Randi Kreiss

An end-of-summer weekend for the history books

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As autumn spins into view on Force 12 winds, are you feeling what I’m feeling, that the moment is heavy with historic significance? We are clearly in the crosshairs of various unprecedented forces.

As anchored as I may be to my safe haven here at home, storms both meteorological and political are tossing us about. Hurricane Irma has moved on, but right now, like many Long Islanders, my focus is on family and friends who were in the direct path of the storm.

The anxiety seems an apt metaphor for the general distress of observing our country in the clutches of another destructive force: a president who is also wildly unpredictable and already blowing the roof off our cherished institutions. The difference is that, unlike the random violence of natural disasters, he has intentionality. Our president is on a mission to undo the pro-woman, pro-diversity, pro-student, pro-environment programs that were put in place by his predecessor. New rules and regulations flow daily from the White House, inflicting suffering on the very people who rely on moral leadership and support from the federal government.

When nature goes wild, some part of us knows to hunker down and ride it out, that when the storm passes, the sun will shine again. Order will be restored. But on the political front, there is no such guarantee.

I used the term Force 12 winds intentionally. It refers to the Beaufort scale and indicates winds at sea, in this case hurricane-force winds. In such conditions, we are told to expect “Exceptionally high waves … very rarely experienced … The air is filled with foam and spray; sea is completely white with driving spray; visibility very seriously affected…” Even large vessels may disappear for long periods of time in the deep troughs between the heaving seas.

A frightening description. But such storms can be survived. More frightening is our current political cyclone. The stanchions of our democracy are also disappearing into deep troughs, and who knows if they can rise again?

We must not take our eyes off the great ship of state. Everything, including the actual weather, is conspiring to distract us from monitoring the president and his cohorts and their daily assault on our freedoms. We need the energy and focus to stay vigilant. No following the shiny objects dangling in the Oval Office. It isn’t about last week’s Donald Jr. testimony or Ivanka’s tone-deaf remarks or even the president’s leapfrog over to the Democrats on the debt ceiling. It isn’t about verbal duels with Kim Jong-un or abandoning the “dreamers” or transgender service people, important as they may be.

The critical issue is, and will always be, how Donald Trump won the election, if and how his operatives colluded with the Russians, how he demonized our free press and how many of his friends are using the privilege of their government jobs to line their own pockets. There is so much evidence — unprecedented — of the president’s own financial conflicts of interest that following the money is a critically important task — and a daunting one.

Still, storms at sea remind us that steady minds and steady hands at the helm can help steer us through. The team headed by Robert Mueller plows on, despite the pushback and sideshows by Trump & Co. Some congressional leaders and judicial voices are being raised in defense of our democracy. We have citizens throughout the country, many who voted for Trump, who now see him for the erratic and uninformed huckster that he always was.

In Irma’s wake, Hurricane Jose followed, along with how many other storms behind them? Where will they make landfall, who will face painful losses and who will be spared? The survivors of Hurricane Harvey are still treading water, and yet our attention is pulled toward new weather events. Scratch “events”; these are freaks of nature, increasing proof of the environmental damage being visited upon the planet. How many 500-year storms must we survive before the anti-science refuseniks supported by Trump realize that it is still within our power to curb the emissions and toxins that affect our climate?

The storms, the president, the resistance all seem pulled into a tightening vortex, holding us to this spot.

It has been said that newspapers are the first draft of history. My sense is that our time, this particular time and place, autumn 2017, with hurricanes buffeting us physically, politically and emotionally, will stand out in history. It will be important, someday, to have the story of these troubling days set in print. What we can’t know, or even surmise, is how this unsettling season will evolve. Hurricanes blow themselves out. We will pick up the pieces. But Trump? After he blows out to sea, what will remain standing?

Copyright © 2017 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.