in contempt of a federal court’s orders to desist is pardoned by Trump, but there is no forgiveness for young people brought to America who have succeeded by the rules, except for a single infraction with outsized consequences. Trump would punish these young people, although they have “done their jobs” and been “good Americans” in every way but the paperwork.

Lies, in words or actions, are blocks; their purpose is to blame or praise. Trump uses lies in both ways. Lies also have degrees. Some appear as mistakes, others are deceptions. Some lies—in this is a function Trump frequently uses—are intended to show power: Think: I can lie because I have the power to lie, and when I do, the lie is the new truth (even as it’s called a lie!). This is Trump’s approach to immigration.

This lie becomes a political reason to exercise power that undercuts democratic values. We hear these lies from Trump constantly. Generals, unnamed, who tell Trump transgender healthcare is expensive and a distraction when it is not. Bad people flooding into the country ahead of the Muslim travel ban; the reported rush that officials supposedly informed Trump about never takes place. Even with the ban blocked twice by the courts, the rush to terror never took place. We see this power lie every time Obama is blamed for Trump’s errors of judgment. We see it in things Trump doesn’t understand, like why you don’t share confidential intelligence with America’s adversaries, or in his blanket denials of climate change or in his efforts to obstruct justice at least twice.

The power lies are intended to make us blind to the demands of wealth. Dirty air is a slow death; Trump’s EPA under Scott Pruitt’s administration trades clean air for a fast corporate buck. At the request of political proxies often governors of the states, Pruitt will tailor regulatory change for maximum corporate benefit. His turn around in overturning EPA regulations is quicker than Amazon’s prime shipping. EPA routinely bypasses public review and comments.

One clear Trump goal is to introduce changes across the government departments so swiftly the repeals, replacements, and reversals become difficult to track and sort. All his decisions with international impact are effectively hidden in the packing peanuts. His domestic changes are more visible, if only to distract from other changes of greater devastation to America’s values, ideals, and families.

We need to dump the box, except it makes pollution worse.