As much as this might seem to be a story about privilege and affluence, it’s not. It’s not because both men, Trump and Obama, have access to them; it’s actually about the symbolism of their choices and the motives behind them.
Today, flanked by coal miners on all sides, Trump proudly signed bills that effectively roll back all (or most) of Obama’s environmental protections. Americans have a long history of attachment to cultural iconography; the cowboy, the pin-up girl, the man who rolls up his sleeves and gets to work, Trump, like all politicians, knows this and has used it again to his advantage when spinning his populist tale du jour. He banks on the steadfast adherence so many have to these old tropes from stories of days gone by: “Yes, you too can have what I have, if things go back to the way they used to be when white men ruled and women knew their place “. Even as they moved up the corporate ladder, they played the game of emotional work as does Ivanka, they smiled, they deferred, they thanked the patriarchs in their lives who gave it all to them. They are in the game, but only at the behest of their male counterparts. It is the “I gave it to you and I can take it all away” doctrine.
I feel a deep sense of empathy for working Americans who are struggling to makes ends meet and to put food on the table for themselves and their families and a roof over their heads. When, oh when, though, will they look past the simple iconography of years gone by, and realize that to not adapt is to die and that it is not immigrants, refugees and more progressive human rights laws that are holding them back. It is the immoral, illegal behaviour of their 1%. It is the kind of behaviour that brought about the financial meltdown of 2007/2008 that was caused by the housing market crash. It was those with access to so much betting on the struggles of those who have so little. I fail to understand how his supporters can believe that the man who has already spent more time than most other presidents away from the White House at Mar-a-Lago (which means Sea to Lake in Spanish), what he calls his: “Southern White House”, on their dime, is going to cure their financial woes.
To prove this point, here is a comparison of Trump’s spending on personal travel so far (two months into his presidency, compared with that of Obama’s over his entire two terms:
The Trump tax
Less than 50 days into his presidency, Donald Trump has racked up millions of dollars in expenses on security and personal travel.
$56.6m($0.5m a day)
Estimated cost of protecting Trump Tower — mostly police overtime — up to 1 March, according to a New York City request for reimbursement to Congress
Estimated cost of weekend jaunts to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s club in Palm Beach, Florida, based on comparison to an October 2016 Government Accountability Office report on travel by Barack Obama to Florida
Hotel spending to accommodate Secret Service agents for a trip by Eric Trump to visit a condo development in Uruguay, according to a Washington Post report
Total costs associated with “extracurricular” travel by Barack Obama, Joe Biden and their families during the eight years of the Obama presidency
Although the name of property, Mar-a-Lago means Sea to Lake, what is happening is more like sea to your front door. Trump currently refers to climate change as a “hoax invented by China”. However, in thirty years, the property could be underwater for 210 days of the year because of tidal flooding along the Intracoastal Water way. Anyone who jumps to define this as merely the cries of left leaning alarmists , should know that in a survey published in the Miami Herald last month, two thirds of high- end Miami realtors were concerned sea level rise and climate change could hurt local property values.
At the same time, Obama has flown (on his own dime) to a resort in Tahiti called Tetiaroa. He is working on a memoir about his time in office, and of course while it is no surprise that he would end up in a luxurious place, I am certain that the choice of this specific location is also a symbolic gesture. While he must be reeling at the gutting of his environmental laws, he chose to stay at The Brando Resort on an island (an atoll to be more exact) in Tetiaroa. The word Tetiaroa means standing alone in Tahitian.
Tetiaroa is an island that was owned by Marlon Brando. He first visited it when he was filming Mutiny on the Bounty. While many consider him to be one of the greatest actors of all times, there is no question that he was deeply troubled and suffered many personal crises. In recent years, though, much has been written about his social activism. He fought vehemently for civil rights, aboriginal rights and believed deeply in the importance of environmental protection. His dream was to build a resort that would maintain the hightest environmental standards. Here is some information found in the About Us section of their website:
Brando was passionate about preserving Tetiaroa’s natural beauty, biodiversity and cultural richness and was determined to find a way in which it could be a center for research and education and a model of sustainability. He was convinced that this small atoll could bring good to the entire world.
In 1999 he asked Richard Bailey, a long-time resident of Tahiti who shared Brando’s passion for the environment and who had created some of the region’s finest resorts, to help him conceive a plan that would help Brando achieve his dream. Together, Brando and Bailey pursued a vision of creating the world’s first and foremost post-carbon resort—an island where innovative new technologies would enable a self-sustaining luxury environment for hotel guests, residents and scientific research. The Brando is the legacy of that shared vision.
“Here is the mission statement that is on their website:
Our mission is to provide one of the most luxurious, authentic and enriching travel experiences available anywhere in the world in an environmentally sensitive, sustainable and culturally rich manner.
We are committed to preserving and protecting the natural splendor and precious biodiversity of Tetiaroa; respecting and supporting Polynesian culture, hospitality and traditions; and achieving a negligible carbon footprint.
We will support research, education and outreach aimed at increasing the knowledge of and appreciation for the natural and cultural heritage of tropical islands and their people. And we will use, encourage and support innovation to address local and global environmental and sustainability issues.
As stewards of Tetiaroa, we are committed to preserving and protecting the atoll and being a responsible member of both our local and global communities. We will deal fairly and honestly with our staff and suppliers in an atmosphere of mutual trust, accountability and reward.
Most of us know the history of how the dinosaurs came and went, we learn it as children.
Here is some information about one of the most adaptive, highly evolved animal currently:
1. THE LIZARD WITH EXTRA STICKY FEET
The native green lizards that occupy the lower branches and trunks of Florida’s trees got a rude awakening when their invasive cousins, the brown lizards, moved in. Faced with limited resources and double the competition, the green lizards made a move: they abandoned the lower branches for the treetops. Up there, the limbs are thinner and smoother, so the green lizards’ bodies had to adapt to the environmental shift. To better cling to the smooth branches, their toepads grew bigger and their scales got stickier—in just 15 years and about 20 generations. “The degree and quickness with which they evolved was surprising,” said Yoel Stuart, a postdoctoral researcher in the College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin and lead author of the study. “If human height were evolving as fast as these lizards’ toes, the height of an average American man would increase from about 5 foot 9 inches today to about 6 foot 4 inches within 20 generations.”
Of course there is a large segment of Trump’s base who support him in large part because of his racist diatribes, but those who really believe that he will help them one day live in Mar a Lago’s of their own must evolve. They must move past these outdated fairy tales. While Obama did not accomplish or fully accomplish many of the things that he set out to do, he was trying to lead us (some kicking and screaming) up to the treetops and away from a reality that no longer exists. The days of endless water for our sprinklers, and endless resources under the ground are over and if we continue to try to live or go back to living in a time when harassing women in the workplace was just good fun, when people who were gay or transgendered suffered horribly in silence and we pillaged our natural resources with no limitations, then we are dinosaurs like Trump and it is to our great peril.
In the novel The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, before the Time Traveller ends up in the world dominated by an upper class living in leisure, The Eloi and a lower class of laborers living underground, he makes a stop ostensibly in a time right before the destruction of our planet as we know it; people seem to be living happy lives in a world in which they use the earth’s resources responsibly. From the perspective of an individual who travels in millennia, it is a very short lived time indeed.
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”
― Galileo Galilei,
― Galileo Galilei,