Bad climate

December 14, 2019

Here in the United States, the socio-political climate has never been pristine. Normally, it amounts to maintaining an environment wherein the rich stay rich and all others stay hopeful –...

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Here in the United States, the socio-political climate has never been pristine. Normally, it amounts to maintaining an environment wherein the rich stay rich and all others stay hopeful – except for the segregated and downtrodden. Therefore, it is notable that between the 1960s and early 2000s, the social environment did improve: it got more equalitarian – the social rules favored tolerance. But, of course, it didn’t last.

With Donald Trump’s election, a harsh reaction to this bit of progress set in. Thus, the nation’s social climate has been steadily deteriorating for over three years, thanks to President Trump’s conspicuous habit of acting out both his narrow-minded, often bigoted, conceits (legal and otherwise) and his adolescent frustrations. In behaving this way, Trump has, by his own example, liberated the seedy, sleazy and sordid among the American population – many of them armed with religious self-righteousness and extraordinary capitalist greed, to say nothing of the firearms some of them carry.

Here is how Sunita Sah, an associate professor of Management at Cornell University, contextualizes the present situation: “President Donald Trump regularly uses blatant violations of long-established social and political norms to signal his ‘authenticity’ to supporters.

Asking foreign countries to investigate and deliver dirt on his political opponents, which prompted an impeachment inquiry in the US House of Representatives, is the most recent example in a long string of norm-shattering behaviors.” He goes on to tell us why this is important: “Norms are perceptions or beliefs about what we understand the rules for acceptable behavior to be.”

Norms or rules of behavior can be shifted. For instance, the consequences of Supreme Court decisions to support gay rights or the legality of abortion shifted societal norms in a more tolerant and humane direction. Trump’s election began a process aimed at reversing this direction – you can see this in his Supreme Court nominations.

Donald Trump, being a hardly disguised racist and supporter of white nationalism, has authored this regressive turn. Another four-year term and it will take a generation for the US to dig itself out of the resulting social morass.

In the meantime, the global atmospheric climate is deteriorating as well. This, of course, is not just a local affair, but there is a hometown connection. The US is one of the worse atmospheric polluters (others include China and India).

Here again, President Trump and his supporters defy the norms. Despite cumulative evidence of global warming and its imminent dangers, his administration scornfully dismisses it because it gets in the way of “economic prosperity.” Being inconvenient, Trump has decided it isn’t real.

Thus, while UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the “point of no return is no longer over the horizon. It is in sight and hurtling toward us,” the US president blithely continued to roll back regulations designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Excerpted from: 'Deteriorating Climates: Home and Abroad'.

Counterpunch.org



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