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Randi Kreiss

Under the volcano in Hawaii and Washington


Kilauea is blowing her top.

These last weeks we have witnessed, from afar, a pyrotechnic extravaganza on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Kilauea volcano is bubbling, bursting its seams and overflowing with magma and lava. The fiery flow is swallowing houses, consuming cars and burning up the landscape. Residents are fleeing the idyllic neighborhoods built on shaky ground.

The good part, for me, is the metaphor of the unstoppable force of nature, completely beyond our control. People living in the shadow of Kilauea had to get up and out, a flight that they knew was their destiny from the day they moved into their homes.

It is humbling to observe a power so far beyond our reach as human beings. And it is a reminder of our fallibility and limitations. There is a certain relief in knowing that all we can do is observe and get out of the way.

Over the course of these same weeks, we have witnessed eruptions at the White House. Here our job is clear, and requires action. Our President excoriated his chief of homeland security in front of the entire cabinet. He blustered and fumed about keeping out immigrants and building walls on our border. He proffered praise to murderous world leaders.

He crudely juggled world peace, making friends with North Korea and blowing up an agreement with Iran. His calling card: conflict, lies, avarice and unpredictability.

While plumes of gas and ash spread across the Big Island, toxic information leaked out some 4,800 miles away. We learned of huge payments from major public companies, like AT&T and Novartis, to President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Big money, hundreds of thousands of dollars, paid to the president’s fixer for “insight” into how Trump works and thinks, according to The New York Times. AT&T’s CEO issued a statement to employees on Friday stating that making a financial arrangement with Cohen was “a big mistake.” Was it still a mistake before they got caught? Who else is paying for “insight”?

The big difference between the eruption in Hawaii and the eruption in D.C. is that we can address the mayhem in Washington. We can support the Mueller investigation and insist on seeing it through to its conclusion, organize young voters and use all the power of free speech and a free press to get Trump and his cohorts out of power. In the grand scheme of time written in volcanic ash, it’s a tiny task, but this is our moment, and we do have to answer the call.

The summit caldera on Kilauea contains a lava lake known as Halemaumau that is said to be the home of the Hawaiian volcano goddess, Pele. As residents, even those who watched their homes consumed by lava, can attest, we are only bystanders and borrowers of the land. Many spoke of Pele with reverence, seemingly resigned to her violent and destructive eruptions.

The havoc in our political lives is so much smaller and, relatively speaking, so much easier to remediate. Pele and her unpredictable outbursts are the perfect symbol for the great struggles over which we have no control at all: life and death, disease, and good or bad fortune. We can only bear witness. The fire and fury of Kilauea remind us that here and now, in the time we get to live on this Earth, there is work to do. The fumes coming from the Trump White House can be extinguished. The policies aimed at polarizing our citizenry, degrading the Earth and enriching the president and his family can be stopped.

Trump is not a force of nature. He is a flawed man who has acquired power that is disproportionate to his meager ability to lead the nation.

Pele will roar and steam and destroy long after we are all gone. The periodic explosions let the steam out of the pressure cooker simmering below. Better this slow burn than the catastrophic eruptions that destroyed entire islands like Krakatoa in 1883. Our job as residents of the Earth is to live and work our way around Pele, because she is here to stay.

We can be more proactive on the political front. We can send a moving van to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. What better way to use our earthly rental space than to do what needs to be done: write, vote, speak and march. Thinking of our moment in the sun, it feels increasingly important to get Trump back into the private sector and find leaders who will cherish and protect not only all of America’s people, but our land as well.

Copyright 2018 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.