Maybe you were assigned John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath in high-school English class, and you still remember the plight of the Joads as they had to flee drought-stricken Oklahoma, only to find a cold welcome in California. Or perhaps you’ve seen some PBS special on the “Dust Bowl” of the 1930s, about the suffering of the myriads of real-life Joads in those years of the Great Depression, and you thought, How sad history is!
The twenty-first century version of the Dust Bowl is developing right before our very eyes, and it promises to be so much worse. As America is preoccupied yet again with the illegal antics and fascist buffoonery of Trump and his followers, whom the authorities never seem willing or able to nail, the climate disaster is methodically destroying the natural wealth this country depends on. Perhaps ironically, this time it is California that is suffering first and worst, and there is the terrifying prospect that the coming decades will see millions of Angelenos and residents of sunny Phoenix on the move for want of water. So, if you skipped over the news that the federal government is imposing drastic cuts in water usage on the states that rely on Colorado River water on the understandable grounds that you don’t live in the Southwest, think again. America will soon be awash in what the international bureaucracy likes to call “internally displaced persons,” unimaginable numbers of your fellow Americans with no place to go. Back in the 1930s, the matchless folk singer Woody Guthrie caustically depicted cold-hearted Californians telling the migrants of those years, “Oh, if you ain’t got the do re mi folks, you ain’t got the do re mi / Why you better go back to beautiful Texas / Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee.” Twenty-first century California refugees won’t be able to reverse-migrate to those states, which will be tornado-ridden wastelands as well after they finish draining the Ogallala Aquifer dry. If you’re an American who lives neither in the desert Southwest nor the Plains states, don’t imagine your state’s National Guard can simply set up checkpoints to turn back all those thirsty hordes. Or that you won’t be affected when California oranges, avocadoes, and every other sort of Imperial Valley produce vanishes forever from your supermarket.
What is the link between these climate catastrophes and the racialized rage of the zombie Republican Party? For one thing, the MAGA-tized Republican fascists are apparently eager to hasten this global burning, as they move from obstructing efforts to reduce greenhouse gases to actually penalizing companies that undertake them. For another, as the climate calamities mount, mass desperation will be even easier for them to turn into mass rage and scapegoating, all to the short-term benefit of a tiny class of billionaires who care not if the country and the world burn. None of these problems can even be addressed, much less solved, by people who have lost all contact with reality and live in a world of paranoid cultist thinking.
What is the way out? I think of one of the lesser-known stanzas of Guthrie’s most famous song, “This Land Is Your Land,” which was also written from the point of view of an Okie migrant.
Nobody livin’ can ever stop me
As I go walkin’ my freedom highway
Nobody livin’ can make me turn back
This land was made for you and me
One thought on “While You’re Watching Trump’s Antics, The West Is Dying of Thirst”
Someone has to wield the chaos and catalyze the shift from fractured, apathetic, and paranoid, to unified, Empathic, and trusting.
…ughhhh, it’s still gonna have to be me, isn’t it?
Not the hero we want, NOR the hero we really need… but the only one with the clear-enough aware seeing and screw-death furious asskicking to get the job done.
Sigh… fuck my liiiiife.
I ain’t got no superpowers, and no dead magic man is coming to save us via Deus Ex Machina, so even if I DO manage to pull off this legitimate miracle of endless willpower, lasered foresight, and straight-up luck…
…keep any limbs you’d like to keep inside the car at all times, and just in case, bend over and kiss that Monkeypox-pocked ass “hasta la sayonara,” babies.
It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.